This past summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Poland and attend World Youth Day along with two million young Catholics to grow in our faith and to see Pope Francis. After World Youth Day I travelled around with nine friends to five other countries which was a blast.
I can imagine many of you can relate to experiencing a certain feeling of growth in regards to who you are as a person at the end of a trip. I really felt I grew as a person and learned a lot, so I thought I would share some knowledge I learned during my five week adventure throughout Europe.
1. ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH AWESOME PEOPLE
2. DRESS TO IMPRESS
The first time I went to Europe in 2014 I discovered the EXTREME importance of wearing mom sandals. When you’re walking for 12 hours a day and you forget how non-stylish your shoes look – you will thank the mom sandals. These shoes have got me through bike rides, mud, fields, gravel, mountains, oceans, you name it. They supported my sore feet and made me feel like I was walking on clouds. MAKE SURE you don’t wear your sandals for the first time on your trip because you will end up with many blisters and will have to resort to having socks ‘n sandals feet.
The second most important clothing tip is: don’t ever stop wearing your backpack in front of you to protect the thousand dollar camera inside, just because your friends make fun of you. Also, don’t forget to put it onto your back for pictures. In 60% of the selfies I took, my bag is on my front and trust me it does not look stylin’.
What you will soon realize is that you will do anything to not have sore feet and to save your camera.
3. TAKE PHOTOS WITH MEANING
(Taken with my point and shoot Olympus camera, I left my Canon in my tent on the long walking days.)
I find that when we travel we get so caught up in taking photos of every single landscape, artifacts in museums, random people, our food, our toothpaste… During this trip I truly realized the importance of taking one single photograph of a particular moment. I told myself that every time I picked up my camera it was for a purpose and I probably took half the amount of photos I would have if I didn’t follow that rule. But it really opened my eyes to taking in and appreciating the moment.
When I would enter a beautiful church I would stop and appreciate the architecture and think about all of the time and sacrifice these artists gave to create such a masterpiece for God. When I was in that exact situation the first time I went to Europe in 2014, I would instantly pull out my camera and take a photo. I would use that time taking a picture I wouldn’t really look at later on, rather than being in the moment and not distracting myself with capturing photos.
Essentially, it caused me take more meaningful photographs as well as helped me to be present and take in that particular moment.
4. FOOD IS ESSENTIAL
During the hectic days of World Youth Day, you would often forget to eat. It would be ten at night and you would realize you hadn’t touched any food since noon. You’re running low on energy, the world is spinning and you are ready to collapse. Do not worry, this is normal for World Youth Day people to experience.
One night we were running to the train because we could not miss it, and my friend Teresa turned to me and gave me a handful of crackers and said “supper is served.” Let me tell ya, that was a moment of sheer gratefulness, even if it was just a handful of warm crushed backpack crackers. Don’t forget to eat. It may seem like common sense but when your days are complete chaos it’s easy to go without a meal or two. But when it is midnight and all you’ve eaten that day is nutella and buns, it’s important to make a kabob stop before you go to your military tents!
5. EMBRACE EVERY SINGLE MOMENT
Whether you’re on top of mountain, in the ocean, sleeping in a camp covered in mud, staying in tents full of water, standing in a beautiful church, completely lost, overly exhausted, have a sandals tan, wake up to snails and ants crawling on you or you’re just feeling so blessed to be seeing all of God’s amazing creations, embrace it.
Embrace it all.
Embrace every wonderful and terrible part of your day.
Traveling is a privilege and it gives us a chance to learn more about ourselves and allows us to witness how diverse this world is!