June 8, 2013 was a day I dreaded for a long time (since December 19 to be exact, the day I found out I was going on Cultural Routes). Since last December, CR5 has been my main focus. I lived through my CR5 countdown for over a hundred days, and every time I went to office I yelled to Colby and Dr. P how many days were left; quite frankly, it was all I looked forward to. Last summer, I went to Sevilla, Spain for Frog Camp with Dr. P. He had just gotten back from CR4 when he had to turn around and join us in Spain, so naturally he had stories galore about their time in Europe. Every time he spoke about them, his eyes would light up, he referred to them as his family (or mi familia in Spain), and I could tell, having never stepped foot on TCU’s campus before and not really even knowing Dr. P yet, that something special happened on that trip. And I wanted to go on it.
When I got home from Spain, I told my family about my adventures there, but I also told almost everyone about this Honors backpacking trip through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. Before I had even applied for the trip, I’m fairly certain every member of even my extended family had heard me talk about Cultural Routes. By the time applications had come out, I had read the CR4 blog front to back and back to front, I had talked to previous Cultural Routes travelers, and I had countless late night talks on the third floor of Milton with some of my close friends about applying. Every fiber of my being wanted to go on this trip, yet I didn’t think I had any shot of getting picked for one of the eight girls spots. I had even planned my summer without CR5 in the picture… I had come to terms with the thought I was not going. That is why it was a genuine shock when I was chosen.
Fast forward to June 8. It was on this day that I really learned all good things must come to an end. I was a wreck from the moment I woke up, and that was no surprise. I came into the trip with some of the highest expectations, and it blew every single one of them out of the water. There is something about experiencing Cultural Routes for yourself and learning that as much as you love the breathtaking sights, it’s not about the breathtaking sights. It is about the people. I cried when Gian, Julia, and Anna said goodbye the night before we had to leave, I cried when we left Dr. P and Colby and Jenny, I cried when Marcie and Bret went to a different terminal in the Rome airport, I cried when I left Dave, Josh, and Em after landing in Chicago, and I lost it when I went to wait for my OKC flight by myself having departed from Bryan, Paytin, Kelcie, Mer, and Jared. The people on this trip are my family: they loved me when I was stressed, they helped me cope with devastating tornados at home in Oklahoma, and they laughed with me throughout Europe. I was scared to leave because I was scared things would change, and I have real issues with change. After living with them for 24 days, I didn’t know how I would function on my own.
I have waited this long to blog because I needed time to process the weeks that made up easily the best month of my life. On June 8, I would have given anything to stay in Rome, to continue our journey. Because on that day, I knew we really were a family. I trust these 16 people with my life. In these few days alone at home, I have come to realize that my fear of change will not come to fruition between our CR5 family because these three and a half weeks will bond us forever. Now that I am no longer in Europe, CR5 is all I want to talk about: my brother mentioned it was time to sleep, and all I thought about was Jason saying it was sleep time on the night train; when I got home and it was pouring rain, I just wanted to joke that naturally it was raining because it would follow us home after raining almost every day in Europe. Yet, I found myself unable to make these jokes at home because only the CR5 family would understand. All those little things will be what always keep us together instead of falling apart. From June 8 on, we will continue to grow together. Now nothing I experience at TCU in these next three years will be experienced alone; my family will be there. And even though it is usually true that all good things must come to an end, I now know that is not the case with CR5. We may not be traveling at the moment, but Europe was only the beginning of our adventures together.
To our followers: Thank you all so much for the support, with a special thanks to our own families. We never could have become a CR5 family if you had not allowed us to go on this once-in-a-lifetime trip. I know you’re probably sick of long blog posts and pictures of the trip in review, but I am going to give you both here (long blog post via my inability to keep my writing short, just ask Dr. P who read my application or Jared who reads almost all of my papers, and pictures via my Instagram).
To my CR5 family: Each and every one of you is special in your own way, and each and every one of you has made me a better person over this past month. I feel beyond blessed to have gotten to know you and always know I would do anything for you. Thank you for putting up with me on this trip and the days to come. My newest countdown is the number of days till I get to see all of you together again back in Fort Worth (we really do need to make these weekly Thursday night trips to Cane’s a thing). I cannot wait to see what the next three years have in store for us. I love you all of you with my whole heart. And Dr. P, thank you for taking a chance on me and making me a part of your family. It means the world to me.
It is true: you are all wonderful.