First Person: European vacations shaped me



When I was only two years old, my parents thought it would be a wonderful idea to take me on my first venture overseas to Germany. After falling asleep on my father’s lap before the wheels even left the gate on the flight from Columbus to Charlotte, my parents did not expect me to be awake the entire flight from Charlotte to Frankfurt, Germany. My father tells me that just as the flight attendants dimmed the lights, my reign of terror began. It supposedly started with me jumping up and down on my parents’ lap, leading to me pulling the hair of an old German man attempting to sleep. The straw the broke the camel’s back was when I began to scream. A fairly larger German woman came up and said in her native tongue “Can you not keep that kid quiet? The rest of us are trying to sleep!” With me in his hands, my father stood up and held me out in front of him and yelled back “If you are the expert, why don’t you take him!” My mother swears to me that those two were going to be arrested when the plane landed in Frankfurt. It was from this tragically humorous moment that I sampled my first taste for traveling, craving it ever since.

My family has deep roots in Europe. My father, a German citizen, came over to the United States in 1983 for an internship at a company that he would eventually own six months later. Because of his background, my father wanted to make sure each of his children had the same worldly understanding that he had, similar to the experience my grandfather gave to my father. The guidelines to my family’s world tours were simple; always start in Germany to visit family, then to explore a new country that we have never been to before to get a better understanding what our world is really like. Several years following the catastrophic trip I took when I was two, we ventured to my grandmother’s tiny village of Niederhausen, and then, by German high speed train, across the Bavarian Black Forest, over the peaks of the pristine Swiss Alps, around Italy’s breathtaking Lake Como and eventually to the seaside town of Pesaro. From the hotel in which we stayed, there was one street to cross before my toes sank down into the fine Italian sand. After Italy, I was determined to explore the rest of what Europe had to offer.

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In the following years, we gallivanted around the rest of Europe, roaming Spain and its islands, exploring the island of Crete off the Grecian coast, traversing up to Interlaken where the famous north face of Eiger resides in the Swiss Alps, then sailing across Wolfgangsee, one of Austria’s most preserved mountain lakes, in an old yngling sailboat.

To me, traveling is not just about snapping a few pictures; it is about walking away with a story to tell, and to understand a new perspective from countries around the world. Traveling is a way to embrace a new culture, filled with opportunities to expand your worldly knowledge and global understanding. The small town where I was born and raised, Granville, Ohio, is fairly sheltered from the outside world, and having ventured outside of the Granville bubble has made me aware and prepared for the challenges that are presented by the reality in which we live. I truly feel that I would not be complete without the experiences I have gained from my roaming of Europe. The family trips that I have taken over the past several years sculpted me into the well informed, bright and selfless man I represent today.

Simon Krajewski is a senior at Granville High School. BluePrints welcomes “First Person” submissions and other reader essays. Send your writings to [email protected]