They say one of the best things you can do while young is travel. I always heard I would regret it if I didn’t study abroad while in college.
The late CNN travel show host Anthony Bourdain said it best:
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel — as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them — wherever you go.”
Through the busy schedule, however, I found myself struggling to slow down and soak up where I am. I don’t mean where I am physically, even though I am thankful to be in Europe and the beautiful cities within.
I mean, where I am as Kennedy Stovall, 21-year old college student on this timeline of life. How am I internalizing this journey? How will I feel when I reflect on my time here when I look back in five, 10 or 20 years?
On the weekends we had available, I traveled with four friends to Madrid, Spain, and five friends to Hydra, Greece. We planned everything on our own, from the flights and accommodations to meals and sights we wanted to see.
I felt a sense of freedom as we got away from the hustle and bustle of a structured itinerary and moved to the beat of our own drum. Ironically, we remained on-the-go not finishing our days until after midnight (do as the Spanish do, right?).
The difference was that we weren’t focusing on getting to class on time or taking notes on the lecture-de-jour, or listening to tour guides on excursions. I absolutely love the routine I accustomed myself to here in Budapest and I am thankful for the education I gained here. I cherish the friends I have made here, the lessons I have learned in and out of the classroom and the opportunity to be immersed in a culture I knew nothing about.
However, our weekends in Madrid and Hydra allowed me to step back and really internalize where I am and how I feel. I was given time to take a breath, reset my focus and soak up this amazing opportunity.
The friendships I gained here have made this trip the most fun and rewarding. From old friends and new, I have learned and grown with each of them. Some are quiet and reserved, others are loud and gregarious, and some are a mix of both.
I have traveled Europe with these girls and the experiences we shared have only brought us closer. This is what
being in Madrid and Hydra allowed me to realize …
I’m young, physically fit and hungry to learn and be better just as Bourdain said. I want to travel and see how others live their lives. But I wouldn’t want to do it alone.
I believe God puts people in our lives at certain times to teach us more about love – how to love Him, how to love others, how to love ourselves and how to love where we are. The people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made here have certainly shown me these things.
When I look back in five, 10 or 20 years on this journey, I may not remember the facts and figures about places we saw and studied. What I will remember is how I learned to love where I am and who I am with, and not take either for granted.
So, I’ll remember how I felt in this place with these people. I’ll remember the experiences we shared no matter how big or small, good or bad. I’ll remember how I grew into a better version of myself.
I will never forget horse-drawn carriages in Transylvania, countless lunches at Salad Box, delayed train rides, movie nights, or watching Grace be the jester of the knights tournament in Visegrad.
Nor will I forget folk-dancing in Obuda, rowing through the salt mines, and admiring the calm sunrises in Hydra. These are just a small fraction of the memories I’m bringing home with me, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
The past five weeks taught me much more than I anticipated. If someone asked me to sum it all up, here’s what I would say: traveling is how we learn new places and fall in love with them. Sharing those places with the people you love makes it all so much sweeter.