Being Defined by Travel
Traveling has amazing potential in drastically altering people’s narrow view of the earth. Going to other places has a lot of importance that is missed by too many people. From going to many diverse places, not just my judgment of the world has been reshaped, but really my whole personality. I believe that travel shapes and defines who I am.
In the summer of 2008 I went on a trip to Juarez, Mexico. As I crossed between countries it was disturbing seeing the distinct differences. From standing in front of houses with tar roofs and battered curtains being used as doors one could see easily see the luxurious restaurants and condos on the other side of the fence. At night hundreds of lighted houses, clubs, and offices infested the American side of the border, while in Mexico only the richest of people could afford electric lights. It was impossible to ignore the imbalance. That experience made me conscious of just how different countries can be.
Just like the trip to Mexico, every other country I’ve gone to has affected my way of thinking. Going to India adjusted my impression that religions are not always complicated. In England I realized that speaking the same language as someone doesn’t mean that our cultures are similar. Spending time in France made me realize that even buildings can be expressive. I have never traveled without being changed in one way or another.
I have lived in Romania for over 10 years, and that experience has had a profound impact on who I am. My whole perspective of the world has been changed simply by living in a country whose culture is not my own. I have appreciation now for the passion in arguments, so now I don’t always see them as something negative. The biggest impact living in Romania has had on my view of the world is how I perceive others. I no longer see differences as a negative, as long as they are not morally wrong. I don’t judge ethnic groups by stereotypes but by experience. When someone talks about Iraqis, I don’t associate it with any type of terrorist idea but more one of sadness. That comes from the experience of knowing Romanians who were faced with the same challenges the Iraqis do. All of these types of changes in my personality come from living and being exposed to Romania.
It is easy to forget other countries and live with a constricted outlook on the world, but that is not who I want to be. There is an amazing potential for development in personality that is only accomplished through travel. I know that more places are in the world that will help form who I am- and I won’t miss a chance to experience every single one.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.