“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”–Mark Twain
Exactly 30 days. Exactly 6 countries. Exactly 10 cities. Unknown hours in transit. Unmeasurable experience and perspective gained.
Concluding my winter travels is a little surreal. To think that in a couple of days I’ll plunge back into the real World of graduate school. The World of lengthy essays and barely comprehendible books. I’m also a little disappointed that I’m ending my travels a few days earlier than I had anticipated. Unfortunately I’ve been forced to cancel my trips to Dubrovnik and Sarajevo due to financial constraints as well as the fact that I need to really get moving with my internship applications (but it’s really just financial constraints).
I’m writing this post as basically a reflection of the past month. This is the sort of thing that is required of English 101 students at University. It’s also the sort of thing that I can look back on years from now and recapture my current state of mind.
I’ve really been blessed to have had the opportunity to go where I have gone and to have seen what I have seen. I’m fully aware that the chance to travel without worry or any serious responsibilities is a luxury possessed by few. Hopefully I haven’t taken it for granted. There were some moments when I began to grow a little weary of it all and I began to lose interest in the cities I was in. I think these were more just momentary lapses though. I’d say on the whole, I’ve truly valued the journey and have been able to find the beauty in each place I’ve seen and have been able to appreciate the subtle differences that make each place unique.
The greatest part of the journey hasn’t been kissing the Blarney Stone or touring West Belfast. And it hasn’t been standing on the steps of Sacre-Coeur gazing at the beautiful basilica or standing in the immense shadow of Hagia Sophia. The greatest part of the best trips is always the people you share it with.
The people whom I have known for a while and visited certainly know that I value their friendship and consider them important in my life. However, it was often the nights when I was surrounded by strangers from foreign countries sitting in the hostel sharing a few drinks united only by the shared values travel inevitably bestows upon you, that made me the happiest. It was recognizing how big the World still is and how small the differences between foreigners are that made me feel most at peace. I can say that I was fortunate enough to have spent time with people from Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan, France, Germany, Netherlands, China, Slovenia, and Canada. And it’s something I wish more people, particularly from back home, could enjoy.
Quite often I was asked why so few Americans leave the country and refuse to see other countries. I tried to reason that the costs were frequently too high, vacation time too short, the “there’s so much to see in our own country” argument, etc. Really none of those were good answers to the question. I think the real answer is that the desire is not there. And I find that sad. Now of course I’m not putting down the entire country. If I had to do a survey I think almost all of my friends have been outside of the U.S. at some point in their lives. I’m referring to the more broad problem. The problem that only 1/3 of the country owns a passport (which is actually a 7x increase from previous years, though this is largely due to new laws requiring a passport for Mexico and Canada). Traveling has such a profound effect on broadening ones worldview that I think it’s truly an indispensable part of life.
I think there exists a stereotype back home of people who take extended periods off to see the World that they are all hippies and just putting their lives on hold. Like all stereotypes there is some truth to it but I’ve encountered so many fascinating people who have taken 6 months to a year off and have become sincerely wise beyond their years. They weren’t putting their lives on hold, they were jumpstarting them.
Now if you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you’ve surely begun to grasp the pattern to each entry. Quote foreshadowing what the entry will be about–>Picture relevant to that entry–>actual blog entry. I do hate to break with that tradition but I want to end this post with another quote. Travel quotes are insanely easy to come across but I think this one is particularly pertinent.
“Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”–Cesare Pavese