If someone had told me that at 19 years of age that I would travel across the world and visit 7 countries in 16 days with 33 strangers my age, I wouldn’t have believed them. The idea seems too good to be true.
At 19, my heart was set on finding adventures and exploring the world, all while pushing the boundaries of my freedom. My ultimate limitation of course being – my wallet.
However, I soon discovered that there were multiple travel companies that provided travel packages specifically for teens, like EFCollegeBreak. This company provides trips for those ranging from ages 18 – 28. These trips are led by trained guides, and have a specific itinerary, along with optional excursions.
My sister and I, after much debate, signed up for the European Roadtrip. The price, $4453, included the round trip flight, three excursions, and the welcome and farewell dinners. The itinerary included traveling to Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, England, and finally, the Netherlands.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to traveling with a group. The itinerary is already built for you, you have a guide that knows the countries and culture well, and you do not have to waste time planning on where to go and which spots to visit.
However, this can have major drawbacks. At some point during the trip, you will want to go somewhere not on the itinerary and may not have enough time to do so.
The trip itself involved a lot of time spent traveling. It could get exhausting: getting up bright and early to board a bus, a train, or a ship. Spending hours on a bus with 34 others. Few bathroom breaks, short lunch breaks, and hauling our luggage from point to point. Despite this, it was still the best time of my life.
The group that you go with plays a tremendous role in your experience. Though I was extraordinarily excited to travel, I did not dwell on imagining what my group would be like before the trip. In fact, I wasn’t concerned about it at all, thinking I wouldn’t even see the group that often.
Wrong. I was infinitely wrong.
Your group becomes your family, your lifeline. You room with them, travel with them, and go on unplanned adventures with them. You go from being total strangers to spending all your time with them. It was truly crazy to witness the social aspect of the trip. We were outsiders in the countries we traveled to, not knowing the language or the culture. We were so blatantly, painfully, obviously Americans. Loud, rambunctious, independent (and drunk most of the time, actually). We stood out from the quiet, reserved locals. At times we were definitely looked down upon (Paris, Munich). Other times, we were welcomed with open arms (Lucerne, London, Venice). But each country had something different to offer, and each was breathtaking in its own way. The vast majority of the time, the locals were kind. The only real hostility came from a few in Munich or Paris, but even then, it was understandable. The culture was different, and to them, we were seen as intrusive, and too loud.
But as a group, we felt a little less alien to the new sights around us. We were comforted by each other, excited to experience this adventure together, and we were the only home we knew for 16 days. It was strange to end up missing home, and realizing it was 4,173 miles away. So we found home, after long, thrilling nights out, in each other, when we returned to our hotel rooms and crashed into a wholehearted sleep, surrounded by our roommates: the people we had not known at all and then now suddenly, strangely, knew all at once.
It was the experience of a lifetime. It taught me that the world was at my hands, that traveling was not just some distant dream, but an easy reality with a company like EFCollegeBreak. It showed me firsthand that the world is different and beautiful in ways that I had not even imagined. And I had known that the culture would be different, but I was so blessed to experience it for myself.
At 19, I discovered a small corner of the world, and I was lucky enough to witness the rolling hills, breathtaking architecture, and azure lakes. I realized that the troubles I had at home were minuscule compared to the sights the world has to offer.
I would recommend that teens look into EFCB, or similar companies. It was a simple, easy way to travel, and the itinerary was made specifically for teens, from pub crawls, to hostels, to cruises on the Grand Canal in Venice. It was an unforgettable journey and one that I hope to take again next year.