While I have a myriad of tales I could relay to you about my day in Belgium or these first few days in the shining city of Stirling, Scotland, I wanted to take a moment to focus on why I made the decision that I did to pack up and spend the entire summer abroad. Travel is something that I’ve always held in extremely high regard, though I am aware that not all feel the same way as I. If you’re just looking to have fun, why not do it stateside and save all of your money? Aren’t there lessons to be learned and work to be done here? Perhaps, but I think that travel is not just having fun, nor can it be compared to a more expensive version of life at home. It is a different animal entirely, one that has unique lessons to teach that cannot be found anywhere else. And so I have a few reasons of why I believe that this experience is vital and have chosen to partake in it.
- “Living in their pools they soon forget about the sea.” –Neil Peart
Where we go on Lake Superior, there is a point of rock that juts into Superior’s tempestuous waters, and in the middle of this rock is a small pool filled with minnows. Protected and kept in their small confines, these minnows have no idea what lies in the rest of the sea. Whether we think it or not, a lot of us exist in this same kind of warped reality, assuming that the way we’ve constructed our tide pools is how the rest of the ocean operates. And that changes how you view yourself, your community, and your world. It isn’t until you dive into the rest of the sea that you realize what about life is the same and what is the result of the small boundaries of the tide pool.
- “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
This quote was included in a page from a devotional I used to read, a page that I tore out of the booklet and pasted on the wall by my bed. I was reminded of it every day, and recognized it when I crossed paths with a traveler in Ireland who explained that he took this quote seriously and wanted to live life to the fullest. Not only do I think that it’s a beautiful way to live, but I am inspired by people who live this way, and hope that I can harness that and use it to inspire others as well.
- “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Scott Cameron
A symptom of tide pool living is the percentage of space that you take up in your environment: too much self for such a little space. Travel is a humbling experience; in a new place you are not significant or known. The human tendency to think highly of yourself, to draw attention to yourself, to think that you need more things: travel shoots them all dead. When hiking in the mountains I saw people in the distance that looked like the smallest specks, and thought that’s what I look like to them too. Travel is an exceptional cultivator of modesty. Living out of two small bags with no reputation to my name has been hard and eye opening, in a good and refining sort of way.
- “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou
I am convinced that few things grow empathy quite like travel. When you meet people from different parts of the globe, those distant names and places on the map become real and emotionally charged. You come to realize that more and less important space on the globe does not exist; every square inch is preciously valuable and intricate. Travel also thrusts you into situations that put you in the shoes of others. I am studying speech-language pathology with the ambition of helping others become better speakers, readers, and writers. When I was in Belgium, I was put in a place where my spoken and written language was impeded by my lack of fluency in French, and I got to experience what it is like have a barrier stopping me from communicating my thoughts with others. I thought so much of people living with communication disorders, and how what was one day of difficulty for me is a way of life for another.
- “I am not the same having seen the moon on the other side of the world.” -Mary Ann Radmacher
We should live with the flexibility to be changed by our life experiences. Whether we like it or not, every life experience leaves some kind of an imprint that molds you into who you are. So where are those imprints coming from? I think if we’re not careful, too many can come from the same direction. But think of a good piece of pottery: it is shaped on all sides, constantly moving into what it is being created to be. Being molded by many experiences, places, and lives will produce the most well-rounded result.
- “People don’t take trips; trips take people.” –John Steinbeck
To be left speechless, to be in a place where all is chaos and all is peace, where nothing and everything makes sense, and to have it spin you and change you and become you: that’s what this is all about.