Day 1-1.5: LAX to Germany to Italy

The journey begins like most do in Los Angeles, sitting in traffic on the 405. Rushing to LAX during typical Sunday afternoon traffic, we met our incredibly interesting Uber driver named Sandro (originally from Brazil). He, my mom and I spent the ride discussing his personal story, various adventures, and how travel offers the beautiful lens to see and appreciate the world differently.

We arrived just in time to the Tom Bradley International terminal to board our flight with Florence, Italy as our first stop on a three country journey for her (Italy, Israel, Spain) and an open jaws trip for me (Western Europe and Israel).

My mom has been dreaming of seeing Italy since she can remember, and since my sister is getting married in Israel in about two weeks, so we decided now is the time to make it happen. Then, my mom and I will visit Spain before I go on #SoloAdventures to various stops in Western Europe before heading back to Los Angeles (and then hopefully hitting the road shortly thereafter).

My first accomplishment, of which the Air Berlin check-in agent agreed, was packing a roughly 25 pound (12 kg) backpack for a two-month or so adventure. I’d say I knocked traveling light out of the park. For all you travelers out there, only pack what you absolutely need, roll it, rubber band it, and stuff in a travel backpack… not a suitcase! My mom, on the other hand, can’t say she accomplished the same, and already wishes she had done so.

After meeting about 5 other travelers along the way and randomly running into an old friend from elementary school, we boarded the completely sold out and crammed Air Berlin flight to Düsseldorf, Germany. To say we were like sardines is an accurate and clichéd description of the situation. Landing to a delayed by one hour layover (for a total of 3 hours), we were met with a lot of German and my mom’s deliriousness before boarding our propellor plane on to Florence. As she napped on me, I watched the clouds float above the mountainous and lush landscape of Europe, excited to return to the beautiful city of Firenze.

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We landed in Florence to warm sunshine and were met by our wonderful Airbnb host, Michele, who gave us insight into what to see around the city.

Obvious mission one: pizza, wine and the Duomo. After just a few sips of wine, mom was drunk. That and her admitting this is like being in a different world all made for a successful day 1-1.5? (time changes are crazy). Mission complete!

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Post EuroTrip Reflections

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After traveling around Italy, France, and Spain for the past month, I have truly grown as a person. There’s a quote that says, “Travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer.” I whole heartedly believe in that statement. I’ve always been firm on believing that money does not make you happy. Granted, it’s needed to live and survive/do what you’d like to do, but it’s definitely not the end all be all in life. America has this way about it that’s based on this fictitious “American dream.” Over the years, this so-called “dream” has just become a euphemism to say, “get rich or die trying.” Ironically, I’m not BUYING it. Since America was born without a real cultural identity, it grew out of a staggering amount of tragedy and a false sense of superiority. So, we have created a society that values cars, clothes, and status symbols over a life filled with community, love, care, and kindness. Of course, these same pervasive values are seen in European culture to an extent, but as I was walking around the beautiful cobblestone streets, I felt a sense of history, culture, art, and community. People sit at cafes for hours conversing with one another, eating slowly, and enjoying their conversations. I am really not trying to romanticize this reality, but rather make it clear that there is a stark difference when crossing the ocean. Cell phones and tablets have become appendages, text messaging has replaced verbal communication, and eye contact is something that children almost seem to fear nowadays in California. I say California because I haven’t been to all the states, but of all the states that I have been to in America, this epidemic is real and exponentially growing.

Nonetheless, my month abroad has taught me many valuable lessons. I truly do believe that there’s no better way to learn about life, history,culture, art, and people than to venture outside of your borders, both literally and figuratively. Putting down my phone for longer than I have for a while and being away from a computer allows for the time to experience moments and emotions in a different way. There are certain very important things in life, many of which are realized by seeing different parts of the world and being entirely present. The journey has contributed to the immense gratitude I feel to have what I have. I am not talking about the tangible objects in my possession, but rather, I am just thankful to be able to see, touch, taste, feel, hear. The opportunities I’ve worked for, including: getting an education, traveling outside of America, and meeting people along my path have been imperative in shaping the person I am today and the person I am becoming. I know that I have a purpose, and there’s something out there waiting for me to be able to give back and make a difference. Everyone that crosses our path gives meaning to our life and teaches us a lesson. This past month has probably been the best and most liberating month of my life. There’s an art in being able to decide what to take seriously and what to forget about. There’s beauty in understanding that you are a very small piece of a large, moving puzzle. And, there’s peace in realizing that sometimes the best way to grow is to let go of wanting to be in control, and instead following what feels right at the time, in the present moment without any worry about the future.