I had the goofiest smile on my face as the fellow students and I stared out the bus windows, mesmerized at the beauty of Rome. It felt like we were inside a movie set, only this time it was for real and not through a TV screen of a replica somewhere in Los Angeles.
The first time I stepped foot outside the United States was in May 2011 during the opening tour for my study abroad program. We were to spend four days in Rome, and I was a mess of emotions ranging from excited to hysterical on the trip over. Once I had collected my bags and was on the bus to the hotel, all my reservations subsided as I was immediately transported into extreme culture shock - the good, happy-feeling culture shock that comes when you're off the charts excited about experiencing a completely new destination for the first time.
The architecture was so different and so beautiful. The colors, the palm trees, the "lion king trees." The streetside cafes. The old men in suits walking a tiny dog or the ladies donning high fashion on their scooters.
Everything was so different. Everything was so incredible.
As we checked into the hotel, we made plans for first things first - Italian food. We found a cafe and ordered our meals - me, pronouncing "caprese" totally wrong. Rookie mistake! Then we set out to explore, finding our way along the Tiber River and posing for photos along the way. "Guys, can you believe we're in Italy?!" we kept saying to each other.
That extreme boost of happiness carried on throughout the whole weekend, and still stayed strong as we made our way into Florence. I remember walking up to the Duomo for the first time and thinking wow - being frozen still, staring at its dazzling enormity.
Seeing the lights glitter along the river at night, the fluffy pastries in cafe windows, the cobblestone streets, and hearing the Italians speak their musical language. It was all part of the culture shock, and it was positive. I was so happy to be in Italy.
The goal of this blog is to inspire you to travel, whether it's your first trip abroad or your fiftieth. Have somewhere you've always wanted to go? Take the opportunity to go and just book the trip. The excitement that comes from planning a trip and the burst of happiness that occurs during will be worth it 100%.