This time last year, I was coming down from a high. An adventure high. It was the last sermon of the fall semester and the pastor was preaching about stepping out of your comfort zone to attain God’s best. I attended church weekly and often left with a good message in my mind, but this sermon moved me like never before. It was the end of a high stress semester where I was took a regrettably difficult combination of classes, in efforts to graduate earlier than projected. I was one tired woman at the end of it all. Within minutes of returning to my room after my last exam, I cried (it was that real!) tears of joy that the semester hadn’t consumed me, and delirium because I was team #NoSleep. I threw my belongings into whatever containers I could find and in a few days, I was home.
Throughout the next few weeks, the sermon stayed stuck in my head and the wheels began turning. I made a list of things that I wanted to do and try in 2015- trying new styles for my hair, eating at new places around DC, meeting new people around campus, etc. These were going fine, but I still felt like I needed something more serious…BUT WHAT?
One Saturday afternoon in mid-March that I stumbled across the answer. I was cleaning my overflowing inbox when I came across an email from an honors society I was in. The February email had been opened but I never paid any attention to it. “Two Week Trip to Sorrento, Italy-Apply NOW!” Considering that I LOVE to travel, I have no idea why I didn’t read it before. I quickly read the details of the trip and decided that it was my first experience I needed. I’m Nigerian and have had a passport since I was about 3 or 4, and I have been lucky to travel to many places, but this would be my first time traveling alone without family being on the receiving end. I was meeting other students when I got there. I am the youngest daughter of 5 children, and the only other child to study abroad stayed with immediate family, so I immediately (literally the next hour!) told my parents, giving them ALL the information I had in order to quell their fears. They discussed it for a few days, and graciously said yes.
Because I had seen the email late, time wasn’t on my side. It was March 16th when I discovered the email, the down payment of $700 was due by March 25th, and the remaining $1,820 due by May 3rd. I could handle the $700, but what about the rest? I scrambled asking around campus if scholarships were available, local organizations, churches and applied for everything- no luck. With convincing argument, as well as good track records both academically and socially, my family and friends were able to assist me, with the promises of Italian goodies upon return. I was happily on my way!
Just weeks before the trip, extreme anxiety and fear struck. On March 25, 2015, all over the world hearts broke after hearing the news of the GermanWings pilot who purposely crashed his plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 passengers. I am not really one that allows for tragic occurrences to frighten them too badly, but this time was different. As the investigation played out for weeks, bad scenarios and crazy questions that have NEVER crossed my mind in 15+ years of traveling, bombarded me. “What if our plane crashes? What if I get sick while I’m there? What if I get kidnapped? What if…?” The trip was just weeks away, the money was paid, and I was regretting everything. I didn’t want to alarm anyone around me so I kept quiet. For weeks I feigned excitement, until the week of the trip. I went to my mom the Wednesday before my Sunday departure and before I could even get two words out, I began crying. I explained that I was nervous to go on the trip. She said a lengthy prayer for me, asked a few questions, and thankfully I felt better and slept well that night…until Sunday.
I woke up bright and early for my 10am flight, my packed suitcase a few feet away. For a few minutes, I just stared at it. “I can’t,” I said, as I burst into tears, waking up my sister sleeping above me. My mom heard the commotion and we got on our knees again, temporary calm soothing me. I was frustrated because I never knew that stepping out of my comfort zone could be SO stressful. I wiped my tears, zipped up my suitcase and headed for the airport. I had to go and trusted God to block me if I really wasn’t supposed to go. The trip from DC to Detroit was only about 2 hours, but pure stress. There, I met my roommate for the duration of the trip, and before we knew it we were talking like we knew each other for years, not hours. I was excited again! The time came for us to board our plane to Paris. I sat in my seat, and the butterflies returned. I told her about my sudden fear of flying and she said laughing, “Just let me know if you need my hand or a prayer!”
After what seemed like an eternity, we were FINALLY at the airport in Naples. There we met the other students, who turned out to be 11 other girls, and we headed for the hotel in Sorrento, about 1 hr away.
During the next two weeks, I experienced so many things with my new friends I will never forget- taking beginners Italian language and cooking classes, shopping on the Amalfi Coast, and even climbing to the top of Mount Vesuvius in the pouring rain.
Despite the stress that preceded, exploring Sorrento was the best two weeks of my life and I will forever be grateful for the experiences and the friends that it brought to me. I pushed passed everything and feel 1,000 times stronger than before.
Featured Post Credit: The Wondering Mind Of I
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