I first went abroad in a school program the summer of 1994. (Abroad… sounds so classy and sophisticated. Really, I was a summer exchange student in Levi’s and Keds.) A week in Paris, three weeks in Aix-En-Provence, staying with a family. I went again the summer of 1996, right after high school graduation. That time I tacked on a couple weeks in Italy. Everyone should go abroad when they are young. And I’m not saying that in an elitist way. I guess what I really mean to say is that everyone should have the opportunity when they are young to be someone else. (Ask me again when I’m the mother of a teenager and I might be singing a different tune…)
It’s not so much about exploring the world, it’s about discovering who you are
I will always remember what it was like to walk down the street by myself in Florence. If I close my eyes I can see it all so clearly. I am wearing a patchwork skirt I bought in the South of France, a white sweater top, and leather sandals I bought in Florence. I can feel the warm breeze blowing through the streets, I can smell the gas of the scooters, I can hear the chatter of vendors and passers by. In that moment in time I was living a Disneyland ride, plucked out of my everyday reality and set down in a foreign land. And I know for a fact that at 17 I didn’t realize how much it would mean to me at almost 37. To this day I think I was my most authentic self that afternoon.