monica dunn 2

I traveled to the city of love this weekend and climbed 700 steps plus an elevator ride to find myself 906 feet above Paris at the top of the Eiffel Tower. But I did not find the love of my life. Honestly, I didn’t even talk to a guy the entire weekend except for our waiters, and they were all old.

I grew up dreaming of a knight in shining armor whisking me away to a beautiful castle on a hill and living happily ever after. Belle, Cinderella and Ariel were my favorite Disney characters. Even as I got older, I still love to watch all the Hallmark movies where the main character becomes royalty after bumping into the prince of a country.

I was not really expecting to fall in love on this trip, but Europe has a certain romantic impression to it: the castles, boat rides on canals, winding cobblestone streets leading to breathtaking sunsets. It is the perfect setting for the beginning of any romantic endeavor.

I was standing on the top of the Eiffel Tower watching a couple toast their marriage, and I could not help but see the irony in the situation. I may not have found the man of my dreams while watching the sun peek out onto Paris building tops, but what I did find was eight amazing friends on my internship program with me.

Paris: Friends are life’s sweetener

In Paris, I learned the value of friendship. Friends who will encourage you to eat escargot (which means snail in French) and frog legs. Friends who will stay up late to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle for the last time that night. Friends who will listen to me jabber on about covering the European Union Summit or the Mueller investigation letter.

I watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” this week. In this movie, the recently divorced main character goes on an adventure across the world to find love, but really she finds herself. I think that’s what traveling does for you. I have learned so many important life lessons from the cities I’ve traveled to so far.

Dinant: Get off the beaten path

Dinant is a small town south of Brussels. There are three main tourist attractions: the Citadelle, an old fortress build in the 1800s; the Maison Leffe, the former monastery where Leffe beer was created; and a cave. My friends and I were walking from the cave to the museum and found an abandoned staircase. We decided to climb up them to see where it takes us. We found a beautiful meadow that overlooked the Citadelle and took some fun photos.

Prague: Hard work reaps the best harvest

In Prague, there were numerous giant hills my friend and I climbed. Each hill took us to an amazing view of the city. Honestly, I have yet to regret climbing any hill or staircase in Europe.

Ibiza: No party like an off-season party

Ibiza is actually deserted off-season. Ibiza is a popular summer clubbing vacation spot, and two of the women I went on my spring break trip with really wanted to go. I figured I could hang out on the beach. We flew in on a Thursday night, and it was more dead than Downtown St. Joseph on a Monday night. My friend and I sat at the only populated restaurant along the beach the entire next day, and I flew back out to Barcelona that night.

Barcelona: Solo is not scary

In Barcelona, I stayed at an amazing hostel that had a great community. I left Ibiza and returned to Barcelona to stay a few nights by myself. I went back to the amazing hostel I stayed at because it had a great community. At first, I was really nervous to travel on my own. However, I found it to be the most liberating experience. I quickly made friends again at the hostel and went with them to see Tibidabo and a football game. I now feel confident in myself to see things on my own and be a truly independent person.

I am more than halfway through my internship program in Brussels, and I have learned so much about myself and the world we live in.