Why Your Passport Is Better Than Any Textbook
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Why Your Passport Is Better Than Any Textbook

“Better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times.” -Asian Proverb

Why Your Passport Is Better Than Any Textbook

How many times can you listen to a lecture, outline a chapter or do a report on something you have no interest in? Nine times out of ten, I would find myself daydreaming about anything else besides the Han Dynasty. No offense to my history teachers but hearing people talk about how great something is and/or was will never compare to experiencing it firsthand.

Growing up in the United States of America, you’ve probably taken a trip to Washington D.C, Philadelphia or another historical place at some point, right? What most people fail to realize is that there is so much more to see beyond our borders and that Robert W. Strayer’s Ways of the World textbook won’t replace a plane ticket.

Having the pages of my passport filled front to back with international stamps is one of many blessings that I am fortunate enough to have. For people who have never traveled outside of the United States of America, here are a few pictures and stories of places you’ve definitely learned about and should absolutely be on your bucket list!

Saint Tropez, France: First town along the French Riviera to be liberated during World War II.Modern St. Tropez is the definition of “you can look, but don’t touch.” After passing what seemed like every luxury car on the market, we stumbled upon an entire fleet of multimillion-dollar yachts. Photos were the only thing I could afford to bring back from Saint Tropez but I did manage to convince my dad into purchasing a dress shirt with pin-up girls all over it! It’s his party shirt now.

Stonehenge, England: Large prehistoric stone monument. In all honesty, you’re probably better off sticking with your textbook for this one. The entrance fee you pay, to walk the roped off, circular path, is not worth it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s mind-blowing to think about how the prehistoric rocks got there in the first place but that’s about it…you can only stare at boulders for so long. Some people might admire the monument more than others because as Donkey would say, “I like that boulder. That’s a nice boulder.”

Salisbury Cathedral, England: England’s tallest church spire, home to the Magna Carta. If you think Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City is beautiful, then you will be in absolute awe of Salisbury Cathedral. With its spire alone making history as the tallest in the United Kingdom (404ft), the cathedral is also home to the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, which are on display inside its chapter house. Everyone learns about the Magna Carta in school but after seeing it I definitely paid more attention in class when we discussed the importance of it! If you’re still on the fence about visiting, then maybe seeing the world’s oldest working clock, dating back to AD 1386, will give the extra push you need.

Cobh, Ireland: Final port of call for the Titanic, large emigration legacy . Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t make a guest appearance but if you’re a novelty buff like me, then Cobh should be on your list of places to see. There’s something eerie about seeing the dock the Titanic left from and walking along the pier where people, unknowingly, kissed their loved ones goodbye for the last time.

Prague, Czech Republic:Capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Imagine navigating through crowded Times Square NYC for hours on end and you’ll get a sense of how it felt being in Prague’s town square. It wasn’t until we found a small alleyway to walk through that our view opened up. We had somehow ended up above the most beautiful outdoor concert I’ve ever seen. This landscape encompasses everything Czech and the immense history of Prague- pronounced “Praha” by locals.

Berlin Wall, Germany: Separated West Berlin from East Germany during the Cold War . The Wall is, for the most part, torn down but still stands in areas where it doesn’t disrupt daily life. A German museum’s portion of the Wall still has its original barbed wire fence and untouched concrete on display. Outside of the museum, the Wall has turned into the longest stretch of artwork I have ever seen. Watching a symbol of oppression turn into a public canvas for the oppressed was something I needed to see in person to fully appreciate.

Auschwitz concentration camp, Poland: Nazi concentration camp in World War II. Everything you’ve been taught is real. The lie on the entrance gate, the inhumanity, the gas chambers, the ovens and chimneys, the mass grave sites, the huge pile of shoes…it’s all real. Standing in the gas chambers and seeing claw marks on the walls, watching a woman draped in an Israeli flag sob quietly to herself and wiping away your own tears as you look at all the belongings confiscated from people who were promised a better life. Those are things you cannot teach. Visiting Auschwitz- Birkenau changed my life; not the twenty-minute documentary that we watched in class.

In school, you're taught to memorize information long enough to be tested on it - then what happens? By traveling and exposing yourself to different cultures, you gain a sense of enlightenment and respect for other people and that will never fade. So if you don't already have a passport, I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone and see what you've been missing.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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