There’s no magic here 

Hello everybody! it’s me, Madeline, also known as the last person to do their first trip blog. In fact, I didn’t even start this blog until 1 am of the third full day in Munich. I know, I’m disappointed in myself too. So here I am, one of the very last to publish my thoughts about CR and all it encompasses. What’s even left for me to talk about? The other kids on this trip, each incredibly smart, well-spoken, and all around phenomenal people, have already covered everything from feelings to crazy adventures to academic discoveries. So how do I talk about what this trip (sorry, experience) has meant to me for the past week without being obnoxiously redundant? 

In this blog, I’m going to talk about what CR9 is. Reading that sentence probably led a lot of you to a preconceived conclusion. Whether you’re a parent, past CR member, or current one, the idea of what both CR and CR9 specifically are has a lot of meaning. Many of you may think of things like crazy night train adventures, deep talks while wandering through a foreign country, or dance parties so wild the German police have to intervene (yes, parents, we were completely sober). But all those things listed above, while great, are my biggest problem with CR9 so far. We as a group have put so much pressure on being deep and authentic and constantly vulnerable that–at least from what I’ve seen–we’ve missed the point. I have already gotten wildly closer with many of my previous friends while also getting to bond deeply with new people, but at the same time I feel like all 16 of us are trying to find the magic combination we need to make this trip the perfection we heard about. We think maybe if we ask eachother enough hard questions, have enough mental breakdowns, or spontaneously go on enough adventures, we will reap the idolized rewards that we’ve heard CR has to offer. But here’s the problem: if we all think like that, then we’re missing the point. This trip isn’t a formula, and it isn’t magic. We’ve been given the tools we need to dive into both ourselves and the amazing people around us so that we can both grow and share ourselves with others. But by putting so much value on feeling a special connection to the trip and the people on it, we’ve lost the magic we want so badly. 

So, then, what do we do? How do we be ourselves and get deep without forcing it or overthinking each moment? I don’t know. I’m one of the 16 too, and I don’t have all the answers. But what I do know is that we can’t expect ourselves to be anything we’re not. We can’t expect ourselves to be “on” all the time, always okay with being vulnerable and ready to share. We can’t try to find meaning or answers in every single thing that happens, because sometimes a good cry is just a good cry. And most importantly, we can’t expect CR to change who we are, because that’s up to us. If there’s something about yourself that you think needs fixing or improving, Cultural Routes can’t do that for you, and neither can a couple really good questions asked by a new friend.

So, here’s my open letter to the each of the other 15 on this wild adventure with me: If you really want grow in these next two and a half weeks, that’s on you. Growing is hard, and no magical trip or experience can change that reality. So I’m challenging all of us to embrace the hard parts of growing and not just stay focused on the easy ones. Don’t ask questions or reveal your stories just to feel minimally closer to someone, but really dive into people and into yourself by being caring and getting to know them for the sake of getting to know them, not for any selfish reasons or agendas you feel you must fulfill.

If you choose to follow my advice, it’ll be hard. But hey–no matter what may come next, don’t forget that we’re here in freakin’ Europe, and I can’t think of a more beautiful place to hash out our problems. So let’s do what CR9 seems to do best: attack this problem as a group and push ourselves to be better. Neuschwanstein, here we come!