This I Believe

Merav - Andover, Massachusetts
Entered on May 11, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
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Time to Travel

I got my first passport when I was a baby so I could go visit family in Colombia and Israel. Since then I have traveled far and wide with my family. In fact, when we haven’t traveled in a while, we get antsy.

Although having a lot of stamps on my passport is impressive, there is much more to traveling than passports, airplane tickets, and maps. Every journey is a hands-on learning experience, far away from the rows of desks that mark the standard learning environment. I could even say (probably to my parents’ dismay) that I remember more from my journeys than I do from my school textbooks. In Israel, I learned about coexistence between different cultures and about human nature. While living in Brazil for a year I learned to speak Portuguese fluently and saw incredible natural resources. Three weeks living with a host family in Paris taught me independence and adaptation. Among my extended family and the tight-knit community in Colombia, I have learned the value of solidarity and of having a safety net to fall back on.

Sure, travel is expensive, and unfortunately, I can’t just jet-set off to wherever I want, whenever I want. As a result, I have learned to be thankful for each one of these unique opportunities, whether I am traveling alone or with my family. I take advantage of museums, beaches, new food, music, and people. I listen to the language spoken around me, trying to pick up as many words as possible with the hope that one day I will be able to speak it fluently and converse naturally with the natives in order to experience the “real thing.” Airplanes are uncomfortable, but they teach patience, tolerance, problem-solving, and willingness to adapt (and “How to Sleep in Moving Vehicles 101”). And while the thought of recycled air grosses me out a little bit, the thought of never traveling anywhere again scares me out of my wits. So, I have learned to put up with delayed flights, lost luggage, nasty waiters, jet lag, and unfavorable exchange rates. If that’s the way it has to be, I’ll take it. It’s all worth it.

Some people are afraid to leave their comfort zones, but I say: drop me out there with a map and some key phrases in the local tongue, and I’ll happily figure out my way around. Even if I’m just in a café, whether it’s in Tel Aviv, Paris, or Barcelona, watching people go by, I’ll be observing and learning. Every travel experience is an opportunity to learn about other cultures, to see new sights, and to be exposed to different people, values, and lessons. In fact, human relations in this world would probably be significantly better if we all took the time to travel and to reach out to others in order to understand where they are coming from. This is what I truly believe.