Alyssa R. is a Traveler Support Specialist at EF Educational Tours. This past summer she had the opportunity to travel as a staff member on EF’s London, Paris and Rome itinerary. Not only did this trip mark her first time traveling with EF, but it marked her first time traveling abroad. Below is her account of the experience.
To stay calm, I attempted to tell myself that it was just another day. But the truth is, it wasn’t. May 31, 2016 marked my first ever full day of air travel, my first time flying over the pond, and the first time I would wake up in one country and fall asleep in another.
It was not just another day.
Jet lag hit me like a ton of bricks. My best friend had given me the last minute advice to not feel guilty about heading straight to the hotel to take a quick snooze to recover. She did not understand the world of EF Tours. I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be wasting a minute on this tour, and in hindsight, I’m really glad we didn’t.
I had the pleasure of traveling with a group from Alabama and Louisiana to London, Paris and Rome. It’s easy to note why this is one of EF’s most popular tours; each city was a different taste of Europe, but they all tied together with a deep and rich history.
London was a fantastic introduction to European travel; the only difference you really needed to concern yourself with was using pounds instead of dollars. Having no language barrier, London was the perfect first stop as is allows you to ease into being in a completely unfamiliar place.
Our time in Paris was mostly overcast weather, but it didn’t have any effect on the stunning nature of the city – especially the Eiffel Tower. Regardless of how many times you see it in a photo, or in home décor, in person it will still blow you away no matter the weather.
Our last stop was Rome. The eternal city has a way of transporting you back in time, even amidst all the modern flair of the 20th century. The fantastic thing about the “lasagna city” (as it’s also referred to) is there is a piece of history there for everyone – from gladiators, to beautiful structures, to delicious food and high fashion – it’s hard not to fall in love.
Something that I treasured about our tour was that we had a range of ages along for the experience. Accompanying the high school students were young professional 20-somethings, parents of the students, and even an older couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Although this tour is designed for students, the opportunity they have to bring people of all ages together and create a special bond is amazing.
The students, although not from the same school, cultivated new bonds and friendships with one another – sitting with new friends on the bus, taking pictures in front of iconic monuments with others who, just a few days ago, had been complete strangers. A couple of students even discovered that they would be attending the same university in the fall!
Like me, the older couple who joined us had also never been outside the United States. I had a front row seat as they experienced these places for the first time, fulfilling lifelong dreams of seeing the world. Regardless of the fact that the context of our experiences varied dramatically, this tour bonded us together as we all accomplished our goal of traveling internationally.
Reflecting on the experience, I can’t help but feel the need to say thank you to all the Group Leaders. Thank you for your willingness to make these opportunities happen. Opportunities for students to travel before life speeds up, for parents who can now find an excuse to travel with their children, and for grandparents who are hoping to experience new countries and their cultures in their lifetime. This tour taught me that when it comes to travel and experiencing the world, it’s never too early, and it’s never too late.