As the title says, my first real overseas experience was in Rome, Italy. When I was 10 my dad took the whole family along on one of his business trips to Rome. After the 8 hour flight (mindblowingly long at the time), we arrived in what I thought was the most wonderful place in the world! We saw all the usual tourist sites. I marvelled at all the cats that lived in the Colosseum and the randomness of Italian McDonald's happy meal toys. I loved the view from our window (a bakery on a cobblestoned street) and spent every morning watching the people go by. I loved how tiny the hotel elevator was and how fast everyone drove through the narrow roads. I'm sure I stared a little too much at the women holding baby dolls asking for money. I had never felt so alive as I breathed in this air that was so new and listened to the sounds of the city. This is when I knew this is what I wanted to do: travel!
Our daily dose of gelato never grew old and I treasure my memories picking out what I saw as precious Italian souveniers (a leather bound journal, some handicrafts from street vendors, etc.). I never wanted to leave this magical place. Most of all I loved our nightly walks: every night we would go and wander about the streets, stopping in stores and restaurants with no where in particular to go. We would throw coins in the Trevi fountain almost every day--hopefully the old myth is true and I will return to Rome one day!
Since I was only 10 I also remember how my best friend wrote me a letter for every day I was gone and made me a gift packet to take along with me. I remember how big of a deal this was for me to go to somewhere so exotic that I never considered possible! When I got back, I talked my 6th grade teacher's ear off about the Vatican and all the things I had seen, showing her books and following her around for days until I'm sure she had heard quite enough.
Although I do not remember all the details of this trip, the feeling that it gave me to be in a magical new place is something that will stick with me forever!