There is nothing like arriving at Yerevan’s airport for the first time. There is anxiety, suspense, and Armenian being spoken around you. It’s strange and wonderful at the same time. Here we were returning to a home that we never knew! For years I watched friends visit Armenia. They returned home a bit transformed/moved by the experiences.

At first I was afraid and nervous to be honest. Armenia was apart of the Soviet Union and perhaps too much Regan propaganda hit to my core. When I made the decision, I recruited my friend Keri for the journey. We arrived after many hours of flying in Yerevan very late and wanted to go out. Arto took us to Republic Square for beer and pistachio nuts. The night marked the beginning of my love affair with a place that outside of Armenian school remained a mystery to me. For two weeks we traveled and visited the places that I learned about in Armenian school. The nuns were not lying. These places were real.

To top it off, our leader Arto ensured that we gained a real understanding of the country, its culture, and the current challenges in the most comfortable way for a Westerner. The people, sights, and landscapes are a bit magical. Were the cultural differences between what I thought being Armenian was? Yes. Has that deterred me from returning? No. This trip kicked off many of my world trips to follow. It also helped me in my perception of how I look at the world while not in the US. It was a wonderful introduction to Armenia and I highly recommend participating for your first trip to Armenia.

Robin Barone – YP 2002