When I first went to Rome, I was 17 years old, and it was the first time I ever had been to Europe. I was a stereotypical teen, it seemed: I had a nice iPhone, I was a pile of angst occasionally, and I loved video gaming and sleeping. It seemed like I would be the last to love travel and the stress that came with it. However, I remember being giddy with excitement to see all the sites and learn a bit of Italian while walking through the ancient city. Before my family of four left the US, I had gotten a pocket-sized dictionary and even started using Duolingo to learn the basics of Italian.
But, for context, I was that teen most of the time: unappreciative, selfish, exhausted with life despite being so young, and harboring some frustration for my parents.
But it was during this trip that I changed. I got along better with my younger brother, and I talked more with my parents. But soon, I had to leave for college across the US, but I didn’t want to go—I wanted to be with my family. This simple trip to Rome was life changing. I wrote about these changes of heart in my journal, as well as my impressions of the Colosseum. The Colosseum was and is the pinnacle of Rome, and it embodies the change that I was going through. This is an excerpt from that very journal:
Just like the previous days I had passed it on my vacation, the ancient beast sat surrounded by busy roads, the Mediterranean wind broken by sounds of car engines and bicycle rings. The Colosseum was a guard never leaving his station—and just as protective. Its stony bowels and human visitors were wrapped in unceasing loyalty and cracking barriers. On days that the sun shone, the shadows of its wounds were emphasized like dark ink stains on white parchment. On days that the rain fell, ancient cheers were revived with all the pomp and glory of the Roman Empire. The Colosseum’s walls, despite deep, jagged, and empty wounds, stood powerful—daring all that opposed it with a stone face. It was a torn warrior but was otherwise unchanged by time. . . . [However,] it adapted as time passed and accepted all people—evident by the chattering of the lilting Italian and rumbling Russian conversations around me; a Japanese group was here, a Swedish couple there. Although those languages fell on my uneducated ears, the amazed tones didn’t go unheard. The excited expressions of the children and adults, regardless of nationality, didn’t go unseen. The soft buzz of enthusiasm was potent.
The journal entry goes on, and, even five years later, the Colosseum still seems to be a sentient being that guards the city of Rome and my heart. The age of the travelers didn’t change the impact that the Colosseum made on its visitors—everyone was impressed—and teenagers were no different.
So, parents: fret not. Teens are not mindless, smartphone junkies; they are impressed by travel and by the world around them, just as you are. Travel has the ability to change a teen’s mindset about life and their relationships with others.