I Have to See the World

Veena Muthuraman - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on September 28, 2005
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: immigrant
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Saint Augustine once said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” Me, I want to read the entire library.

I believe in going places. I believe in getting out of my apartment and into my car or a plane and going to see a totally new place. I want to see the world in all its glory, with my own eyes and in the flesh; television and Google Earth just won’t do. I believe that travel opens one’s mind to new cultures and perspectives; it affords one a broader vision of life, a vision that does not come by sitting within the four walls of one’s home.

I grew up in a small city in southern India. I was all of seven years old when we went to visit my grandparents for my month-long summer vacation. Until then, my world consisted of our small apartment and our bustling city surrounded by pristine beaches, coconut groves, and misty mountains. I was aware of the existence of a different world beyond home, but surely I didn’t want to spend my vacation in some backward village in a rural district of an alien state. We boarded a state transport bus, and I sat by the window, sulking.

Soon I noticed the wetlands giving away to parched land. The cities we were passing now were more crowded than the ones we left behind; people were darker, like me, and they were dressed differently. When I finally got to my grandparents’ village, the landscape and the people were so vastly different from what I was used to that I was overwhelmed. A village with just one street, houses with tiled roofs, and all of the houses had barns with cows and bulls inside! I wanted to go see them, but I was scared. All of the village kids looked at me as if I was an alien from outer space, and I promptly hid behind my mother’s sari and refused to talk to anyone.

Over the next couple of weeks, I slowly got to know the place and the people; I learned the other kids’ games and played with their toys. They taught me how to milk a cow, how to catch fish in the nearby stream, and how to steal mangoes from my grandpa’s grove. And finally, when it was time to go back home, I was sad to leave but ready for new adventures. Because by then I seemed to have realized that our little corner of the universe and the people who live here are too diverse and too wonderful to be left unseen. I had to see the world.

Years later, on a plane to this country I now call home, it was this desire to travel, this conviction that there’s so much to see and to cherish on this earth than just the familiar places of my childhood, that kept me from breaking down and staying in India. My intense longing for my family, my friends, and the places I loved was countered by my anticipation for what I would find in the New World. And America has not disappointed me. The sloping Alleghenies of Pennsylvania where I spent my school years, the tall skyscrapers of Chicago where I live now, the colors of a New England fall, the deep crevices of the Grand Canyon all reinforce my essential belief that only by leaving the security of your home will you find the beauty of the world around you.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness . . . Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

I couldn’t agree more.

When she is not traveling, Veena Muthuraman can be found deeply submerged in Excel worksheets while simultaneously dreaming of new travel adventures. Ecuador is next on her list. She currently lives in London, England.