Creating a better world through traveling

A+trip+to+Christmas+Market+in+Kaiserslautern%2C+Germany.+2017

A trip to Christmas Market in Kaiserslautern, Germany. 2017

For as long as I can remember, my mother always expressed to me the importance of being a global thinker.

I was not entirely sure what she meant by that when I was younger, but the more places we traveled, the more I began to piece it together.

My family moved to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany when I was around two years old. The country quickly became my home and the fondest place I’ve ever known. Because I grew up as a ‘military brat,’ traveling was, and still is, a huge part of my story and my life.

We adored the military life, but my mother was adamant about making sure that my siblings and I embraced not only the Air Force but the country we lived in as well. German culture played a major role in my upbringing, especially when my German stepfather entered my life.

Although I was raised abroad, I never acknowledged Germany as a place that was foreign or unusual. It was just home. My parents expanded my sense of home every time they took my siblings and me to a new country.

I’ve been fortunate enough to ride gondolas in Italy and walk the beaches of Mallorca. I’ve stood in front of Buckingham Palace as my family managed to convince me that the queen was waving at me. I later learned that she wasn’t. 

 

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One of my fondest memories was a trip to Holland, where I ran around and laughed with a bunch of Middle Eastern kids. We could not speak each other’s languages, yet we bonded instantly.

I’ve been to at least nine European countries throughout my time living there. Although I was too young at the time to appreciate and understand the importance of our travels, these adventures caused me to become a more open-minded person as I got older.

That’s the beautiful thing about traveling. It’s a gift that keeps on giving, even after it is over. The more I travel, the wiser I become.

With that being said, embracing a new culture is not always the easiest thing to do.

Moving back to the United States at the age of 13 was ironically the biggest culture shock of my entire life. I soon discovered that growing up with the U.S. military overseas was significantly different from actually living in America.

When I started living in Louisiana, I found myself questioning many of the traditions and cuisines that my friends enjoyed. With time, however, I began to embrace their cultural upbringings, even though they were different from my own.

As overwhelming as the transition was, I realized the importance of immersing myself in a new environment and understanding how other people live. 

Trevor Noah once described traveling as the “antidote to ignorance,” and that could not be truer.

There are many negative connotations placed upon the word ‘ignorance,’ but ignorance is simply the state of lacking knowledge. We all lack knowledge of something, and that isn’t something that we should automatically be ashamed of.

Moving back to the United States made me aware of ignorance I didn’t know I possessed. It reminded me that although I traveled an entire continent, there was still so much I did not know about the rest of the world around me. A revelation like that is humbling, to say the least.

That is why traveling is so important. No one is immune to ignorance, but everyone can make the effort to expand their knowledge and learn more about how other people live. 

Most of us can probably agree that it is easy to fear the unknown. The longer we live with that fear, the more we subject ourselves to making preconceived judgments about other people. Those preconceived judgments prevent us from truly understanding and embracing other people and other ways of life, and history has proven that to be severely ineffective.

The transition between countries was uncomfortable at times, but it is undoubtedly the most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me. Traveling has never been a waste of money or time because I have always benefited from the experience regardless of the outcome.

Now I understand what my mother has been trying to teach me all these years.

We are all born as local thinkers, but when we become global thinkers, we become more conscious of the world around us, and unity becomes more possible. Our world is able to achieve greater things when we make stronger efforts to understand each other.

I encourage everyone to take the time to hear someone else’s story and learn from their ways of life. Not only is it the most humbling experience, but it will also make you a better person. Traveling makes the world a better place.

 

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