When I was 16 I boarded at my school in Brisbane, Australia while my Dad was on temporary assignment in New York City. I still remember how much I loved being independent and how much I looked forward to traveling alone (with my younger sisters) from Brisbane to New York to see my parents at Christmas time. I was extremely upset when Mom and Dad arranged for some friends of theirs to travel with us part of the way. As a 16 year old I considered myself no longer in need of adult supervision.
I have just started reading Paul C Nagel's biography of our sixth president John Quincy Adams. JQA's independent traveling as a teenager amazed me. Especially when you think that trips took weeks and could be very dangerous.
In 1781 JQA was in Holland with his father who was on a diplomatic mission. It was decided that JQA should go as a secretary to Francis Dana on a mission to St Petersburg, Russia. Adams and Dana left on July 7, 1781 for the 2,000 mile trip. They stopped in Berlin, Germany and Riga, Poland and arrived in St Petersburg on August 27.
Soon it was decided that John Quincy should return to Holland alone so he could continue his studies. He left St Petersburg for Stockholm on October 30, 1782. He was 15. He spent a couple of days in Helsinki and dined with the commander of Swedish forces in Finland. He then arrived in Stockholm on November 22. Adams loved Sweden and the Swedish people. Nagel says "It must have been a reassuring experience for a boy of fifteen to talk on equal terms with leading citizens of Stockholm." He was especially taken with the Swedish women. "For him, Sweden would always be "the land of lovely dames." He admitted that he had never forgotten the "palpitations of heart" these women caused him— "and of which they never knew."
From Stockholm he went on to Goteborg then Copenhagen then Hamberg and finally back to Holland on April 21. "Meanwhile, a frantic John Adams was asking everyone who had been in Northern Europe if they had seen his wondering son, for Johnny made little effort to keep his father apprised of his whereabouts."
Adams always had very happy memories of this independent trip. "It was a time of few worries and much freedom" I can understand why it was such a happy time for him.