A Young American Visits Paris, Oxford, and Tuscany

By Lindsay Hand

Yes, there is a world beyond Chappaqua.

While many of us here in town, including myself, have had the opportunity to travel with family to vacation spots, this summer I explored and studied in Europe with my peers. The exposure to other cultures, other people, and their history has had a profound impact on me, as well as on my view of the world.

I recognize how fortunate I was to have the unbelievable opportunity to travel to Europe for a month. I finally saw the world beyond New York, without my family, for the first time.  While I had spent summers in sleep away camp, I had never been so far away from home without my parents to guide me; I experienced “self discovery” along with world discovery in a way I never thought possible. I explored cities on my own with friends, falling in love with those cities in the process. One month in England, France and Italy brought to life the incredible artistic, political and cultural history of those countries. I felt the sheer massiveness of the world, and started to comprehend how much there is out there to discover.

Studying for countless AP European History tests last year, I often found myself wondering why we really needed to memorize all of the events leading up to the French Revolution and the reason why the Duomo is considered such an amazing architectural feat. Why I had to know all about the importance of Shakespeare during the Elizabethan Age and the ways Mussolini changed Rome. But when I celebrated Bastille Day in Paris (they don’t actually eat cake, by the way), the centuries-old excitement and spirit of the people was palpable.  Climbing the Duomo afforded me a close-up look at the impeccably and intricately detailed dome ceiling, forcing me to acknowledge the astounding technical and artistic accomplishments of the Renaissance. The past came alive; I began to truly appreciate the depth of history in Europe. The people of these countries take pride in their past and antiquities, and want the rest of the world to value them as well.

My other travels to Israel, Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and the canyonlands of the American West have similarly opened doors to the wonders of nature and history. The way my view of the world expanded defies explanation. I appreciate the diversity of the world, both physically and culturally, and how even our own little piece here in suburban New York is an integral part.

Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Twain’s words come close to expressing what I feel in my heart. I discovered my true interests, and found a group of people who shared them.

These new friends in turn opened my world to new things to enjoy, from movies and television to music and literature.We all helped each other grow, expanding our horizons together. I forgot about being shy, I forgot that I was an entire ocean away from home; I threw off the restraints I had subconsciously put on myself over the years, assumed new responsibilities and respect, and discovered my true self.

From the spires of Oxford, to the boulevards of Paris, to the hills of Tuscany, every second I spent abroad was magical. I expected to learn, sightsee, and have and incredible time, but did not anticipate that I would encounter people who would become what I know will be lifelong friends. That I would become more responsible and independent. One of the most rewarding things about traveling the world is beyond the obvious experience of seeing the sights and meeting new people; it is discovering yourself in the process.

Lindsay Hand is a junior at Horace Greeley High School, and has written numerous articles and served as last September’s “Guest Editor” for Inside Chappaqua.

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