“Whoa, this is real… This is happening… Like…now.” I’m sure each of us on CR9 had a moment like that at some point within the last few weeks or so. For some, it might have been getting out the suitcase. For others, it might have been visiting Amazon.com to order the first of many necessities for Europe (including those RFID-blocking wallets—don’t worry; we trust you, Dr. P.). For me, it was rubbing the horned frog statue’s nose for good luck in packing, travels, safety, packing, intellectual growth, unity, and packing.
Yes, I might have been at least a little near-sighted in my worries, but packing definitely worried me quite a bit (and still does as I’m getting ready to head to the airport in 6 hours).The thought of minimally packing for almost a month seemed like a daunting task. On one hand, I know I need to be as mobile as possible while sprinting across train platforms, and on the other, I also know that I need to pack enough so that I am not washing clothes at every stop when I could be spending time exploring the city. Looking at my bag now, probably 90% ready, I am so relieved to say the least. Maybe the horned frog thing actually works.
Many of us students on the trip have mentioned time and time again that we aren’t exactly sure what to expect in terms of specifics for the trip. Every group experiences a new, unique Cultural Routes, so we must discover for ourselves what the ninth CR journey through Europe will look like. However, if one thing is for sure, it is that we are going to be challenged. Not just challenged, but absolutely pushed to our limits in every sense of the phrase—physically, by walking hundreds of miles; mentally, by imbuing our minds with the immensity of three different cultures and lifestyles; emotionally, by observing heavy sites of the past; relationally, by interacting with native citizens and each other for almost a month non-stop. That can be terrifying at first glance, and understandably so, I believe. We are sailing forward into the uncharted waters, knowing that the seas likely won’t always be so merciful. However, I would argue that environment provides so much more potential for growth than any other. One of the maxims that I remind myself of often is that “you never know your full potential in anything until you decide to throw yourself beyond any limits you ever imagined held you in.” With CR’s rigor, I know we will be thrown, thrown far beyond where many of us may be comfortable, but honestly, that’s exciting. Who knows how that will change each of us? How it will change me?
One thing that I remember discussing in preparation for the trip was taking moments to learn from each other. I know there is so much to learn merely from living among the people of a different nation and culture, but the more I consider it, the more I realize there is an equally vast quarry of knowledge to be gained from my peers in the cohort. Each of us will react in a different manner upon studying a memorial or site. Each of us will connect with different aspects of a scene. Each of us will get fired up with different atmospheres. With fifteen student perspectives apart from mine, I realize there are fifteen brilliant opportunities to learn, not only about the world around us but also about each other. This trip will teach us so many different things about community—that we are living in from city to city and site to site and that we are living in now, in Europe, and in the future back in Fort Worth next August. The fifteen other students on the trip will soon be some of my closest friends, will soon be my familia.
I know Cultural Routes will be an amazing, unpredictable, unforgettable journey. BUT, I’m never going to pass up an opportunity for a little outside help to make sure that happens, so of course, I rubbed that nose. Maybe we won’t get lost too many times, or maybe we won’t struggle too much in ordering our food, … or maybe we will, and we’ll learn from our mistakes along the way. Who can tell? That’s what the adventure of Cultural Routes is all about.