You think you know what you’re getting into when you first begin to prepare for traveling. You read the online blogs, become a Pinterest aficionado, camp out on the international travel aisle at Barnes & Noble until they not-so-kindly ask you to get the hell out, and find out as much as you can about your faraway destination. You know (or at least you really hope) it will be an amazing experience that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. You get more and more excited as the months turn to days and the days to weeks and finally hours before you’re off on your way into the wild, wonderful world we live in. You don’t shut up about your plans for the trip until your friends’ eyes glaze over and your mom tells you to shut up before she throws something at you (and then finds a reason to throw something at you anyway because we are violent people). You pack and then unpack and then repack - and then if you listened to my advice you take half the clothes and twice the money. You make sure you have your itinerary on your phone and your tablet and as a hard copy and maybe even written on your arm like my fav badass Mulan - if you don’t understand that reference please stop reading this and go watch the cinematic perfection that is Mulan - just in case.
So you’re ready, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong, in fact.
You’re so incredibly, massively, astonishingly wrong. Your booklets and Pinteresting and researching will tell you quite a bit, but it’s what they don’t tell you that matters. They won’t tell you about the remarkably kind people you’ll meet along the way who will offer you the shirt off their back if you seem to need it (seriously that happened once but I didn’t take ‘em up on it). They won’t mention the unforgettable experiences you’ll have that will completely alter your perspective on the world and everything you thought you knew. They don’t tell you that even though your travels show you how small you can be in the grand scheme of things, they also show you that you can touch so many people’s lives in ways you can’t even begin to imagine just by showing them basic human kindness and compassion. They don’t share with you that while you will most assuredly leave your mark on the world, the effect that experiencing the world has on you will be more than life changing. They won’t tell you that you’ll be overwhelmed by not only the stark cultural and societal differences, but the unexpected similarities as well. They certainly don’t tell you that as you become more and more familiar with these cultures, you will become irrevocably enamored with their intricacies and complexities. They won’t warn you that you’ll come back home wondering why we ever thought we should construct borders in the first place when we are all one human race; why anyone could ever think of another human being as inferior based on any sort of aesthetic difference; how you could go your whole entire life without experiencing the world when it’s out there just waiting for you**. They don’t tell you that you’ll spend the rest of your life just looking for new ways to travel farther and stay longer - no matter how much you may miss your family while you’re gone. They never warn you that one day you’ll find yourself (after deciding to quit your desk job three months earlier than expected bc it causes you physical pain not to be traveling 24/7) sitting in a coffee shop excitedly looking up tickets to Germany to stay with your gorgeous German man for a few months and visit friends throughout Europe before backpacking Southeast Asia for several months with family and friends followed by moving to Germany to start your masters. They never tell you you’ll fall in love with the world. And they should tell you, because it isn’t a love you can ever fall out of, nor would you want to. It is a love that grows with every single trip or visit or move to a new place, even though every single time you go somewhere new you think that it would be impossible for you to love it any more than you already do.
They never tell you that, but I think they should. Because let me tell you, this is the kind of love you want to be in.
**That is not to say that someone who is well-traveled is in any way better than someone who never left their hometown. I recognize that there are several factors that make travel difficult if not impossible for many people and that to say I have been blessed would be an understatement. I can only say for certain that I am a much better person as a direct result of the traveling I have been lucky enough to take part in over the course of my paltry 22 years.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
(in August in the US)