Human beings by nature are engineered for movement.
From the very beginning of time, our hunter-gatherer ancestors wandered great distances wearing nothing but an elk hide loincloth to find enough resources to survive.
Modern-day man is blessed with the invention of airports and airplanes, allowing him to cross countries and continents in mere hours, (hopefully not in a loincloth).
The spirit of travel is something that lives innately within us all, and those who have experienced another corner of the globe know all too well the extent that travel changes a person for the better.
This change is something that all college students should strive to experience before they graduate.
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine, Christian theologian.
As a college-age individual, being alone in a new city or country is a brave way to expand your horizon. It allows you to learn the ins and outs of another culture and see how other people live and work, or to just compare the foreign Burger King menu to the one back home. (E.g., the Kuro Black Burger of Japan, lovingly dyed by squid ink. Google it.)
Questionable fast food choices aside, the greatest gift of travel is independence. Spending the summer break backpacking around Europe could mean you return to Bethlehem with a heightened sense of ‘I can do that!’ syndrome. Any upcoming job interviews won’t seem nearly as daunting after you navigated your way around Lithuania with no map, no WiFi signal and a guy called Dave you met at a train station.
“A ship in a harbor is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd, author and professor.
While you might not often compare yourself to an oceangoing vessel, Shedd’s message is clear. You are a human being. You are not a tree. You are not rooted to one spot. You were born with the ability to move, to travel and to see as many things as possible even though you probably won’t remember half of them. You were born in an age that allows you to explore things your grandparents and great-grandparents never even dreamed of.
But be warned, leaving home is the easy part. Coming home is hard. Once you have a taste for exploration you may find it harder to satisfy your newly discovered appetite for a journey. The richness of your experiences might leave you feeling somewhat sour when you have to leave and go home.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain, author and humorist.
But upon returning home, you’ll begin to appreciate the little things you missed while you were gone. If you felt lost without your Mom’s home cooked meals while volunteering at an orphanage in Tanzania for three months, rest assured nothing will ever taste better in your entire life than the first bite of your homecoming meal. You can eat it while showing your family all the new stamps in your passport, and as that Tanzanian orphanage probably didn’t have free WiFi, you can relish in that too.
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag, writer, filmmaker, teacher and political activist.
Of course, like with everything, there are risks. Yes, heading out into the unknown is a scary prospect. But what if you spend a semester studying in Sydney and find your purpose? What if you go to New Zealand and love it so much you never come back? What if you lose your passport on a bus in Bangkok? What if you fly to Rome or Paris or London or Cape Town and you meet the love of your life? What if you don’t? How will you know if you don’t just go?
The point is, travel can teach you more things than a $200 college textbook ever will.
Travelling isn’t a vacation. It’s an education. It’s the most primitive form of education and it’s been going on for centuries. Travel is Christopher Columbus discovering America. Travel is tea leaves being imported to Britain for the first time.
It’s a world full of chances, opportunities and experiences.
It’s you getting on the plane.