I’ve done my fair share of exploring and seeing the world. Not as much as I hope to someday accomplish, but enough that I’m content.
What most people don’t tell you about traveling is how much you learn. About yourself, about other cultures, about the world in general. It’s not in the long lines of the tourist traps or in the audio guide rambling in your ear but rather in the people you meet along the way.
It’s in the lunch spent with a Belizean man whose whole life has been dedicated to holistic medicine derived from his Mayan ancestors. It’s in the shared pint with the Irish singer whose father died fighting for the IRA and still struggles with her identity as an Irish woman. It’s in the bottle of wine shared by two friends in Venice talking about stories of deranged childhoods who will never speak again after their travels.
As you go on, there are memories you will take back with you that no one will ever be able to appreciate in the way that you do. They become these little treasures that you hold the closest to your heart because they’re so precious. They’re glimpses of your hope in humanity.
But there are also those memories that make you reflect. Make you think.
Like the family who opened their home to you, made you a feast fit for a queen, gave you their biggest bed but struggled with the idea of having to send their kids to school because they couldn’t afford it. Or like the man in England who sat in the same spot everyday underneath the lion statue and looked so hopeless and his missing legs told a story too hard to hear. Or like the little girl in Guatemala who asked for money with big brown eyes and no left arm.
People don’t tell you about the bad things. But I think with good reason. Most of the time those “bad things” are just reflections of the society in which they’re brought up. They have no control over how they’re portrayed. And as Americans we expect the rest of the world to be to the standard that we are accustomed to. So when we see things that haunt us, they truly haunt us because we’ve never experienced anything like it.
That’s what travel is all about, though. It’s seeing, coming to believing, and experiencing. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have always had this intense urge to travel, to be lost, to see new things, to feel the earth beneath my feet.
I’ve never been able to let go of that urge or get a hold on it, whenever an opportunity presents itself, I take advantage of it. A roadtrip? Yes. A cruise? Yes. Study Abroad? Yes. Why should I limit myself to what I’m allowed to do? Who makes those rules anyways?
The more that I do see, the more I appreciate what I have. What I’ve been given. I’ve been given health. I’ve been given a family. Friends that love me, an education, jobs, food, warmth, love. I’m lucky. I know that.
But I can’t help but feel like my purpose isn’t limited to what I’ve been given. I’m constantly striving for more and I think there’s a reason.
I’m not entirely sure what that reason is nor do I need to know, I just want to explore the possibility of reasons. Tangle myself between them, lose myself to the idea of them, find myself within them.
There could be some profound reason like changing lives. There could be a mundane reason like I was an explorer in a past life. Who knows.
What I do know is this, I am the best version of myself when I’m traveling. I’m happy, I’m free, I’m wild, I’m the rawest form of me and also the most refined. I become who I’m meant to be, I transform into something out of a book. Placid yet intriguing, sharp yet content, I’m this ultimate conundrum of characteristics.
I learn something new about who I am and who I want to become every time I step foot onto a plane. A new land means new memories, new ideas, new thoughts.
Just the thought of getting on a plane and going anywhere makes me yearn for an adventure. To meet the people the tour guides warn you about, the locals. Learn the way they conduct themselves, learn their culture, how they communicate, how they learn, how they love and why they love their country.
Dr. Suess once said, “Oh, the places we will go…” and to me, that is everything. That’s my past, present, future. The places I’ve been define me. The places I’m going define who I will be.
And I’ll just be along for the journey.
The past couple weeks have been exciting. I got to go on a cruise with my best friend Nicole and we had an amazing time. I’ve missed being able to spend that much time with her so it was nice to just go and be.
But as life seems to be getting more and more hectic I’m realizing that I’m retreating to things that I never thought I would.
Meditation and yoga.
I consider myself a runner first and foremost. A triathlete, a soccer player, a swimmer. But not a yogi. That was something I only started a year ago just to say I tried it but the rewards I’m experiencing from it are unparalleled.
Running gives me clarity. It’s the motion of putting one foot in front of the other. Focusing on the air that’s passing in and out of your lungs. The feeling of strength as your legs propel you forward. The proverbial wind in your hair. Running has always been my sort of therapy. My way of getting away from things.
When the going got tough, I got going. And by going, I mean running. I literally ran away from my problems. But it wasn’t in an unhealthy way. I would contemplate every situation I was going through on my run and come up with a game plan. I would come away from runs calm, cool, collected and thirsty.
But here’s where my body has thrown me for a loop.
I’m craving yoga. I’m craving the deep breathing and the stretching. I’m craving the peace of mind.
The calm that ensues after a yoga session for me is something I can’t really compare to because it’s so new to me as well. I’m finding myself wanting to get away from it all, go somewhere remote and just….be.
Maybe go to a forest, a mountain, a beach. Just sit and watch the world spin.
This summer I had the awesome chance to study abroad twice. I went to Ireland for a month in May and to Belize in July. I loved literally every second of the opportunity and there are so many things I could talk about in regards to these trips but one thing in particular sticks out in my mind.
The people I traveled with, the people I met along the way, the people who made the entire trip worthwhile.
What most don’t realize about these study abroad trips is that you forge these new relationships with people you’ve never met and you literally become instantaneous friends. Because you don’t know where you are, you’re in a foreign country with people who don’t speak the same language and then there’s the group you’re with, your little sanctuary of peers.
You create these bonds that can withstand more than you could have ever imagined. You put trust in total strangers who do the same to you. You share with them, laugh with them, cry with them.
As you travel, you learn about them, start to pick up on their little habits, encounter new things with them. It’s this intense situation that they’re there every second for.
In Belize, we traveled to a cave that made me appreciate my group in an entirely new way. We were climbing down, down, down. We were sliding on mud, pushing each other up rocks, swinging our bodies onto ledges, all in complete darkness. We were having to rely on each other because it was so difficult. We literally needed each other. It was like the most intense team building experience ever.
After the cave adventure, the rest of the trip the group acted as a unit. If someone needed help, we were there. If someone was upset, we were there. If anyone screwed with anyone, we were there in the worst way.
Now that I’m home and I’ve had time to digest everything that happened to me, I can finally grasp how important these people have become. They’re not just people anymore, they’re friends, sisters, brothers, family.
Each person brought something different to the table, brought a new side out of everyone else. And that’s what is so great about it, we became different people because of who were surrounded by. We pushed each other to be better, stronger, happier.
As I go forward in life, I tend to look to those I was with. I’m especially close to a few and what’s funny is those few are people I would have never associated with if I had not gone on these trips.
From Ireland, I look to Casey. She was my rock, my best friend over there. We did everything together and we quickly realized how similar we were. She is this gentle and kind person who made me appreciate life. She taught me how to be gracious, humble. She showed me that it’s okay to trust and I needed that. I see her often and talk to her even more often. She is like my other half at times and one of my best friends.
From Belize I look to a few people.
On the trip, my “person” was Arielle. We had this instantaneous friendship. We sat on the plane together on the way there and talked about everything under the sun. We were roommates the entire trip and it got to the point that we didn’t even have to talk anymore. She’d shoot me a look and I knew exactly what she was trying to say. We laughed about everything and everyone and tried new things together. We cared for each other when we got hurt, told each other everything and confided in one another.
Now that I’m home though, I’ve come very close to a group of people. Sammy, Brandon and CJ. It was a chance encounter that turned into a realization that we worked really well together. We’re all so completely different that we end up complementing each other in a weird way. Like I said before, everyone brings something to the table and on that table is a conglomerate of personalities.
The people I traveled with have become a staple in my life. I’ve established friendships and made an effort to keep them. It’s interesting that total strangers that decided to do something for themselves ended up finding other people who they ended up needing in their life.