This I Believe

Joanna - Healdsburg, California
Entered on March 19, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

Over the past few years, I’ve found that I have begun to equate traveling with breathing; that is, both as a vital component of my well-being. I believe in the adventure of travel, the millions of unknowns I open myself up to the very second I take my much-too-cramped economy seat on an international flight. I believe in the fun that comes from travel, the priceless stories that are accumulated each time you do something you’ve never done before. But most of all, I believe in the necessity of travel as a tool for true human growth and development. A person can spend their whole life in one place, but I can argue that it takes, at the very least, one major trip away from home to really experience life. And I mean that.

I remember one vivid morning in Australia while partaking in Outward Bound that made me actually view myself with different eyes. All week we had been waking up at the crack of dawn to do various challenges that pushed us both mentally and physically (that right there was an eye-opener for me. I had no idea I could actually get up that early), and this particular morning we had set ourselves up at a seemingly impossible ropes course. It rose about 500 feet, or so it looked from our perspective just below it on the ground. An intimidating jumble of tires, ropes, wood slabs, and zip lines stared down at us, and I could already imagine the throbbing pain my muscles would be experiencing the moment I set to climbing.

In a surprising moment of bravery, I raised my hand to go first. The objective was simple. The completion, not so much. It took me at least 20 to 30 minutes to get to the top of that torture structure, but when I did, I was bombarded with a feeling of relief I had never felt before. I was amazed at myself, and I remember being in awe by the whole situation. Here I was, on the very top of a ropes course overlooking the Australian Bush, being rooted on by people I hadn’t gotten to know until a week prior. Here I was, doing something I would probably never have made time to do at home. I believe this is what travel is about: being out of your element. By pushing myself to do something like this, I realized there was more independence and strength within me that I had yet to notice. At that moment, I couldn’t have been more grateful to this opportunity that had allowed me to grasp this.

I experienced a different type of realization while in Italy last summer as I learned to appreciate their culture. I ate the world-renowned gelato, saw my life flash before my eyes every time I got into a car, and gathered into Rieti’s piazza every night to socialize at around 10:00. Everything was so different from what I’m used to in America, yet it all worked. It all worked so well. The Italian’s really enjoy life, and they take time to relax and have a good time. I have noticed a frightening trend of Americans thinking our culture is the only one that exists, or that it’s superior to all others. Thankfully I’ve come to realize that our culture isn’t the only sufficient one in the world, and it takes immersion in another one to really understand this. Traveling allows me to open myself up to everything else our world has to offer, and I believe this is a vital part of becoming a well-rounded person. I would never had learned all of this had I not stepped out of my bubble and into the rest of the world, and I truly believe travel has changed me for the better.