What does travel mean to me?
When I was in middle school, the only travel I was interested in was a once a month weeklong trip to Hawaii. I didn’t care so much for travel. I enjoyed it sure, but what I most looked forward to was coming home and having stories to tell my friends. I enjoyed the occasional adventure, but I was always happy to be back home in the routine of things.
When I was fourteen and my family first told me about their plan to travel Europe for a year in a camper, I was flat out opposed. It was the last thing I wanted to do. I felt like I was progressing in rank in swim team, that I’d lose my friends, I was going to miss my family, how was I going to straighten my (already straight) hair in a cramped camper?
When we finally hit the road I was still not for the trip. It was going to be too long, and I liked routines. It just didn’t make sense in my head why my family had pushed for this so hard. Then I learned a few lessons along that trip that changed my view on travel forever.
Without obligations, you learn what truly fuels your soul.
When I was home, I was always in the advanced classes, I self defined myself by the label “smart”. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. But by doing this, I had cut off the child in me that had loved to stay up all night and write stories and paint. That part of my had been forced to retreat.
I was on the swim team, and I defined myself as sporty. But I also was incredibly competative because of this. I lost the part of myself that loved frolicking in the waves and doing underwater flips and tricks, it was all about speed and winning. The fun was gone.
Band was also a part of my life, I played the trombone because it looked the easiest to learn, it wasn’t. But I told myself I was only in music to avoid PE, so by doing that I shut off any real interest in pursuing music.
When I was travelling, I didn’t have school, I home schooled. I wasn’t told by a piece of paper what times in the day I had to study math, or anything else. I was free to choose what I wanted to learn, WHEN I wanted to learn it. I started to sketch the places we visited, then I began to paint. I chose to write stories and memories. I would take my dads guitar while he napped and try to learn songs and how to actually read music. I chose creative outlets.
Time apart is the true test of friendship.
When I left my friends, I was broken hearted, we saw each other every day at school, and all lived close together. I didn’t know what I would do without them. While I travelled, I yearned for emails and messages from them, telling me they missed me. I would day dream of a surprise party once I came home every day. Throughout the year my hope deminished piece by piece.
Once I came home, it was not at all like I had hoped. I had known those girls for years, yet after coming home, I think I only saw them once, maybe twice. We now longer had that connection. I was distraught and blamed the travel.
Then when I was an exchange student in France, I met more friends. We don’t live in the same city anymore, not even the same continent for some. We don’t talk everyday, we don’t even message everyday. But when we do, it’s like nothing has changed. I will go a year, sometimes two without seeing them, we travel to meet up, and we are still just as close in spirit and heart.
Now not all my friends are European, there are friends from back home that did stand the test of time apart. I was just so fixated on my other friends I didn’t realize till years later. There were friends I would talk to once every few months, but sometimes while I was travelling we would skype for eight hours straight catching up and swapping stories. There was a friend I was very close with for a while in between trips. Then I went to France and didn’t see them for a couple years, till we got together again and caught right up to where we had left off.
Friendships are a fickle thing, but throughout time and travel, you will truly be shown who your real friends are.
Traveling allows you to reinvent yourself.
When you are home, you are in your cookie cutter that you were raised in. It’s a lot harder to find yourself and evolve and change when you are always in the same setting and situations. When you travel you find yourself faster, no one knows you, nothing is familiar, so if you want to make a change or try something new it seems easier.
It opens your mind to cultures, experiences, and people that are outside of your comfort zone, thing’s that you normally wouldn’t be exposed to. This is great, it gives you a change of perspective. And I truly believe ESPECIALLY in this day and age, some people would greatly benefit from this.
Travel far enough, you meet yourself. -David Mitchell
So go. Travel, and find the pieces of yourself that you’ve forgotten existed, or create new parts that make you the human you want to be. And when you’re ready, you’ll find people who will stand by you and support you no matter what, who knows, maybe some of them are already there, cheering you on.