GLASGOW — The Barren County High School Travel Club recently spent 15 days in western Europe, visiting England, France, Switzerland and Italy.
“Our day spent at Stonehenge and Salisbury was very nice,” said Stephanie Esters, a sponsor of the travel club. “It was the only cool day we had on tour since the rest was during an epic heatwave.
“The history of Stonehenge coupled with the quaint but beautiful Salisbury was wonderful. We even built our own gothic temple as a group to mimic the gorgeous Salisbury Cathedral.”
Esters said the group’s favorite place was “definitely Switzerland.”
“It was the best of both worlds,” she said. “Up in the mountains, it was so picturesque that it didn’t even seem real. It was more like you were emerged in a beautiful watercolor painting. Up there we could hike and take in the views. Then at the base of the mountains, there were beautiful lakes where we took a boat ride and several of the kids went swimming.
“All in all, the landscape there was too beautiful to even describe with words. It is something that everyone that is able should try to experience for themselves.”
The ruins and cathedrals of Italy were also very impressive, Ester said.
“I think if it hadn’t been so hot this may have been another favorite,” she added. “We visited Montecatini, Florence, Pisa, Assisi and Rome while in Italy, so we took in a lot of history and architectural wonders.
“Actually laying eyes on aqueducts and roads built by the ancient Romans was an overwhelming experience for myself and a few members of the group that have a passion for history and ancient antiquities — which we also viewed a lot of when we visited the Louvre in Paris.”
Esters said the travel club experienced “at least a small amount of culture shock in several different places we went.”
“We struggled greatly with the fact that ice, the unlimited refill on restaurant beverages, and air conditioning are rare in Europe,” she said. “I know I have developed a deep appreciation for those creature comforts here at home.
“Nevertheless, I think the culture shock was a positive thing because it provided travelers with an opportunity to learn about themselves. For example, I personally fit the American stereotype of being loud and talking a lot with my hands — though the Italians did the same.”
The culture shock also helped the group adapt to new cultures, “and to fully immerse ourselves into the various languages we encountered,” Esters said. “It also forces you to adapt to new surroundings and find ways to make connections with people that have different perspectives, backgrounds and life experiences.”
“That helped to transform our own global perspective and hopefully began to shape us into more open-minded individuals all around,” she added. “Overall, I must admit that I walked away from the trip realizing that the world is much smaller than I had ever realized before.
“Even though we vary in cultures, languages and ethnicities, we and the others we met all shared similar aspirations and passions. In fact, that was probably one of the most eye-opening experience for many of our travelers — that we are not so different than many of the people we met.”
Esters said the most rewarding part of the trip was “probably different for each traveler because we all learned a lot about people and places all over the world.”
“But we also each learned a lot about ourselves as individuals,” she said. “For me, the most rewarding part was getting to witness my students’ growth. Several of them throughout the trip changed into self-functioning adults right before our eyes.
“They were passive in the beginning of the trip, but by the end, they would approach people and greet them in their native languages and could navigate the complicated metro public transportation systems in the larger cities. Most importantly, they grew in their own confidence and self worth.”
The BCHS Travel Club will be touring Scotland and Ireland in June and July of 2020.
“This trip has recently been added because of how much we enjoyed northern England,” Esters said. “We decided to experience more of what Great Britain has to offer. This trip is a 10-day outing, and is more cost effective for those considering traveling abroad since we only fly twice and all meals except for lunch each day are included.”
In July 2021, the travel club will visit Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii for 15 days.
Both trips are open to BCHS students and community members. For more information about these trips and the BCHS Travel Club, contact Esters at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jessica Dyer at email@example.com.
The BCHS Travel Club offers scholarship opportunities to student travelers and tries to fundraise enough money to cover tips while on tour.
“In order to accomplish these goals, we need support from our community members and stakeholders,” Esters said. “If you or your business is interested in donating toward either tips or scholarships, we would love to speak to you. Please contact either one of us at any time, and thank you for helping us support our students.”