As our time in Indonesia came to an end, one question kept floating around: what is the most important thing you’ve taken away from this trip? Seeing as how the primary reason the group of us had gathered halfway across the world was for academic purposes, I could not say the research we conducted is what would dominate my thoughts when I looked back on my memories of this experience in a few days, months, or years. It was the amazing people I encountered and thoughts and emotions from confronting head-on a culture that seemed to be so far from the one I had known my entire life. While I believe it obnoxious to say this was yet another “eye-opening” experience, it really was.
In my 21 years on this Earth I have been able to travel across both oceans: to Indonesia, Italy, Germany, Greece, Tunisia, Spain, and France to name a few. Even within America I’ve been able to travel to big cities such as Washington D.C., New York, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. I even managed to make it to Alaska. I can by no means say I have spent an extensive time in all of these locations, enough to lay any claim to know about their culture and history. However, I am extremely thankful for all the people I have been able to meet and beautiful sights I have seen. With an open mind, while traveling you can begin to really understand things a textbook, new article, or television screen could never tell you.
The benefits of travel can spread into both your professional and personal life. Often subconsciously, you’ll gradually begin to understand others’ point of views and perceptions. This is extremely important in problem solving. You can study different theories for countless days and nights, but with so many sides to every situation, I can guarantee you’ll begin to see a unique side of an argument or think of an innovative idea you couldn’t have before. An experience isn’t some slot of information you neatly file away into your mind’s bookshelf of facts, it is something that becomes ingrained in your way of thought and may even play a part in shaping the person you become. More importantly (in my opinion of course), multi-cultural experiences can also benefit your relationships. As we all know, some people can just drive you crazy, and you may or may not just want to pummel them. With the most recent election in America, there has only been an increasing divide between people, quick to dismiss an entire relationship altogether for their political party. On the other hand, in the recent protests we have seen grand acts of unity, with women’s marches on every continent. I am not saying anyone is wrong or right and understand there are plenty of other examples, but I wanted to iterate that if people from thousands of miles away not only share the same beliefs, but are willing to fight for complete strangers, there may be a chance you might be able to relate to that really frustrating coworker of yours.
This post went a bit more philosophical than usual, but I really do believe it is important that everyone experience some kind of travel at least once in their life. It doesn’t have to be abroad, but I believe experiencing another culture to be absolutely imperative. This can be by yourself or with one or several companions, however, I am bit biased to the individual option as I believe that will give you the greatest opportunity for self-growth and reflection. Sure, there are bound to be some ups and downs (trust me, I know), but also believe me when I say you won’t regret it. If you’re anything like me, it’ll just leave you counting down the days until your next adventure.
So go save for that trip to Europe you’ve always wanted, go camping in the mountains, heck, even just drive to the next state over just to see what life is like beyond your own backyard. Just go somewhere.