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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

Summer of adventures

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

(6/2014) Until I was 17 years old, I had never traveled farther than the eight hours it took to drive to the Outer Banks, North Carolina once each year. That was the end of my world, because everything farther away seemed unattainable. Those locales were just places to be looked at in pictures or read about in the news. Until I was 14, I had never been farther than Ocean City, Maryland in one direction and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the other. Needless to say, my family isnít one for traveling. I get car sick, my mom refuses to get on a plane, my dad is perfectly content sitting on a boat in the river, and my brother and sister are so loud that lasting long in a vehicle with them is a risky proposition.

My first experience really traveling was to a four-day journalism convention in Seattle, Washington, a trip made even more interesting by the fact that I was on a plane going to a strange new place, surrounded by strangers. We detoured to Forks, Washingtonóduring the time when everyone was obsessed with Twilightóand spent the rest of our trip in the heart of Seattle. To this day, my trip to Seattle is the greatest trip Iíve ever taken. This may be because it was my first time in a world so different than my hometown, but everything was so exciting and fresh. The next year I traveled to the same convention, this time flying to San Francisco, California. The attraction of San Francisco didnít appeal to me in the same way that it did to my companions, but nonetheless, it was sunny and warm. And, letís be honest, who doesnít enjoy just being in California? Until this summer, those two trips were my only experiences outside of the East Coast.

While I loved the time that I spent traveling to Seattle and San Francisco after my freshman year, I vowed to expand my horizons. This summer I planned on embarking on two very different trips. For my first adventure, I went to Florida to celebrate the end of freshman year with my roommate. Fort Lauderdale was beautiful and freeing, and the vacation went swimminglyÖwell, except for the occasional disaster along the way. All my friend Nicole and I wanted was a hotel on the beach, so being the poor college students that we are, we went with one of the cheapest ones. We didnít care what it looked like or if there was free breakfastówe just wanted to be on the beach. Well, we got there and we were wrong. We did care. The crack in our door was so wide that we could see the outdoor pool while standing in the room. It probably hadnít been cleaned in a couple weeks, there were stains all over the bed and bathroom, and there was one single sputtering light bulb in the corner of the room. I could go on about how disgusting the whole place was, but I wonít. Without another word Nicole and I left. So there we are walking down Main Street in Fort Lauderdale hauling our bags. At this point I wasnít sure if I felt lost or independent, or if I was in some strange place in between. We found a new hotel only two blocks back from the beach that was beautiful. We got food and spent the day on the beach and thatís when we came to our next minor disaster. Nicole got sun poisoning. She couldnít sleep and barely moved for the next two days. The room smelled like aloe and all we ate was ice cream. As if things couldnít get any worse, we found bugs, tons of bugs. The room was extremely clean and nice but somehow there were bugs. Herein lies our final minor disaster. I hate bugs. There is nothing I hate more than bugs. They actually scare me; their little eyes are just so creepy. So after a little working we were finally able to switch rooms. After three different rooms, sun poisoning, a random inspection at the airport, a lot of ice cream, and even more pizza, we didnít spend much time on the beach, but I did surprisingly live through my first experience traveling alone.

I will be continuing my summer of adventures next month in Port Au Prince, Haiti on a mission trip with Global Partners. I canít say much about what it will be like because I am still unsure of what will happen, but I have already been blessed in so many ways while preparing for the trip. The support and donations Iíve received have been incredible. Just this morning I made it through four vaccines required for the trip. This may seem a small feat to all those not scared of shots, but to those not so tough and mighty, you will understand this triumph. While Iím there, it will be my first time out of the country and my first time with a group of 50 people who I donít know. Iíll be working with the team focusing on orphan care and vacation bible school. I know this will be so much fun and will change my life. I also know it will be a challenge in a country where a large portion of the population practices Voodoo. Traveling to Haiti will be a new and hopefully amazing experience, one that I can carry back with me when I return home.

No matter how many hours I spend in Rock-it Pizza (my at-home job) answering phones and making subs, or how much time I spend greeting customers at Justice, laying outside, visiting friends, or eating Ritaís, nothing will compare to the thrill of experiencing new places and new people. Traveling, just as the season of summer does, has a freeing sense about it. A place can only be new once, I can only see things for the first time once, and the awe and excitement that accompanies the first time can only be revisited in pictures and memories. So the first time I step foot on Haitiís soil, Iím going to embrace it and live in that moment, because thatís what traveling is all about.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary