Learning in Spite of School explores the lessons that a young mind can only have burned into them through experiences. Life has never waited for anyone to copy notes before slamming a test down in front of them.

Payton DiSario

Learning in Spite of School: Even Vacations Have a Learning Curve

August 30, 2019

For two weeks this summer, I left the familiar and immersed myself in the unknown. It seemed unreal to see the land that Popes walked, Romans conquered, kings reigned and countless artists sculpted. Yet somehow, I ended up in Europe, passport in hand and eager to learn.

Tracy Blackburn
The streets of Florence, Italy, lined with artwork and gorgeous architecture, are unlike any I have ever seen. Each cobblestone begged to be examined but my feet seemed unable to take in the whole city, no matter my determination.

I memorized the narrow alleyways of Florence, Italy, absorbed every work of art decorating the Vatican City, which the church replaced with elaborate mosaic replicas, and devoured each pastry that magically appeared in my hand in Marseilles, France. Every dream I previously entertained seemed to be true, yet I never imagined where life would lead me once I left the comfort of my front door. 

The moment my family waltzed into the airport, the trip appeared to go downhill. Our flight to Paris, France had been delayed so long that we would miss our connection to Barcelona, Spain. We spent two hours at the desk bargaining with our travel company and the kind man who worked for the airline before finally booking different flights and rushing off to our gate. 

When we eventually arrived after pushing past what seemed to be all of Atlanta, the flight had been delayed yet again for two hours. Once we finally took flight, I happily closed my eyes in America and opened them in Rome, Italy. 

I discovered that gelato shops and luxury leather stores litter the Roman airport- along with the fact that its air conditioning cuts out frequently and that it has no train. Sweaty and slightly desperate at this point, my family found our gate only to discover that we were missing something else: our luggage.

I need to learn to search for the lesson the world shoves toward me, whether I am ready for it or not,”

— Payton DiSario

As a few members of my family- not to name any names (my mom)- began to freak out, I felt eerily calm. Nearly everything that could have gone wrong up to that point had, and sure, I may have been stuck in overalls- which I learned are both fashionable and unpractical- for the third day in a row, but everything had gone terribly in a whole new world. 

Several delayed flights, marathons through foreign airports and all-expenses-paid-by-the-airline shopping trips later, the rest of my family calmed their nerves and we were finally back on schedule, albeit without our luggage for another day. At this point, I not only expected something else to go wrong, I found myself excited to see what the world threw at us. 

Although I doubt my family would agree, I adored every detour spent exploring new places and every second spent sprinting across foreign grounds. I even relished in shopping to replace my luggage for the time-being and finally exercising the vocabulary I had learned in Spanish class (gracias Señora Acosta). I realized that if things had not “gone wrong”, I never would have flown first class, tried at least three different flavors of gelato and even more brands of Italian chocolate, briefly met a fútbol team in Madrid, Spain, discovered that, according to Europeans, I wear child-sized shoes or met a self-proclaimed British rockstar in a bakery line, who was surprised to find my English far better than my Spanish.

Payton DiSario
The sun sets over the mountains of Madrid, Spain as my family gasps for breath behind the scenes. We had just finished scrambling across the airport in order to make our connection.


I used to believe that everything always works out, but now, I have decided that nothing does. Life does not go by my plans or my imagination, no matter how many times I lie awake in bed creating impossible scenarios. Instead, I need to learn to search for the lesson the world shoves toward me, whether I am ready for it or not. A lot of the time, if I pay enough attention, life gives me something much more beautiful than I could possibly dream. After taking a step back, I would not dare change a single aspect of my adventure.

The day came that it was time to return to America. Suddenly, I felt homesick for a place I barely knew yet still surrounded me. We once again waltzed into the airport and discovered that our flight had been delayed. I smiled as my family sank into its familiar chaos. From that point on, I silently promised the world to gratefully take in whatever it could throw at me, as long as it promised to never stop. 




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