“Experience is not what happens to us, but rather what we do with what happens to us.”
- Anthony D’Angelo
The experiences I have had while traveling are some of the most unique, crazy, hilarious and significant ever. They have taught me so much about myself and life. Aside from learning that my true passion is traveling, the most important thing I now know is that you must make the best of every situation, or you will never enjoy anything.
For most, vacation conveys a sense of relaxation, perhaps a summer home or beach, but my family isn’t most people. Our summer home is parked in our driveway ten months of the year. People have told me I could write a book about our family vacations, which is fitting because I want to be a writer. The ingredients to a Kriedel family vacation are chaos, disorder, the open road and, of course, too many people packed into a motor home.
Since I am the youngest, I especially suffer from this last problem. While my brothers and sister get to sleep on a real bed, I spend my nights on a two-foot wide board suspended between the driver’s and passenger’s seats. But I have no reason to complain. As I lay in my “bed,” I just think about how beautiful it looks when the sun sets over the Badlands or the rush of freedom I feel when standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon. So even if it’s over 100 degrees in our crowded RV, I can’t get mad at my father for not spending extra money for electricity because he’s given me the opportunity to see and experience the beauty of America.
Although family vacations had revealed travel as my true passion, it was a bit harder to make my parents understand this. But after begging, some crying, and a lifetime of being a good kid, my parents finally agreed to let me go on a school trip to Europe.
After it was postponed sophomore year, just getting to Europe felt like a privilege. Since I had already learned the value of optimism, I didn’t let a little jet lag in London, a lot of rain in Paris, and continually getting stuck with the smallest hotel rooms ruin my trip. I knew there was no use whining; after all, I was simply experiencing the realities of life, the good and the bad. So when jet lag wore off, the weather was perfect, and I eventually got the biggest, best room in the hotel with an absolutely stunning view of the Alps, I was on cloud nine. Europe proved to me that being happy when things don’t go right only means you can be ten times happier when they do.
Europe also taught me more about myself than I thought possible. I learned that I can’t read a map, but that getting lost is never a bad thing; it just gives you additional experience. So long as you remain optimistic and believe in yourself, you can get through anything. I couldn’t have learned this better than when my friend got lost in Switzerland. Usually, I am afraid to talk to strangers, even in my native language. But when I knew my friend depended on me, I put aside my fears, gathered my courage and knowledge of the German language and asked strangers, “Eine dame? Schwarzes haar?” Even though I couldn’t understand their replies, their points and nods told me that my friend was just up the hill. I was happy to find her, but I was even prouder of myself for finding her.
They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I guess I’ve drunk a lot of lemonade in my life, but I can say that I’ve enjoyed it all, no matter how sour it tasted at the time. Bad experiences, good experiences, they are all part of life, so you might as well enjoy them. Whether I’m traveling in America or anywhere else in the world, I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn these lessons, especially while so young. I hope to live the rest of my life with this same attitude, no matter where my future lies, but I do hope to keep traveling and especially, always to keep learning.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.