Traveling by the Book

Jessica - Fort Myers, Florida
Entered on February 16, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

Ever since I was a little girl, as long as I can remember, I have loved to travel. Whether it was across town or across the country, I adored the opportunity to engage my insatiable curiosity in any way possible. My parents can take much of the credit for this, as they always managed to turn a seemingly tedious road trip to a family reunion in a rented mini-van into an adventure, stopping off for tours at caves and caverns or to explore aquariums and museums.

Little did they know, my parents were creating in me a passion that would no longer be satisfied by trips to Washington D.C. or Niagara Falls. As I grew older, my curiosity grew, rather than waned, and I began to plot ways to see the world despite my limited resources.

As soon as we could afford it, and, in fact, before we really could, my boyfriend (now husband), Brian, and I made our way to Europe. We made it a point to go on trips rather than give gifts for things like birthdays or anniversaries and this was our biggest one yet. We followed it up a little over a year later by leaving to live abroad in China, teaching English and exploring Asia, less than two weeks after we got married.

Being young and of limited financial means, we haven’t been to near as many places as we would like. I recently commented to a friend that I had “only” been to eleven foreign countries. She responded that eleven was more than most people in America would ever travel to and that I was actually pretty far ahead.

I must admit, she’s right, and that disappoints me- for I believe that within travel holds a myriad of life changing opportunities and possibilities. By taking time off from our daily lives to experience the lifestyles of others around the world, often shockingly different from our own, we open our minds in ways that we can never do by just staying at home.

In the technological age in which we live, we can easily sit back behind our computers and say that we know something about the world and can find out everything we need to know or see everything we want to see with the click of a mouse. However, nothing can compare to the feeling that you get when you step out of your comfort zone and feel displaced, enthralled, and maybe even a bit anxious the first time you set foot in a new country.

I set out to explore the world hoping to answer the many questions I had about life, about people, and about myself. I have not accomplished that goal. If anything, I have more questions now than I ever had before. Yet, nothing in my life has been as inspiring as traveling.

I believe that travel has the power to change individuals, to break down stereotypes, to initiate change, and ultimately create a more peaceful world based on mutual understanding. St. Augustine once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” It may be a large book, but I like to read.