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Study abroad showed me the benefits of simply getting out there and exploring, wherever it may be. Spending a semester in Europe made me so interested and driven to take part in other explorations, whether it be within my own city or in a completely new and foreign area. The overwhelming desire to see the unknown and the sensation that I feel when exploring somewhere new all started as a result of my study abroad experience, and I’ve tried my best to keep these feelings of wanderlust as a driving factor of my life.
About three weeks ago, I left for my first post-study-abroad trip, and actually my first big trip in the US. My brother and I both graduated from Pitt in May and decided to take a spontaneous vacation to California to celebrate. We flew into San Francisco, stayed there for three days and then headed down to Los Angeles for two days. I had never been to California, or anywhere out west, previous to this trip, so I was beyond excited to explore the other side of the country.
When I first stepped into the city of San Francisco, I felt something that’s difficult to put into words. It was a mix of excitement, curiosity, awe, and bewilderment — and it imitated what I felt almost every day during my semester abroad, as I wandered around, unsure of what I would stumble upon. During my time in Florence, and Europe in general, I realized that when I felt that indescribable feeling, I was doing something right. I was taking advantage of the opportunities that I came across and I was stepping out of my comfort zone in order to expand my horizons. This whole trip did that — it expanded my horizons. Just like Europe had been before when I studied abroad, California was always just a picture I created in my head. I was finally able to see what life was like on the west coast, interact with those who call it home, and, based on my observations and experiences, form my own image of “the golden state.”
One thing that I remembered from travelling around Europe is that it’s okay to be a tourist, as long as you don’t look or act like one. Though that’s a bit tough to do in a major city, I think that my brother and I handled the whole trip quite well and saw a good mix of touristy and non-touristy sights/attractions! In San Francisco, we saw the Golden Gate Bridge, hiked through Lands End, and went to Golden Gate Park, Alamo Square, Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, and Twin Peaks. In Los Angeles, we went to Hollywood, saw the “Walk of Fame,” went to the Griffith Observatory to see the Hollywood sign, went to Santa Monica, Venice beach, and walked down Sunset Boulevard. It’s safe to say we did a lot in just five days.
Though it was short and sweet, this adventure was just what I needed to refuel the wanderlust that has been inside of me since the spring of 2015. This trip reminded me of the joy and excitement that traveling brings me, and all of that started in the wonderful city of Florence. I can’t wait to see where my next trip will be, and I can only hope that it brings me as much joy as my past trips did!