With Thanksgiving coming up, it's a time to reflect on what we're most thankful for in our lives. Like many upper-middle class Americans, I've lived a very privileged life that I often take for granted. It was only when I left home that I really understood the meaning of that life. I spent a year in Europe, with a home-base of London to pursue my Master's degree. I traveled to places I used to dream about. From getting lost on a train in Poland, to drinking champagne on top of the Eiffel tower (twice), to eating gelato in Verona, to bicycling in Copenhagen and drinking Guinness in Dublin, I've been blessed with European memories I won't soon forget. So what am I most thankful for this holiday season in one word? Travel. I'm thankful for the places I've traveled to, the places I've yet to see and most of all, the place I call home. Is that corny and clichￃﾩ? Probably, but if you can't have warm and fuzzy feelings during the holiday season, then when else can you get away with it?
For me, traveling brought out the best and worst versions of myself. You're tested in a whole new way when you leave your home for an extended period of time. The vacation 'honeymoon' phase of your trip wears off and you begin to realize, this isn't a vacation: this is your life. A life that's full of new experiences with each new place you visit. Some of those experiences will be amazing, while others... not so much. You're faced with situations you never even thought were a possibility. Looking back, I can't believe I got out of some of them, but now the beauty of them is that I can look back and laugh. Whatever your experience is, I can guarantee that it will be a life changing one.
Saint Augustine once said, "The world is a book, and those who don't travel only read one page." People who don't travel don't know what they're missing, and until they experience it for themselves, they never will.
For the briefest moment in time, I lived a life that everyone was jealous of. Is this vain? Probably. Does that mean my experience was vain? Not at all. It was the most enriching year of my life and even though I'm waaay further in debt than I hoped to be by my mid-twenties, I wouldn't change one minute of it.
The bottom line is, whether it's for school, work or pleasure -- traveling these days is a must. Not only will you learn about other cultures and people, you'll learn more about yourself when you're away from home than you ever imagined. Try to go somewhere new, it's easy to go back to a place you loved, but it's always just a bit more exciting to go to somewhere you never pictured yourself going -- it might surprise you.