While I may not gain the life changing spirituality that some seek, I have definitely developed a more reflective way of seeing and thinking about the world around me. I see the world more clearly, as if looking through a pair of glasses, and I have a better understanding of it. Therefore, the more I travel, the clearer the world becomes.
Even as a little girl, I’d always been a wanderer – in my mind, that is, always wondering what lies beyond the horizon. I was always curious, and yet didn’t know what I was curious about. I just knew that there was something more beyond the generic life and rhythm of suburbia.
I remember seeing pictures of my grandfather as a young diplomat who traveled around the world shortly after World War II, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and the Colosseum in Rome looking so handsome and regal. It resembled everything I wanted to be – worldly. I wanted to explore and experience the world.
Then, I found exactly what I was looking for – my first trip to New York City!
I was in my mid-teens, and my mother had visited a friend of hers in Queens, with whom we’d stayed for few days. Those were the most exciting few days of my teenage life. NYC was the polar opposite of the middle class suburban environment in which I’d grown up. It was fast-paced, wonderfully diverse, full of energy and excitement, and most of all, real.
I was hooked, and I fell in love with NYC – and, more importantly, with traveling! It was as if someone had opened a window into the world.
Then, the summer before I graduated from university, I went on a trip to Europe. Although the thought of traveling solo around a completely different continent was overwhelming at first, as I began to read up on and plan all the places I wanted to visit and things to do, a sense of exhilaration and excitement came over me.
From the moment I landed at Gatwick Airport, the travel bug had bit me. Despite the 12-hour transatlantic flight and being terribly jetlagged, the excitement of being in a new country, a new continent energized me. I walked all over London and felt as if I could walk to the ends of the island.
I spent the next two weeks immersed in the beauty and the culture of the continent. Hopping from one country to another with a Eurorail pass, it was sublime to discover new places, meet new people, and to be in the midst of the completely different world.
Strolling through the enchanting empty streets of Bern, Switzerland in dawn’s early light, I felt as if I was in a fairytale. The culture and vibrancy of Barcelona, and seeing the majestic Sagrada Família blew me away! And when I arrived in Paris, its beauty and the overwhelming joy I’d felt walking to through the city of light was absolutely palpable!
My first trip to Europe forever changed my life, activating a permanent, insatiable wanderlust, and it hasn’t been the same ever since. On the flight back from London, as I was listening to all the tourists telling each other how glad they were to be returning home, I was planning my next trip, making a list of places that I wanted to go: Bruges, Gent, Prague, Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Bern, Zurich, Luzern, Lausanne, Bordeaux, Tours, Istanbul. Happy to say, I’ve seen them all.
Also, the experience was the cornerstone of growth and a catalyst to becoming my ideal self. It changed my perception of what is important in life and made me seek out and pursue things I felt passionate about. I enjoy discovering new places, even in my hometown and encountering people from different cultures. I love how interconnected the world truly is, and my aspiration is to embolden myself to view everyday life as a journey and travel as an ongoing state of mind.
More importantly, the experience of traveling is about enjoyment, the enjoyment of seeing beautiful places, being in the midst of new culture, and encountering wonderful people. Travel helps me to realize the goodness in people that is often forgotten the daily grind, and it almost always comes from people and places you least expect.
That’s the true beauty of traveling, being able to meet wonderful people in unfamiliar places. Aside from the magnificent sites, world-class museums, and unforgettable meals, what has always made my travel experience truly special is encountering extraordinary kindnesses, having great conversations with people who started out as strangers, and forming unexpected friendships.
Travel has changed my life in more ways than one. It has opened my mind to the different ways of different cultures. It has taught me a lot about history, art and architecture, about traditions and culture, and even about my own heritage. It has made me a more empowered person by granting me a better understanding of the world and of its people. It has made me realize that the world is a complicated place, and there are no easy answers, stereotypes or even beliefs in a high power that will answer all the questions we may have or all the uncertainties that may exist.
However, there lies the true beauty of life, in unraveling and uncovering these mysteries – the unknown, and the only way that we can gain a better understanding of the world and ultimately of ourselves is to go out and experience it first-hand.
I’ve learned countless life’s lessons through travel. Among the most significant is how insulated and small our lives can be without an exposure to different places, different people, and more importantly, different perspectives. Also, traveling and gaining a better understanding of the world has taught me to cherish all that I have, while living my life to the fullest with humility, tolerance and compassion. And above all, it has shown me how to see the beauty in the simple things and that like everything else in life, it’s better when it’s shared, and I am so grateful that I get to share my passion for traveling and all the experiences with my family, my wonderful parents, my husband who truly is my best friend, and our beautiful little boy.
As one of my favorite novelists Pico Iyer said,
We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
I, for one, cannot wait to fall in love again.
I’d love to hear why you love to travel? How has travel changed your life?