By Michelle Campbell
To have an adventure – according to Google – is to “engage in hazardous and exciting activity, esp. the exploration of unknown territory.” I may not know much about participating in “hazardous” activities, but I have plenty of experience with traveling to unfamiliar lands. The great thing about life is to make it one, continuous, unforgettable adventure. With that being said, why not try to see and experience as many different “unknown territories” as you can?
Miriam Beard, a well known American historian, once said “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” During my short 22 years of life thus far, I have traveled throughout three continents, ten different countries, and over thirty cities outside of my native U.S.A. Therefore, I feel as though I have the right to attest to Beard’s statement; she is absolutely, without a doubt, spot on. Once I was taken out of my comfort zone – into a region that practices different customs, traditions, and sometimes, even spoke a different language – my whole perspective of life was forever altered.
My travels have consisted of a high school trip to Paris, France accompanied with a tour of Italy, a family cruise to Mexico, and a semester spent abroad in Florence, Italy while I was in college. During my time studying abroad, I traveled to Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Morocco, Spain, Croatia, Bosnia, and the southern region of France. Needless to say, my passport is almost completely full of stamps from all over the world.
It didn’t matter how long I stayed in a specific country or city, each place came equipped with new experiences to partake in and cultures in which to immerse myself. I went night sledding in Switzerland, took a cooking class in Florence, and rode a camel in Morocco. But besides doing out-of-the-ordinary activities, I learned a great deal about people from the far reaches of the globe. I shared meals with a group of Australians while in Ireland and went shopping with a girl from Japan during my stay in Morocco. It’s amazing the kinds of travelers you’ll meet while moving from place to place.
Locals, especially, can make your experience unforgettable. I befriended Italian storeowners in Florence, shared a beer with a group of Austrians in Salzburg, and sang songs around a campfire with Moroccan nomads in the Sahara Desert. By talking with individuals from different cultures, I accumulated a broader sense of the world around me and how people outside of the United States live.
It wasn’t necessarily about checking off every must see landmark within that specific region in a travel book, it was about what kinds of food was eaten in that area, what the locals liked to do during their free time, and finding joy in getting lost on the streets of a foreign city. Reading a book about Asia or watching the travel channel as they go to South American is not the same as experiencing these places on your own. And I can guarantee that once you travel to one destination, you’re not going to want to stop. The travel bug is incurable.
Traveling will change you. But don’t think that you have to travel halfway around the world to learn about cultures other than your own. Traveling anywhere, whether it be to a different city that you’ve never thought to go to, a state you’ve always associated with common stereotypes (most stereotypes turn out to be false), or simply a new part of your hometown you’ve never experienced, can alter your perspective of things. Traveling is not limited to a long distance road-trip to Canada or a grand tour of Europe (although, I highly encourage going outside of the United States at some point). It can be simple and closer than you think. Just make sure to enter any form of traveling with an open mind. When you have the right mindset, anything can happen. With so many places to see, the possibilities are endless.