This I Believe

Christina - Atlanta, Georgia
Entered on May 2, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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My Passport Will Never Have Too Many Stamps

I believe my passport will never have too many stamps. Even from a young age, I have always felt that travel is an essential part of life. I have learned that spending a day exploring a foreign city is often just as valuable as spending a week in school. However, I like to live by a few simple guidelines when traveling abroad, to ensure that I get the full experience.

First, no cheeseburgers! I enjoy American cuisine as much as the next person, but when in Rome, eat as the Romans do. Eat escargots in Nice and goulash in Bratislava. No matter how many McDonalds and Starbucks I may encounter, I always go out of my way to sample local delicacies. Food is an essential part of daily life, and to get a real taste of life in a foreign country, you must at least try the local cuisine, no matter how unappetizing it seems.

Second, no fanny-packs! I feel that it is important to blend into the crowd. I like to feel as inconspicuous as possible. I have heard far too many locals gossiping in French or German about how ridiculous an American tourist looks in his Bermuda shorts and white Nikes. I have learned that by dressing like a local, you are more likely to be treated like a local, and you will therefore get a more authentic impression of the place you are visiting.

Third, venture off the “beaten path”! When traveling abroad, I try to visit more than just the popular tourist spots. My goal is always to get a real sense for the place I am visiting, and it often helps if I am not surrounded by tourists.

Why is traveling so important to me? As idealistic as it sounds, through my travels, I have learned about different cultures, which has changed the way I think, and I feel that I can view the world from multiple perspectives. It is easier, for example, to view global issues from a French perspective if you actually understand something about French culture. And while travel isn’t the only way to gain an understanding of a culture, if it’s possible, I feel that it is best.

I believe that my passport will never have too many stamps, but I also believe that it has too few. I am only just beginning to see and explore the world. While I realize that being able to travel is a privilege, which I must never take for granted, my thirst for exploration never ceases.