In today’s day and age, intolerance and ignorance is rampant. News stories are littered with tales of hate and violence. Fear has infected the minds of so many Americans and has clouded our judgment about how free we truly are.
For these reasons, I argue that there has never been a more important time to travel.
I fell in love with the world at a young age. Growing up with parents who loved to vacation gave me the opportunity to experience new cultures and environments; moments I will truly never forget. As a teenager, I declared my passion as traveling. Wherever life took me, I promised myself that I would never stop exploring all that the world has to offer. Now, a junior in college, I honor my passion more than ever.
As cheesy as it may seem, I’m a sucker for acronyms. The clever monikers always make me smile, so to describe my three most important reasons to travel, I challenge you to take a break. Take a GAP.
Growth, Acceptance, Perspective
Throwing yourself in a city where you don’t know anyone can be overwhelming, to say the least. The result, though, can be that you have some of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
As a college student, I constantly look for situations where I can grow and learn new things. I have found that I thrive in these environments. Traveling allows me to truly branch out of my comfort zone, try new things, and meet new people.
While traveling, we learn to take on new challenges and accomplish things that we otherwise may not have been able to in the comfort of our hometown. Being exposed to a new culture and way of life changes the way we see the world. Not only do we come back with amazing stories, but also the memories that we create while traveling are irreplaceable.
Some of the best moments of my life were while I was lying on a beach in Jamaica at 2AM, amazed at the hundreds of stars that were perfectly scattered across the night sky - truly a luxury for anyone coming from Los Angeles. The moments that we spend thousands of miles from the familiarities of home can be some of the best.
“Accepting all the good and bad about someone. It's a great thing to aspire to. The hard part is actually doing it.” - Sarah Dessen
I still remember sitting in my 6th grade social studies class, learning about the different cultures in Europe and Africa. Needless to say, I was stunned at the diversity and inspired by the beauty that spread across countries. I’ve learned that until we fully immerse ourselves in these communities and cultures, there is no way to truly know what’s out there. One of the best outcomes of traveling is learning. We begin to see how big the world is, and, at times, how small it can be.
Nothing can beat the experience of walking into the Louvre for the first time, or attending mass at La Sagrada Familia as a Muslim. Our friends can go on and on for days about the beauty of Alhambra, but until we see it for ourselves, in person, we will not get the true experience.
Sometimes, we get so used to our way of life as Americans, that we forget what else is out there. Bursting out of this bubble is refreshing, and allows us to appreciate other cultures on a deeper level. As a society, we want to work towards accepting other ways of life rather than simply tolerating them. Traveling outside of the country, seeing rituals and practices firsthand, and maybe even partaking in them, gives us the opportunity to gain insight and eventually serve as an ambassador across cultures.
I challenge you to go. I challenge you to learn. Soak in the beauty of the streets, the plazas, the churches and the mosques. Immerse yourself in the food, the sights, and the sounds. Then, come back, tell stories, and spread awareness about the beauty and diversity around the world.
A crepe isn’t a crepe until it’s been eaten at a café in Paris. Picture this: You wake up, stroll over to the café closest to your hostel, and smell the freshly baked croissants. You sip an espresso in the plaza, and watch the beautiful city come alive.
Daydreaming about the vast Mediterranean Sea vs. actually dipping your toes in all of its glory, or reading about Anne Frank in middle school vs. visiting the house that she lived in in Amsterdam – these experiences and moments are eye opening. They allow us to turn the world that has, until now, been explained to us through stories, into a reality.
The wars, the victories, the borders, the ceremonies; they’re all real. Traveling puts the world in to perspective. In many of these cities, we are literally walking through history. Most cities that we visit will have been established before the United States became a nation.
We tend to shy away from travel simply because it forces us to break out of our comfort zones. I challenge you once again – be uncomfortable. See the world through the eyes of a local Parisian or Spaniard. Although living conditions in these cities are considerably on par with the United States, each one has a different charm. Wake up in a different bed when everyone else may be falling asleep at home. These moments will be ones to cherish.
Friends, now it’s your turn. Go out and explore what the world has to offer. Take a GAP from your normal lifestyle. Absorb all the sights, sounds, and smells that Amsterdam, Berlin (or wherever your travels take you) may have to offer. You never know what you’ll fall in love with!