One thing that I have learned while traveling around during my semester in Ireland is that there is a big difference between traveling around with friends versus traveling around with parents. I am sitting in a five-star hotel room in Venice, Italy right now while writing this article, with my mom lounging on the bed next to mine. If I were in Venice with my friends, we would probably have decided to stay at the cheapest hostel in the city, and I definitely would be without a laptop and Internet access.
When I went on a four-city, weeklong trip with a group of friends in March, we had to spend days researching our trip. We had to compare flight and hostel prices, research where we were going, learn how to use public transportation, look up directions to and from train stations to our hostels, and generally worry about running out of money. For this trip to Italy, my dad booked the whole trip and my mom did all the research. All I have to do is follow along, take tons of pictures, and just have a great time.
While my last trip with my friends was hectic and stressful, this trip has been very relaxing and much easier. I barely managed to get five hours of sleep a night last time, while here I am getting at least eight. While traveling with my friends, we were “super tourists” (a term coined by my friend Emma). With my mom, we do whatever we feel like doing. We spend a lot of time wandering around taking in the sights instead of feeling obligated to see every attraction listed in one of Rick Steve’s travel books.
Traveling with friends was a ton of fun, and it was an experience that I definitely never want to forget. I would not trade it for the world. However, traveling with family is a much more meaningful and rewarding experience. After having been away from home for almost four months, it has been a really special experience to get to show my mom around Dublin and then tour Italy with her as well. It is one thing to come home to family, but another thing completely to have them take a transatlantic flight just to come visit. I would be lying if I said that this semester abroad has been free of feelings of homesickness, so it’s nice having my mom here–like having a piece of home here with me in Europe.
Having to plan out an entire trip without the help of an adult and navigating huge cities without my dad was definitely an educational experience. But, when traveling like that, there is never time to take a break. It sure is fun, but also exhausting. That kind of a trip feels like an adventure, while this trip feels more like a vacation. And a vacation was definitely what I needed right now, after just finishing up my lectures at Trinity and turning in my term papers. I know I will be wishing I were back here relaxing in my hotel room in Italy when it comes time to sit my final exams in May. Definitely not looking forward to that…