Kalina Mladenova

Not always, but often, your airport experience is an accurate indicator of how the rest of your trip will pan out. Getting lost in the largest airport in the United States was not necessarily the way I wanted to start my reunion with my suitemates in Colorado. At the time of my arrival, I didn’t know how large the airport was or that I needed to take a train to baggage claim. So, I walked. And walked. And walked. In every direction, through multiple buildings, on moving walkways, up the escalator and down the escalator. I eventually, and very naively, followed a kind Southern couple who, as luck would have it, also didn’t know where they were going. It was not my finest moment but after about 25 anxious minutes, I found my way to my luggage.

Looking back, I interpret that situation as a metaphorical journey; one needs to lose their way in order to find what they are searching for. Or maybe I’m just making excuses for my extraordinarily embarrassing text to my suitemates telling them, “I think I’m lost.” Either way, that airport adventure was a completely inaccurate indicator of the remainder of my trip. 

Our trip to Colorado started out like any other dream come true — a dream. I never in a million years pictured myself driving through the Rocky Mountains, radio blasting, with my three best friends. When my Coloradan suitemate invited me, I thought, “That would be the trip of a lifetime. Just imagine the four of us reunited in the snow, all our worries floating away in the wind. … That will never happen, not in a million years.” And yet, despite my pessimism, just two months later, I found myself landing at the Denver International Airport. How we all managed to convince our parents to let us go is still a bit of a mystery.

Some people travel for the views and some people travel for the food. And sometimes, people travel to experience a little bit of both. Excluding my suitemates, of course, I went to Colorado for the views. As a native Floridian, seeing a mountain is like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But after my first dinner at my suitemate’s house — a delicious hotpot extravaganza — I came to the conclusion that I was traveling for the food. Not only was my suitemate’s mom a master of various Asian culinary styles, deserving of her own hour segment of the Food Network, but I also have to say that the four of us were not too shabby ourselves.

We spent a few days in a mountain lodge where we cooked our own fresh meals and baked our own decadent desserts. I won’t say for sure, but we may or may not have eaten almost an entire loaf of chocolate chip banana bread in one night (and let’s not even acknowledge our multiple trips to Sweet Cow Ice Cream back in my suitemate’s hometown). Between our home-cooked meals, we went snowtubing, hot sulfur spring hopping, hiking, ice skating and hot tubbing. We played Mario Kart religiously, binged Bridgerton in record time and took way too many pictures. But none of these things are what made my Colorado adventure the “trip of a lifetime.” In fact, if we hadn’t photographed all of those moments, they would probably be lost in my memory 20 years from now. What will forever stay lodged in my mind are the little moments that seemed trivial at the time, but will be the source of my laughter and tears 60 years from now.

When I think about my family’s vacation to San Francisco about a decade ago, I don’t remember driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, wandering around Ghirardelli Square or boating out to Alcatraz Island. What I remember is my brother eating too much bacon for breakfast and practically dying of thirst at a museum later that day. I remember secretly pilfering all of the sugar cubes from the hotel’s extraordinarily fancy breakfast rotunda. I realize the fact that I was 6 years old on this trip could account for my severe memory gaps. But I’m a very literary person. I like to find meanings and connections in everything, whether it be in life or in books, so my theory holds for any age: It is the little moments in life that will bring you true joy. 

What I’ll remember about Colorado is how my suitemates laughed when I ran like a 5-year-old through the snow to find my hat. And how that hat made me look like a typical Colorado stoner boy. How the rock salt at the hot sulfur springs was more painful than the 30-degree weather we endured in bathing suits. How my suitemate seemed to say we’re almost at the top every 15 minutes on our hike up to Royal Arch. How much my other suitemate vehemently hated both hiking and ice skating. And how much affectionate ridicule I received over my elementary school nickname, which I hesitate to reveal to you: Squiver (my two favorite animals were squirrels and beavers).

The true test of friendship and love is remembering the little things that you have no record of, not recalling events based on pictures that you took. Friendship is remembering those feelings that you felt and those words that you said without reminders, without pictures and without videos. And love is simply putting those words or feelings into actions. So, what did I do over winter break? I learned what it means to truly love my friends.

Jacqueline Kaskel | jacqueline.kaskel@yale.edu

JACQUELINE KASKEL