3 March 2010
MSS 03 - 03 - 2010

Before writing this update, I took some time to read my journal entries from January, as our trip was just beginning. My words seemed like they were from a different era, like I had written them long ago on another voyage. That feeling gave me an idea for this journal entry. Instead of writing about a day in China, of our long bus rides and fascinating site visits, I could write about a great shift that has occurred since the beginning of World Tour 4. I remember being warned about this shift last semester, not as if it were a bad thing, but rather as if it were inevitable. Sure enough, we have become so accustomed to traveling and frequently changing scenarios that touring the world feels... normal. Before World Tour 4, about half of our forty students, including me, had never left North America. The air around us was thick with excitement as we gathered at O'Hare, left our families behind, and began to scramble through the maze of baggage and security checks for the first of many times to come. As I boarded the plane to Dublin, I thought about how monumental the flight would be for me, as well as many others on the trip. While still on American soil, we were closer to Europe than we had ever been before, the closest we had ever come to being so far from home. Though we were completely sleep deprived by the time we arrived in Dublin, many of us ecstatically ventured through the snow and ice to find something to eat. We saw this excitement carry on through January, as we spent our days traveling to new cities, touring by day and exploring by night. During our journey through Spain, France, Italy, and Greece, we had the freedom to explore to our heart's content. With each new city, there was a completely new culture to experience. Though we had become somewhat used to the initial shock of foreign languages, foods, and lifestyles, there was no way to become adapted to the change in the cities themselves. While we compared Dublin and much of Spain to America, we soon began to compare each new destination to the city and country that preceded it. In a way, we had become accustomed to a sense of European culture that existed throughout the first month of World Tour 4. Once we left Europe, however, things began to change. As knowledge of English became less prevalent in our host cities, the need for our group to be guided grew. We spent much of our time in Turkey on a bus, mostly because the ancient sites were spread across great stretches of countryside. As our tour guides became more responsible for moving us from place to place, our group no longer needed to seek its own transportation. In Egypt, we were herded from city to ancient ruin, first by bus, then by cruise ship. In Dubai, Cambodia, Singapore, and China, the bus became our link to everything - train stations, airports, hotels, restaurants, and each day's adventures. February was a heavily guided month, making it difficult for us to keep track of our ever-changing destinations. Lately, we are often surprised by where we end up each day. It is as if we are on a ride narrated by our tour guide, where our daily activities are somewhat beyond our control. This is not entirely bad, however. We have been able to find more time to work and relax, but we have missed the freedom we were granted in Europe. When we arrive in a city, many of us choose to stay in our hotel to catch up on homework or rest. We have lost some of the eagerness to explore that we had in January simply because we have less opportunities to do so. If our mindset, our approach to daily life, has already changed this much within the last month, I believe it can only change again. As we finish our last stretch of the tour in northern Europe, it will be very interesting to see where we end up before we go back home - back to "normal". Top right: During our Nile cruise, we stopped off at highly populated tourist destinations, such as the Temple at Kom Ombo. While it was beautiful to see during and after sunset, it was hard to experience each space with dense crowds constantly in the way. Bottom right: With ample free time in Rome, we were able to explore different spaces in small groups. Simply standing and watching the crowds of people actively using public space has become a memory our group will never forget.

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