This I Believe

Jeffrey - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 5, 2007

Travel nurtures the mind and spirit.

I believe everyone should travel outside their home country for at least a few weeks and at least once in their life.

You may be thinking, how does travel nurture my mind and spirit or why can’t I just learn at home and save the expense?

I believe traveling abroad helps someone to gain a unique perspective on their life, to put to test all the lessons they have learned thus far and teach new ones. Essentially it’s similar to graduating and going out in the world, but what is tested and gained from abroad is achieved in a much shorter time span. I will use Europe as an example to explain my points as that is where I last traveled.

This previous summer I took a trip to Italy for two months and later traveled around Europe. This trip was part of the curriculum of the School of Architecture at Syracuse University. Located in Florence we were surrounded by centuries of history and immersed in Italian culture. When I first arrived it took about a week for me to break out of the monotony which I had grown so accustomed to here at Syracuse and actually realize that I was in a foreign country. Being in a country where you don’t speak the native tongue or can’t speak it well, forces you into a situation where you have to take the initiative to learn how to express yourself either without speech or spending a few hours and learning basic Italian. In my case I had taken a year of Italian before going abroad, however there was much I did not learn in the classroom which was vital to conversational Italian. Other lessons were learned in a much harsher manner, such as planning and adapting. What do you do when you’re stuck in the Rome trainstation overnight or how do you adapt and blend in with everyone else to make you less of a target for pickpockets? Luckily nothing bad happened in both cases, but there were numerous close calls with pickpockets.

In a place like Florence you are surrounded by history that is centuries old. Walk a few blocks towards the city center and you’ll see the dome of the Florence Cathedral or Duomo rising above the city. Take a train to Rome, Pisa, Milan, Venice or a number of other cities, each with just as much history and symbols of human achievement. Experiencing these locations can change your perspective on life. I remember when I first stepped into St. Peters in Rome and stood in awe, realizing the power of religion on man. In Venice, I watched as an older, abandoned part of the city flooded and realized the finite time everyone has and that people should make the most of their lives. The experiences through seeing, touching and feeling with your soul the history that surrounds you there; can not be achieved in a classroom or through a book.

Although I have left Europe, the lessons I learned there and the maturity I gained by backpacking alone will help guide me as I prepare to leave the university and embark on my journey in life.