How Traveling Changes You
September 13, 2018
Some of my most memorable moments have happened when I was out of the country. It’s not that I don’t like the U.S. at all, but traveling is where it’s at. The experiences I’ve gained from seeing new things and exploring various places have proven to be invaluable. Traveling is something that has positively broadened my perspective and can change yours too in so many ways.
Imagine actually being in those amazing places you once saw in movies or read about from books, magazines or online. To see the Eiffel Tower against the skyline of Paris is breathtaking, but to see the sunset while physically standing at the top of this romantic laced, wrought iron tower is something that will be forever etched in my memory. My love for Greek mythology was further deepened when I walked the ruins of awe-inspiring Ancient Greece and being a stone-throw away from the temple of the Greek gods and many other Grecian structures. On the other part of Europe, my brain swirled with endless questions as I walked the cold path towards Stonehenge in Britain. The ancient stone monument circle held so much mystery as to how and who built it. Fast forward to the modern world, I walked the crazy-weathered London streets and saw their iconic places such as the Buckingham Palace, London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, etc. I could go on, but you get the idea. I say crazy-weather because weather condition in London can actually fluctuate quite a bit over the course of just one day (from sunny skies, the temperature can dip low with rain showers in an instant).
Wherever we went in Europe, public transportation compared to here in the States is (in my opinion) more accessible. Most Europeans traveled on foot, by bus or by train. ‘Just a few blocks walk’ actually means miles and miles of walking. For a Californian like me, who is so used to riding a car even to go to a short-distance destination, it actually equates to torture! Big cities in Europe, small towns and historic sights are also connected by train. I can say that the train ride is my favorite mode of transportation there (of course minus the busy bustling crowd). In Amsterdam, biking is typically the Dutch way to go around the city (which made it my mom’s least favorite place because she doesn’t know how to ride a bike!) In contrast, with Venice being known as the ‘floating city’, moving around this place is by ferry, water taxi or gondola. Venice is also perfectly walkable and also a great way to go and see the emerald canals, beautiful colorful street structures and gothic architectures. But wandering on foot in the narrow alleyways of Venice can be challenging too, since almost every corner looks just like the last.
Traveling has made me feel confident and independent. It’s taken me out of my daily comfort zone. I’ll admit that it may seem scary to visit or stay in an unfamiliar place, but it’s helped me brave out some new surroundings: Prague (Czech Republic), London (United Kingdom), Edinburgh (Scotland), and Poveglia Island (Venice) are among the many places I have been. These places have been mentioned by Conde Nast Traveler in their list of the 10 most haunted cities in the world. But fear of trudging through the streets of these ‘haunted cities’ was overcome by my awe of their picturesque sights, historical beauty and delectable authentic cuisine.
From my experience, my creative mind is enhanced by my traveling. Seeing new places offers a wealth of knowledge – far more than that seen in movies or read in books. It’s given me a real-life education. I learned while traveling to Rome that the Vatican City, which has a population of only around 1,000, is actually an independent state within the city of Rome. Wow, this makes it the smallest state in the world! I have also always wondered about the reason behind the tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. When I went to Italy, I made it a point to actually see this bell tower and learned that it was an unintentional tilt caused by the inadequate foundation.
Another realization I’ve had during my travels is how different social culture can be in each place. When you travel, you learn about how people socialize with one another. I have come across new cultures, languages and other practices that have improved my social and communication skills. Travel has made me a better communicator and a more well-rounded person. It has increased my desire to meet new people and discover new things.
Let’s be realistic here. It is not always smooth and nice when you travel. So aside from your personal luggage, you must also bring with you the virtue of patience. Numerous times our flight has been delayed for hours or my mom over packed so we ended up dragging our excess baggage! Being in many unfamiliar places, we got lost a couple of times along the way. We also seemingly stood forever in the lines to be able to go to the top of Eiffel Tower, or go inside the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, or get in the Louvre museum to see the famous (but disappointingly small) Mona Lisa painting. And the crowd, wow, everywhere we turn there was a big crowd. To see these beautiful places, there were some hefty prices we had to pay.
In hindsight, traveling to new places made me appreciate my home more. The things I have taken for granted here in California made sense to me now. Did you know that in most places in Europe you have to pay to use the restroom? That matters a lot when you’re in a rush to use the potty but still have to count your coins to make sure you have enough change to pay for one-time use of their restrooms! And for those ketchup lovers out there, you’ll be flabbergasted to know that you need to pay per packet of condiments you want when here it comes for free. Food servings also seemed minuscule compared to the large servings of food plus refillable drinks we have here. Small things like these made me appreciate home more.
Not one time did my mom ever forget to buy some boring magnets from the places that we visited. I, on the other hand, could not stop taking pictures of the beautiful sights of each place. The best souvenir that I got the most from my travels are not from those very persistent trinket selling vendors at the Eiffel Tower or the cute little souvenir stalls in Croatia but the memories I made in these places with my family. These memories have created a special bond with my family that can’t be erased, no matter what. The experiences I’ve had from traveling has transformed me into a better person. Travel really enlightens you to have a better understanding of everything around you. It opened my eyes to see what I didn’t see before. I personally feel that the benefits you gain from traveling outweigh the monetary cost of it. Traveling actually makes us richer in knowledge, experience and memories.