Spring is in the air. Everyone is becoming “twitterpatted” (thanks Disney), schools are nearing the end of the semester, and summer vacations are looming. Now, whether you are able to go on a short weekend vacation or you’re one of the lucky ones who can take 9 days off to explore other areas, I highly encourage you to get out there and get away from your house.
Traveling is one of those experiences that no one can take away from you. You will always have the memories, the pictures, and those ticket stubs. But more than that, you will have the experience. This experience is that of meeting people from all over the world, seeing different cultures, and eating different foods. Again, you don’t necessarily have to spend thousands on this vacation, nor do you have to go all over the world. However, if you get the chance at European travel, I highly suggest it.
Two months ago, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Berlin, Germany for a few days. It was for five short days, and there was so much that I needed to see; the Berlin wall, the majestic cathedrals that littered this city, and some other beautiful sights. This city has so much history surrounding it, and was such a different culture. Even though it is a tourist destination, there were quite a few locals, and with that, there was also quite the language barrier. I never took German, I only know about five words, and they can’t even be strung together to make a logical sentence. My family was no better with German, so it was very different. Thankfully, most of the signs were in German and English, so navigating was a bit easier. Even with the language barrier, we were able to converse with different people around the city, and with the help of our fantastic hotel staff, we were able to easily get around the city and see everything we needed to.
While going to a country where your language is not the primary language spoken is scary, it’s also very thrilling in a good way. You are given the chance to pick up on different words, and to see a whole new culture, one you would never find in America, not even Epcot. It’s just not the same, sorry to break it to you.
Now, what can sometimes be scary is trying new food. And of course, this is another huge part of traveling. We don’t go to different countries to eat the same food that we can get at home. It’s another part of the experience! In the travel mindset, I even found myself trying new things, including duck. I’ve never had it before, but our first night in Germany, it was served at dinner. While I would have never dared to try duck in America, I was traveling, so in my mind it just made sense to try it. And I’ll be honest, it was one of the most delicious meals I’ve had. Same thing with the beer in Germany; their breweries are something of a legend. Once again, when in Germany…The beer was very different from anything I’ve had in America. It was one of those things that I will never find anything comparable unless I go back to Germany. And because of that, it made my travel bucket list. The food there was richer, and even items that I thought I knew, like au gratin potatoes, had a different, delicious spin in Germany.
More important than anything I listed above though, was the ability to see a brand new culture. I got to see people in their daily routines, heading off to work or out shopping with their families, living in this city that is foreign to me, but to them is home. Where everything takes on a new meaning, where driving is a little bit scary, but to others, is just a part of daily life. When traveling, you get to see a new side to even something as mundane as travelers on the bus on their way to work or heading home. It allows you to see and go a little deeper in your own life when you return home. Yes, you know this culture, you know these streets that you’re driving on, you know what’s around the corner. But returning home from travel allows you to really treasure the fact that you’re back in your home culture. You know what is going to be served at the restaurant you frequent, you know you generally don’t find ping pong tables in a park in your town. But you can see how your mundane life isn’t so mundane to those visiting. That your culture is so drastically different, and that while you feel it’s a part of every day life, there are others visiting who think your everyday commute is extremely relaxing, or that you live in paradise, where tropical drinks are served in coconuts, while they have never even seen a coconut in real life.
Traveling opens your mind to not only new cultures, but it also brings you closer to your home culture. So I challenge you, to travel. Save up, spend a week traveling around Europe. Each country has a different culture, from Germany to Italy. They all have different aspects, and different sights that make them special. Enjoy trying new foods, hearing new languages, and enjoy the fact that not everyone knows what you mean. Let it give you a new perspective on your life and on others. Allow the experience to fill you with a gratitude towards the place you call home, and allow you to see our differences, as well as our similarities. Even if you can’t go to Europe or another country, go out west, see the difference in lifestyle! You’ll be hard pressed to find Southern fried chicken in California, and enjoy that fact. Enjoy that their everyday aspects of life are very different from your own.