Though I‚Äôm a junior in college and am used to living away from my family, flying to London and leaving my parents behind in Iowa was one of the biggest leaps of faith I‚Äôve ever taken. I am usually never more than a three-hour car ride away from my parents and two younger sisters, so I had to accept the fact that while on Semester at Sea, it would be impossible for my mom to bring me orange juice when I was sick or my sister to surprise me for lunch. You can imagine my excitement, then, when my parents decided to finally take that trip to Europe they had always dreamed of so they could meet me halfway through my voyage in Civitavecchia, Italy.
For weeks before arriving in Italy, I couldn‚Äôt stop telling my friends about my dad‚Äôs cheesy yet still funny jokes and my mom‚Äôs sweet smile. I felt like I had grown so much more independent and self-sufficient since leaving home a few months ago, and I couldn‚Äôt wait for my parents to see me navigate us around the metro, hail a taxi, and handle all the ups and downs of traveling like a pro.
When we finally arrived in Italy and students began to disembark, I couldn‚Äôt sit still. My friend Kayleigh and I decided to go to the port entrance, and there I found my parents waiting; seeing familiar faces and hearing voices I loved so much was absolutely incredible. My mom gave Kayleigh a huge hug, laughed and told her she felt like they knew each other already.
The four of us hopped a train to Rome and took a quick cab to the Vatican to see Pope Francis‚Äôs speech. We got to Saint Peter‚Äôs square right at the end, but we could see him walking around and shaking hands with a few of the thousands gathered there. My mom is a devout Catholic, and I know that getting to see Papa Francis, climb to the top of Saint Peter‚Äôs Basilica, and be at the heart of the Church are things she‚Äôs dreamed about all her life. I felt so fortunate to be able to share those moments with her.
Traveling in a foreign country with my mom and dad was a lot different from traveling with my friends from the ship. My mom really enjoyed Rome, but the only thing she didn‚Äôt like was riding the metro; she didn‚Äôt enjoy the huge crowds and stuffy air. We also usually like to take vacations to places where we can be outdoors, so of course I wasn‚Äôt surprised that my dad found some mountains not far from Rome so we could hike for an afternoon. One of the best parts of our time together was trying lots of different restaurants; on the second night there was a Belgian student eating alone at the table next to us, so we invited her to eat with us and ended up making a great new friend.
On the last day, my friends who had traveled to Siena met us at a restaurant in Civitavecchia a couple of hours before we needed to board the ship. We had a wonderful meal, and I was very proud when my friends all told me they wished my parents could just stay on the ship and travel with us.
At the end of four days, it was time to say goodbye. My mom then pulled out her phone and handed it to me; there was a video from my youngest sister, telling me she loved me and couldn‚Äôt wait to see me in Florida. I couldn‚Äôt help feeling a little sad, but I was also happy to be returning to my home on the MV Explorer. My dad kept joking that I‚Äôd be waving hello to whales and dolphins outside my window, while my family would see cornfields and my dog playing in the backyard.
Getting to travel with my parents is something I‚Äôve wanted to do for a very long time. I was absolutely over the moon that they came to Italy, since we‚Äôve only ever traveled around the U.S. together. Now, I think they have the travel bug just like me.