Do you remember you senior year prom? Did you go out to eat? Take nice pictures? For me, I flew across the country to Virginia to go to prom. But before we get into that, let me explain why I went to Virginia. It all started in 2017 when I met my friend, Livia, online playing a video game. We kept talking and became great friends. One day, she told me that she’s never been to one of her high school proms before. I was surprised, but jokingly I said “I’ll fly out and take you to your prom.” Time flew until about October 2018, when she brought it up again, but this time the joke turned into reality. I told my parents about it, and they were a bit shocked, but they supported it. We planned out all the specifics and before I knew it, I had a plane ticket to Dulles, Virginia.
This was my first time traveling, especially flying alone, so I was scared. I’ve flown with my parents but I didn’t remember if it was complicated. I asked my parents a bunch of questions about traveling, trying to mentally prepare myself for my first big journey. Finally, the day had come. I was flying out of a very small airport, only one terminal. I was walking around with my parents trying to ask any final questions to make sure my trip went smoothly. I had to leave my parents behind as I got in line for security. As I saw them walking away, it kinda hit me that I was alone until I flew back 4 days later. I got through security smoothly, and I was thinking to myself “Wow, that was a lot easier than I thought.” I waited for my flight, and then boarded the plane and I was off on a new adventure. The plane ride was very smooth, which I’m happy it was because I was nervous enough. When I landed at the Dulles airport, I was surprised at how big it was, I’ve never been to an airport that big, but surprisingly it was easy to navigate. Now you’re probably thinking, I would be picked up by Livia’s family… well that’s not what happened, she was preparing for her musical, which I was going to go see that night. I had another friend I met online, who was a friend of Livia’s sister, Nate, pick me up instead. You must be thinking that I’m crazy for having people I met on the internet determine my trip/fate, but I had full trust in them. After I was picked up we talked and we “met” for a second time, this time in person. I remember feeling odd because meeting someone for the first time in person after knowing them for a couple years is cool and has this “reuniting” feeling but is also weird because its your first in person interaction. We went to a local Pho restaurant and had some dinner before I needed to go to the musical. I’ve never had Pho before, but when I first tried it, I thought it was very good. After dinner, he dropped me off at the high school, and I was on my own again.
When I first stepped into the school, to me it looked like your typical high school from the movies. Long hallways, multiple floors, it was huge. My school only had about 500 people k-12, which was about 30 people per grade, while this school had about 800 people per grade. I got my ticket to the musical and went into their theater. It was a weird feeling to be sitting in the theater alone, because I was a small school kid from a state 1,300 miles away that knew no one from that school except one person. The musical was Legally Blonde, and it was very good. One thing I noticed was that they had a lot more talent than my high school, just because they had a lot more people. When the musical was over, I was awkwardly wondering around trying to find the one person I knew, and after about 10 minutes she appeared out of the large crowd of cast members, and ran towards me and give me the biggest bear hug, and almost suffocated me. After having that weird feeling of “oh this is actually you,” she introduced me to some of her friends from her high school, and they were wondering why I was there, considering I was from Wisconsin. After some quick introductions, she gave me a tour of her school, and I was amazed at how big schools can be. After she was done showing me around and having me meet her friends, we left the school to go back to her house. I met her parents and the first thing they said was “I’m glad you’re not a murderer” jokingly. Her parents and I talked for a bit, getting to know me and such, and then they went to bed, and we thought we should do the same because we had prom the next day. The next day we woke up and had breakfast, and went to get the corsages.
After that we went to a park near her house and just walked around and went on a small hike. It was a nice area, everything was green, there was a river that cut right by the park, and we just hung out for about two hours. When we got back from the park, it was time to get ready for prom. Normally when I went to my schools prom I didn’t wear anything too fancy, just some nice pants a nice shirt and a tie, but for this prom I went all out, because it was my last prom and a very special occasion. I rented a tux with a lavender undershirt, a bowtie, and gelled my hair. Definitely felt a bit fancy for that night.
Once we took pictures and all that, we went to (pizza place) and had some brick oven pizza. When we walked in, it was basically empty, so we were able to order immediately and get our food very quick. The lady working there owned the place, and commented on us looking nice. We explained to her that we were going to prom and she was so happy that we came into her restaurant for our prom meal. We got our pizza, and finished it quickly, as it was very good. We we’re just talking after finishing out pizza and the lady who owned the restaurant came out with some tiramisu in her hand, and said “Since you chose this restaurant for your prom meal, and you are very nice and look very fine, here is some complimentary tiramisu.” I’ve never had tiramisu before, so I was surprised at how good it was.
We left (pizza place) and it was time for the main event. Let my explain my prom for comparison. For my prom, I’m used to going into my high school lunch room, and we have a DJ set up and we just come in and hang out, and the cost to get in is $5. For her prom, we went into a hotel ball room that they rented, they had a DJ, a dance floor, photobooths, and a giant table for food. The table of food was huge and contained random snacks, like brownies and cookies, but also two bowls of melted chocolate to dip things in, like fruit, pretzels, and marshmallows. The ticket price for her prom was $75. So from what I’m used to, this is a massive upgrade for the price. We went in and I immediately felt out of place, it was such an odd feeling. We walked around and talked to some other people, introducing myself as we went. And almost every person was surprised I was from so far away. As the night went on, we danced and ate some snacks, and then took some pictures. One thing that I noticed was the music was so much better compared to my school. Since I live in the middle of nowhere and have a small school, most of the music was country. Personally, I don’t like country too much and its not the “dancing” style of music.
After spending hours after prom, we were both exhausted, but decided we were going to end the night with some sweets. We went to a bakery nearby, and it was a really cool building because it was like an 80s diner but turned into a modern sweetshop. We went inside and there were so many choices of things.
We decided to get some baklava, and then we headed home. I have never had baklava before, but it looked really weird for seeing it for the first time. When I first bit into it, the syrup from it was the first thing I noticed. It fell apart in my mouth and the syrup was really rich, but it was very good. Once we finished our treat, we went to bed after a long night, and of course we slept in the next day.
The next day we decided to take a road trip to Philadelphia. We decided to go to Philly because we had nothing else to do and there was another friend that we could meet there. We picked up one of Livia’s friends, Rishab, and we started our 3 hour drive to Philly, we took turns driving and it was a bit stressful for me because it was a 6 lane road, I’m used to at max 3. When we got Philly, we picked up our other friend, Brian, and we decided to go to the Philadelphia zoo. While we were at the zoo, we saw a lot of cool animals, like iguanas, giraffes, and a lot of cool birds. There were also these cool Lego sculptures of animals around the zoo, I thought they were cool because they were pretty big and accurate. When we were done at the zoo, we decided to walk around at a park. In the park there was this Japanese building with a garden and a Koi pond. We got to investigate it from the outside, but we looked if we could go inside of it and we were 15 minutes late, so we just observed from a distance. When we were about to leave the park, it was starting to rain so we basically started running towards the exit, but the exit that we came in was closed off, so we had to run in the rain to find another exit. But apparently, the park was closing, and all of the exits were getting closed. We got out by sneaking under a hole in the fence, so that was an experience… Once we got back to our car soaking wet, we decided that we were hungry, so we went to get some authentic Philly Cheese steak. We went to this small local cheese steak restaurant, and I was surprised because it was such a small restaurant, but the line was out the door of the building and down the street a bit. So we decided that waiting would be okay because it would most likely be worth the wait. So we waited and after about 30 minutes of waiting we finally got our sandwiches. The first thing I noticed was how heavy it was. It didn’t look like it would weigh a lot, but when I picked it up I was not expecting it to be that heavy. When I took a bite, I noticed the bread was almost tough, but not tough to the point where you had to try to tear it off. The steak was super cheesy and flavorful, not like anything I had before. I will not ever look at a non-authentic Philly cheese steak the same every again after eating that. After eating, it was about 8 pm so we decided to say goodbye to Brian and start our journey back to Virginia. When we got back home, we relaxed for a bit and talked about what we were going do for my last day in Virginia. We decided, to head into DC and go to the Smithsonian, and also to go the Smithsonian aerospace museum.
We woke up at about 7 AM, because we had a bit of traveling to do, and we wanted to hit all of the placed before I needed to be at the airport at 3 PM. So we left at about 8 to go to the Smithsonian. I remember seeing the Smithsonian in the movies, especially “Night at the Museum.” When we walked into the museum, I was surprised at how huge it was. There were 3 floors, with at least 10 exhibits per floor. You could spend an entire day in that place and still not see everything. So, we decided to go through two exhibits, the fossils/bones and the geology one. First we went through the fossils and bones one, and it was really cool to see skeletons of tons of animals arranged perfectly from white tale deer to angler fish. As we moved through the exhibit, we found the dinosaur stuff. This was really cool to see because you always hear about how big and cool they are, but it’s a completely different experience once you actually get to be up close and almost touch them. We saw the famous T-Rex skeleton, and a triceratops. We also found a megalodon jaw, which was really creepy to see because it had lots of sharp teeth, but also it was taller than us. Then we went to the geo exhibit, and before you think it was really dull and boring, it wasn’t really about rocks. It was more about gems and crystals, and there was some really pretty rocks in there. The highlights of that exhibit were towards the end of the room, where they had all of these fancy gems. One gem was called a “cat eye stone” and when light was shined into it, it would reflect off of the stone and it would look likes a cats eye. Another highlight was to see all of the crystals and the different geodes that they can form in. And then there was the Hope Diamond. The Hope Diamond had its own room, and it had two security guards in it. The Hope diamond was on a pedestal in the middle of the room with a glass capsule. The Hope Diamond is an extremely rare gem that has a blue shade to it, which is worth about $350 million. Since we were low on time, we had to book it to the aerospace museum.
The aerospace was full of, well you guessed it, planes and other things that can fly. It contained a lot of WWII bombers and fighters, but also a lot more modern jets and missiles. The obvious thing that stuck out was the Discovery space shuttle. The shuttle was a lot bigger than it looked like in pictures. Another cool thing about it was you could see the scorch marks on it from when it reentered the atmosphere. They had a whole rocket propelled weapon section, and there was a missile that was probably close to 100 ft tall. One other spacecraft that was cool to see was the Blackbird. The Blackbird was used during the cold was to sit on the edge of space and gather intelligence about the soviets. It a black, super smooth aircraft and it doesn’t look like another other spacecraft. Its top speed was about 2,200 mph. It was really cool to see these old aircrafts and learn how they were used in the past. Once we were done exploring the museum, I had to go to the airport.
As my trip was coming to an end, I was sad but I learned a lot of things on the way, like how to travel alone and go through an airport. I also met my friends, and experienced some new things with them, like prom at a large school. It really opened my eyes to the world that I could have experiences like this that I normally wouldn’t get at my small school. I got to travel to some cool places, like Washington DC and Philadelphia, and had some good experiences along the way.
overall it was a fantastic trip, and I would 100% go again if I had the opportunity.