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.