Imagine yourself relaxing on a white sand beach of the Bahamas, the only noise you can hear is the gentle sound of waves washing up to shore. There is not a cloud in the sky and not a kid nearby screaming "mooom!" at the top of his lungs. It is pure, simple relaxation. Escaping the stresses of work at home, learning about new cultures around the world, and telling stories about adventure is something I believe everyone should have the chance to do. The only problem is, there are always negatives to accompany the positives and when it comes to the safety of travel, it throws a red flag towards everyone's radars. Whether it is coming down with "Montezuma's Revenge", experiencing "culture shock", or just not wanting to leave home, there is often something that will hold one back.
Personally, I have enjoyed travel since I was a little kid, but being the cautious person I am, why do I find myself continuing to travel knowing that I will have to break out of the "cautious shell" I have built around myself? I was always scared to leave my mom at school and of hurting myself out on the soccer field, yet the summer of eighth grade you could find me climbing high on beautiful sand dunes at Badlands National Park in South Dakota. I dove deep into this thought by asking myself, "Why do I continue to travel and have the want to travel knowing the risks I could encounter along the way?"
Travel is a window to the world and a journey where you may not know where you will end up. You can make travel what you want, you can make it as big or as small as you want. It allows you to have freedom in life and let go of home for a few days, a few months, maybe even a year. Travel blogger and photographer Amanda Williams believes, "You can trade in whatever is making you unhappy for something different, even if it's just for a little while. A change of scenery is sometimes just what you need to get over boredom or the blues, and being far-removed from a problem or stressor often allows you to look at it through new eyes."
This being one of the opinionated plus-sides of travel, I can relate by remembering my own experiences traveling and how I have felt while exploring a National Park in a new state rather than exploring the same old "tourist traps" in the Chicagoland area. Particularly, in the depths of junior year of high school stress, I felt renewed and refreshed while on spring break with my friends in Disney as well as a Bahamas cruise. Being far away from ACT books and overflowing folders allowed me to eliminate stressors and explore, which travel blogger Amanda Williams considers a positive of travel. I enjoy the feeling of pure freedom after a stressful time, who doesn't?
However, the night before I left for my spring break trip, I was worried and scared. Why? I travel all the time and I love it, I knew my family was in Florida, and I would be seeing them in a few days. I am a "Disney expert", yet I found myself upset while organizing my bags to leave the next day. I had never left the country before, but exploring is my thing and the ocean is my happy place. Why was I scared? Why would I, a travel lover and cautious "mom", resist the opportunity to leave stress behind and learn through a new window of opportunity?
Furthermore, travel risks vary from place to place and country to country. In most cases, you can go on a great trip and come back healthy and refreshed, but that is not always the case. According to NBC News and Joan Hersh, a registered nurse, "One of the biggest problems with foreign travel that we see is that some of these illnesses are so unusual here in the U.S. that, most of the time, physicians aren't even looking for them." When travelers come home after a fun trip and realize the water they drank was unsafe or they got a painful bug bite, the last thing they want to deal with is their regular doctor not knowing the specifics of what to do. An amazing trip can turn painful and it scares people to travel again, leaving them to stay in their comfort zone at home again. However, these illnesses are avoidable, and I continue to travel because I know what to do when I am sick, hence the "mom" nickname my friends and family have given me. Yes, the illnesses caused by travel scare me and may seem to hold me back, but I am and will be, prepared with what to do.
Additionally, I am a visual learner. There is no way I am going to pick up a math concept without seeing a labeled equation on the board. When it comes to travel, you learn visually, not through the pages of a textbook or a computer screen open to Google. The two go hand in hand: you travel to learn and you learn to travel. Instead of being told how to get from one place to another, you pick up a map and figure it out. You learn geography and map reading skills by figuring out where you are using a map, you don't need a textbook for that.
Having seen many of our nation's National Parks, I have found my history classes more enjoyable and easier to understand because I have seen what teachers are talking about. I will never forget my fourth-grade "state project" on Pennsylvania. I loved visiting Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell that previous summer. In fact, when I was little I wanted to move there and work as a park ranger to teach tourists about the history of America. I experienced a new culture when I was in Philadelphia, even with it still being in the United States. There were old cobblestone streets, different restaurants with famous Philly Cheesesteaks, and locals with different personalities--all things you can only experience by traveling.
I travel to learn and I travel to grow. I want to see the world, experience new cultures and meet new people. The thought of travel illnesses and culture shock cross my mind, yes, but I prepare for my adventures to know what to expect while I am away from home. Travel has allowed me to explore new aspects of the earth that I otherwise would not have been able to see if I only stayed within a fifty-mile radius of home or kept my nose deep in a textbook. You can create a home wherever you go as long as you have the right mindset to do so. Bring the right people with you and plan ahead for a fun time. The thought of homesickness or having a bad experience at the airport is risky, but that is a risk I will take in order to continue learning and growing.