"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." - Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Why travel?

Thought Catalog posts are pretty hit or miss, in my opinion, but I enjoyed this one, as it got me thinking about the ways in which I am grateful that I chose to study abroad.

After reading the article, I began to make my own list of reasons to travel:

I travel to learn more about my own country while half a world away. My program consists of about fifty American college students, of which I am one of only three from the Midwest. So, I am learning about the cultures of different American regions because while we all come from the same country, we are not all accustomed to the same things. We have all experienced a different version of culture-shock while here in Europe because of our varying backgrounds.

For the smile on my host mom's face as I try new things. She tells me so many students are afraid to try new or foreign foods. Furthermore, many students sulk back into what is comfortable and do not fully embrace new cultures. They obsess in their American comforts, no matter how small they are right now - they crawl into bed and eat peanut butter from the jar, which they bought for a ridiculous price at the grocery store.

To walk through the streets and ride the metro home without hearing your mother language once.

To be completely dependent on public transportation and your own feet. There are so many sites to see, but you cannot just hop in your car to do so.

I travel to learn how to live on less. After living out of a suitcase for nearly four months, I feel almost invincible. You learn what the bare necessities truly are.

To discover a world of structures and buildings that have been here since a time before the United States were even discovered. Then, to hear about the controversy on where Christopher Columbus was actually from, when American textbooks simply tell us he traveled for Spain. So there I was again, sitting in class as the dumb American as the Polish student argued that Columbus was from Poland.

For the warmth I feel when a French friend thanks me for spending a semester here to learn about them, when so often it is expected that everyone should know English and learn about America. I am here for the smile that lights up the storekeeper's face when she hears I am here to study French for the semester. As a side note, I even have a French friend that has asked me to vouch for them and tell my American friends that the French do indeed shower and shave.

I travel to make new friends, even though we know we will be separated again within a few months. Everyone in my program is at the age where we are aware of the type of people we are attracted to. It was interesting to see how quickly people were drawn towards those with similar characteristics. Moreover, if any of us had chosen to study abroad even during a different semester, we would have never met. And I am so grateful for the relationships I have formed with several people here.
To discover humankind. To converse with the other travelers in a bar, to help French students with their English in a café, to be placed in a classroom full of foreigners yet be the only American. To go on a date and have no clue what the cultural expectations are, but to learn so much from the one on one, intimate conversation with a stranger. I pass the same homeless people and beggars every day, and get to watch as the occasional Good Samaritan offers a loaf of bread from their bag of groceries on the way home. I watch as someone always reaches out to the blind citizens - strangers, escorting them through the metro or across the street.

"I am hungry"

To learn more about myself. To discover new places while discovering new things about myself. I have learned that while you were raised in an environment that made you who you are, that does not mean that you ARE that environment. I have completely removed myself from my comfort zone, and therefore I have discovered which parts of me existed because of my surroundings and which exist because of my personality and beliefs.

I travel for me. They say college is made up of four "selfish years," or a time to better yourself before creating a union with another person. So I suppose I took that one step further when I decided to travel abroad for a semester. I could not be happier being single while exploring new places and finding myself. I have earned this escape, and I deserve to discover and learn all i can. It is the best gift I have ever given myself.

I refuse to live in ignorance.

"I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment." - Hilaire Belloc

1 comment:

  1. I don't ever worry about you living in ignorance that is for sure!