Traveling is more than just the money and an all-inclusive hotel, propped on the beach-side with sand in between your toes, and fresh air to cool your body, while you rest in a hammock. While that sounds like the ideal vacation getaway, the concept of traveling, especially across different cultures, is much deeper than that.
Traveling forces you out of your comfort zone, sometimes in the best way, and other times, to learn valuable lessons. Through that, you are able to gain a deeper sense of who you are, while ironically, being immersed into cultures sometimes very different from yours. It opens your horizons, and exposes you to ideas not previously thought about. Suddenly, you are more aware and understanding of people from various cultures and backgrounds, and no longer feel the urge to negatively judge people from first glance, based on apparel or manner of speech. Lifelong friendships can be built instead. Social networks can expand, just by communicating without the impediment of your own preconceived notions. Communication can improve mental wellbeing, independence, and overall wisdom. And, of course, traveling can be fun, relaxing and rejuvenating.
Throughout my 20 years of life, I have travelled to six Caribbean Islands (Antigua, Martinique, Barbados, St. Croix, St. Thomas), including my homeland of St. Lucia, one European Country (Greece), and ten states of United States (Georgia, Chicago, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, Delaware, and Washington, D.C.), and with each travel experience doing its part to fashion me into the individual I am today. The first travel experience that I can recall, began with a trip from St. Lucia to Barbados, where I was able to engage in a short tour of the island, and enjoy some of the local dishes; a part of great interest for me, even at the tender age I was. My favorite, and most influential Caribbean travel journey has been to the island of St. Croix. I frequented the island several times a year before my family and I moved, and have since been enjoying life. With its peaceful atmosphere, dynamic yet inclusive culture, and of course, crystal clear beaches and tropical fruits, the island quickly became our tiny paradise. Although I was riddled with homesickness for the first two years, once I allowed myself to explore the culture and people, I came to develop a great love and appreciation for it. My once, high level of ethnocentrism quickly depleted, and in its place came a deep appreciation for the Caribbean culture.
Traveling to the United States was an entirely different experience in itself, where the culture was entirely different, and it took much longer to understand the reasoning behind it, and appreciate it. Once I put aside my biases, I was able to build lifelong friendships and indulge in experiences that have only helped to improve my character. Had I remained enclosed in my shell, I would not have undergone any growth.
My furthest travel yet, has been to the country of Greece, where I was ultimately blown away by the ancient architecture. This two-week experience allowed me to indulge in the rich local culture, including the Greek language,
dances, and food. It proved that language barriers are merely barriers and not blockades. Sticking to only English-speaking places may only be an injustice to myself.
Even with the many experiences that I have been fortunate to take part in, my travel journey does not stop there. I fully intend to explore the remaining Caribbean islands. There is an unexplained magic in Caribbean culture and I yearn to explore it on all the islands. Ecuador is also of interest to me for not only their geographic uniqueness, but their cultural one. In addition, their healthcare system peaked my interest. From the moment one of my friends visited the country of Tanzania, and returned with stories about the people of the rural villages, I have
been interested in learning more about Tanzanian people, and the way in which they sustain themselves, especially those residing in rural areas. Other places that remain of great interest to me, simply because of their attractions and physical features include Madagascar, Hawaii, Egypt, and Italy.
My advice to anyone contemplating traveling, it’s being safe first, but to travel with intention, travel with an open mind, and travel to have fun!