4 Thoughts I Had Going Back To The Zoo At 19

Trips to the zoo are a staple experience in the life a child. Whether you went with a class on a field trip or with your family on an excursion, if you vividly remember the animals, or eating a funnel cake at one of the food stands, it’s a moment in our childhoods that’s defined by its universal nature.

Last month, the world celebrated the International Day of Forests March 21. With an overall focus on wildlife and conservation, I wanted to head to a place emphasizing just that: the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Though I grew up in Baltimore, and went to that city’s local zoo, I’ve had experience visiting different zoos. However, I haven’t gone back since before I first became a teenager and thought I should return to one before I finish my teenage years as a 19 year old.

So, in light of the seasonal change and as an effort to help make our world green, I’m going through four thoughts I had returning to the zoo for the first time since I was a kid.

1. The sense of giddy anticipation is still there.

I couldn’t believe how excited I was to go back! The childlike anticipation and anxiousness to visit the different exhibits, see the changes they made and figure out how much of my memory aligned with the reality was butterfly-in-the-stomach inducing adventure. Since it was also my first time heading to the zoo solo, I was a bit nervous to see how my overall experience would go, but I was eager to get the process going nonetheless.

2. The beginning process is longer than I remembered.

Gone are the days of holding someone’s hand or hanging onto a baby carriage, looking around aimlessly as I enter into a park. Now, I’m forced with the hideously anticipated reality of being the adult in the situation—granted, people still mistake me for a few years younger. I spent a bit of time worrying about what I can and cannot bring, things that didn’t occupy my attention the first time around. Also, since I brought my book bag with me, I was cautious of how much stuff I should take considering I’d be walking around all day—hello, sensible shoes!

3. The smell...nevermind, animals are great!

The smell of certain animals’ exhibits is rather...strong, I’ll say. Still, that didn’t stop me from aptly remembering the experience of tilting my head all the way back, like I did on my recent visit, to stare up at the imposing height of the zoo’s giraffes. Viewing the giraffes remains one of my favorite parts of visiting the zoo, and I relished the experience of marveling at their presence.

4. Everyone should definitely go back!

The zoo is truly for anyone. Whether you just want to see your favorite animals or do something a little more specific like evaluate the primates, it’s the perfect collision of everything carefree and natural about life, whether or not you’re an adult or a child.