I didn't travel much as a child. When I was fifteen, I flew internationally for the first time, to Thailand and Vietnam with my family. Before that, most of my traveling included my daily hour-long commute to school. Sometimes we'd go on vacations, but those were typically road trips to the local big cities, state parks, and landmarks. I wouldn't really consider that going out to see the world, but it was a start.
I did, however, have my own way to travel: in my mind. I know, right? So deep. I've always been a daydreamer. During car rides I'd either be gazing blankly through the window, dreaming about something, or I'd be sound asleep with my mouth agape, head propped over and leaning on my shoulders. At home, I'd be glued to the television playing video games or weaving a story with my action figures. I was inside my own head so often, my listening skills were almost non-existent, and I have the standardized test scores to prove it :)
Always dreaming, never listeningMy standardized test scores from when I was six years old
I never flew internationally again until I was twenty-eight, when my new job required me to visit Taiwan and work with partners there. It was eye-opening in a way that I hadn't expected. I thought the experience would be similar to my past travels, but one factor made all the difference -- we were all working. Working to survive. Working to be happy. On the other side of the planet, there are people with completely different upbringings, cultures, families, friends, problems. People I never knew existed who are also trying to make a living and find happiness. Of the seven billion people on earth, I met a few from Taiwan, and we were together, at that time and that place, striving toward the same goal. It felt weird, and precious.
Everyone I've met overseas is a person I feel I've met out of sheer coincidence, and because of the distance between our homes, the likelihood of ever seeing that person again is questionable. I may never see them again! Although globalization and technology have made the world a smaller place, it doesn't change the notion that when I meet someone while traveling, it may be the last time I see them. This makes each interaction precious. Whether we get along as friends, acquaintances, or strangers is irrelevant, as long as we acknowledge and respect what a gift it is to experience each other's existence.
Traveling is a great way to see the beauty of our world. It opens the mind. It inspires. It humbles. Browsing the internet and looking at photos pale in comparison to physically being in a different place, listening to the ambient sounds, smelling the unique smells, and meeting the local people. Just a hundred years ago, our great grandparents did not have the opportunity to see the other side of the world without getting on a boat and risking their lives on a crazy voyage. For those of us who do have the opportunity, seize it. Cherish it.
CloudsStaring out the window of the airplane, watching the world go by
Keywords: experiences, flying, growing, learning, meeting, people, reflection, thoughts, travel, traveling
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