Dear Mom and Dad,
Thank you for everything.
In the past three months, I have traveled the world in a way that you have always pushed me to do. You always encouraged me to see the world, to explore different places, to challenge myself to travel while I am still young. When I presented you with the idea of sending me away to Italy (and, it turned out, the rest of Europe) to study abroad, you supported me wholeheartedly. That might just mean the most to me: You challenged me to see the world, and when I came to you with an opportunity to do so, you (literally) put your money where your mouth was. I know raising me, the prodigal son, couldn’t have been easy nor cheap. But the opportunities that you have given me – opportunities maybe not granted to you as young adults – have given me memories and experiences that can’t be tied to a monetary value. For that, I am incredibly thankful.
In the past three months, I have done and seen things I thought would only be available to me through Google Images and Wikipedia. I have spent a week under the sun in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico learning the dangers of befriending the bartenders. I became a regular at the best Italian restaurant (in my opinion) in Padua. I ate my first gelato. I have climbed the Eiffel Tower and seen the Mona Lisa in the same day. I have eaten the world’s best pizza in Naples. I swam in the water off of the island of Capri as a small Italian man sang classic Italian songs. I have seen the ruins of Pompeii, complete with graves of people turned to stone. I have drifted down and between the canals of Venice in a gondola. I ate a tomato and some mushrooms; I still like neither. I went to my first European soccer game in Verona, as well as my first ever opera (well, maybe the first that I could appreciate). I took a picture of Michelangelo’s David in Florence and escaped free of handcuffs. I ate some more gelato. I drank a Heineken in Amsterdam and walked through the same rooms Anne Frank and her family hid in. I toured the Colosseum, threw change into the Trevi Fountain, and took a picture at the Pantheon. I didn’t see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, so you guys owe me one. I hiked through Cinque Terre, eating Italy’s purest pesto along the way. I went to an FC Barcelona game, and watched three of the team’s best players score goals in a win. I became a usual at Grom, cementing the fact that I need to hit the treadmill. I ate way too much pasta and pizza at every stage of my Italian travels (though I don’t regret it because it was the best pasta and pizza in the world). I ate my sixtieth – and final – gelato. I visited a castle in Edinburgh. I had a pie-and-a-pint during a pub-crawl in London, but not before I visited Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London first. I did that all myself, but none of it would have been possible without you. For that, I will forever be thankful. Even though everybody likes to say that they have the best parents, they are probably wrong. I have the best parents, and I couldn’t have asked you guys to be any better than you already are.
In the past three months, I have become a more well-rounded, more adventurous, more confident person; I will hold back from calling myself a better person, but I cannot deny the experiences that you have made available for me have given me a better outlook on life. Sometimes you might feel like you missed a spot or two with me (like when I drive a little too fast on the highway or put my elbows on the table during dinner), but I am proud to say that I am the person that I am today because of the work that you have put into me and the love that you have shown me. As I write this from my seat on my flight home to you, I just hope that you know how much I love you. And also that you will be there to pick me up, dad. But mostly that you know how much I love you.
P.S. I bought you gifts. I hope you like them.