Oh, the places you’ll go: Traveling abroad opens new horizons

I love flying.

The feeling of anticipation that I get right before the plane takes off always gives me chills and a rush of exhilaration that doesn’t leave until we are safely soaring high above the clouds. Looking out the small window and seeing nothing but blue waves of water as you head overseas and leave your home country is one of the scariest, but most amazing, things one can experience.

I have been fortunate all my life in having been able to travel internationally and visit many different countries, meet new friends, try exotic foods and learn important life lessons along the way. Before having children, my parents both traveled the world doing anthropological research; they believe that experiencing other cultures is a great benefit and helps one go far in life.

While I understand that not everyone can just pick up their stuff and fly across the world and visit different countries, I encourage anyone and everyone to make plans to save up so that sometime you can go visit your dream country, or at least travel somewhere new outside of the United States. My family always travels on a budget, accumulating airline miles, staying in family hostels where breakfast is provided and we can cook our own supper, and generally going the economy route. We also stay with friends in other countries whenever we can. It isn’t just about saving money. My parents feel that living as closely as possible with the people of another country and with other international tourists in hostels is the only way to get to really know a place.

My international experiences began in the first grade, when I spent three weeks traveling with my family in the Caribbean, spending a week each on three different islands. Even though I was young, I remember a lot because not only was I in a different country, but I was taking part in a whole other culture. In Trinidad, we were the only white family on a beach with people that were all of African or East Indian descent, so I found out for the first time what it feels like to be in the minority. It felt strange, but not scary, because people were friendly. From then on, I knew that traveling was something I loved to do and wanted to keep doing for the rest of my life.

Our next big international trip was a three-week tour of Great Britain and central Europe, where we rented cars and were able to see places that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, even by train. This was followed by a Christmas in Iceland, where it was dark for almost 20 hours a day, but is now one of my favorite places in the world. I then had the wonderful experience of spending eight weeks by myself living with two different host families in Italy last summer.

Of course, waiting in long lines at the airport and going through security and customs is also part of the experience. In Trinidad and Tobago, none of my family’s luggage, except for mine, arrived with us at the airport. But because my dad had lived there before, it turned out he had known the man who was in charge of tracing lost luggage from 20 years earlier, and we all had our luggage the next day.

Whether you fly all the way around the world and land in Australia or just across to some tropical islands, getting out of your comfort zone and leaving your home country is a wonderful experience that I would advise anyone to undertake. Traveling experiences are ones you will never forget.

– By Dana Walker