Backpacks and moonlight: Gaining perspective, experience through summer abroad

Danica Mendes

Suitcase- check. Backpack – check. Multiple forms of currency – check. Passport… Long story, but check.

This summer I traveled to Europe alone for the first time. Most 16-year-old’s parents would never consider allowing them to travel abroad, much less alone, but my parents and sister were born in Bosnia and much of my family is scattered across Europe. Having family live in a different countries has made it difficult to keep in touch with everyone, so my family and I try to go to Bosnia i Hercegovina as much as we can during summer breaks. We are the only ones in our family who live in America, so it’s easier for us to travel to Europe rather than everyone else coming here. Also, it’s a lot easier for Americans to travel out of the country than my family from Europe to get a visa to come to the US.

I’ve been to Europe a few times before, but going alone was different. It was an eye opener for me because I was terrified to go into foreign countries by myself. I was surprised that my parents let me go to five countries alone.

The plane ride to Istanbul was tiring and uncomfortable. I’ve always disliked long plane rides because they’re always unbearable, due to the fact that I have to sit in a seat for more than 13 hours drives me crazy. However everyone around me was always nice and in a good mood. Most people on the plane spoke English which made me feel more comfortable about traveling alone. During the plane ride they give you dinner and then breakfast to eat on the plane ride. As soon as the plane took off the flight attendants were serving us drinks and then food. They spoke different languages including English which made me feel better about the whole thing because if something were to happen I had someone to tell.

English is a required language in most schools in foreign countries. So everywhere I went there were people I could communicate with either in English or Bosnian (mainly English though). Breaking the communication barrier made the entire trip less intimidating and more enjoyable.

Even though language was not an issue, other things were. Many teens are extremely polarizing in what you’re wearing and if you aren’t wearing something nice you’re treated differently. This made me really uncomfortable, and even though I didn’t really care what they thought about me, it was just awkward to feel so judged.

I’ve always been picky about what I eat, I don’t like some foods and I’d only rather eat certain foods. This is really difficult whenever traveling to a foreign country because everything is different. The air, altitude, climate, food, water, time, and the way you sleep. So it was really hard to adjust to how they live.

Despite all my troubles, I adjusted to how they live and now that I’m back home I’m having a even more difficult time adjusting to the way my life was before. The way I eat, the air, altitude, climate and time zone. In Europe it was colder than it is in Texas by a long shot. I was used to the natural cool air, but they don’t need air conditioning due to the consistent air almost all the time. I couldn’t imagine living in Texas without air conditioning.

We went to Mostar, Bosnia i Hercegovina on our last few days of the trip. Instead of having an straight road that goes from Bijela to Mostar, we had to go around mountains when crossing into Hercegovina. The elevation and pressure were so high up on a mountain that I got a bloody nose from the altitude and bumpy roads and I got sick, making matters worse. Once we arrived at the apex though, it was all worth it. The views were breathtaking. It was night time and the lights from the villages below could be seen from miles away in the moonlight. Knowing that there were thousands of people below me living their lives, going through their nightly routines, gave me a knew perspective on how, no matter where people are from, we’re all humans.

I’ve never thought that I’d be lucky enough to get to travel as much as I have in my life. I am in awe everywhere I go and I recommend that everyone go to Europe if they have a chance at least one time in their life to go enjoy the way Europeans live and see more of the world. Planes may seem intimidating, but they’re not as bad as people say and as long as you know English you can make your way around Europe because there is always someone who speaks English too.