Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Value of Travel

Travel costs time and money.  What are you getting in return?  Five priceless things, if you ask me...

*Pictures are from Istanbul, Turkey.

1.  U+2191.svg Confidence.

Travel has challenged me in a number of ways... 

I've had to become proficient at land navigation:  reading maps, and moving through a new city based on the direction of the sun and the changing elevation (if you are headed toward a river you should probably be walking downhill, right?). 

Another travel challenge has been the communication.  I've had to become a creative linguist, since I don't speak any languages but English (for shame!).  Hand pointing, miming, drawing pictures, wild gesticulations, facial expressions and tone of voice...I've done it all in order to communicate with the locals.

Logistics continue to be a travel challenge.  What mode of transportation to take from Point A to Point B?  When and from where does it depart?  Where do I stay at Point B?  One of my jobs in the Army was a logistician.  I feel like I'm back at work. 

Somehow I've conquered (most of) these travel challenges.  And in doing so, my confidence has grown exponentially. 

2.  U+2191.svg S.P.E.R.M Savvy.

I am not going to lie.  Before this trip my world geography was not up to par.  I was apathetic at times.  I lacked curiousity. 

Through travel, I've learned a myriad of Social, Political, Economic, Religious and Military truths.  Five months of travel has been more educational than a year at university (tell that to your parents, undergrads!).

I now have a world map and I look at it almost every day, trying to memorize where every country is located.  If someone tells me something I do not know anything about (for example, a friend in Istanbul threw around the word "byzantine") I don't sweep it under the rug.  I go to a computer and do some research!

As my S.P.E.R.M savvy has grown, so has my desire to become an activist.

3.  U+2191.svg Life Experiences. 

Life experiences are the bread and butter of our existence.  At the end of my life am I really going to be thinking about my car?  My house?  How my butt looks in those designer jeans?  If my mascara is running?  No, I will be preoccupied with the people I love and something more intangible:  my cache of life experiences.

Travel has challenged me to reframe my point of view.  When bad things happen, I'm not as inclined to see it as a Woe is Me scenario.  Instead, I consider the fact that this is another life experience under my belt, another lesson learned, another story to tell (or write about).  The experiences (happy, tragic, comical, depressing, exciting, mundance, etc.) make me a more complex, and layered individual.  And, I am convinced, a better human being.

4.  U+2191.svg  Spirituality.

Life is inherently spiritual.  Travel has made me more aware of my spirituality.  I have asked many a philosophical question on the road.  I've had moments where I felt that I was part of something bigger, something far greater than myself.  I've had moments of great calm and clarity.

Travel has shown me that the truth is right there in front of us, if only we keep our eyes open; travel has convinced me of the power of Quest Physics:

"If you are brave enough to leave behind everything familiar and comforting and set out on a truth-seeking journey and if you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher, and if you are prepared - most of all - to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself...then the truth will not be withheld from you."

5.  U+2191.svg  Open-mindedness.

I was in the Army on 9/11.  As I watched New York City burn from the Hudson River Valley, my dislike and suspicion of Muslims grew.  When I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, I saw schools burned to the ground by Islamic extremists who didn't want women to learn how to read.  This fueled my dislike and suspicion of Muslims further. 

Travel challenged my worldview by introducing me to some kickass Muslim friends.  These Muslim friends have taught me loads of things about their religion.  For example, The Koran says that women are equal to men.  The Koran preaches tolerance and peacefulness.  Through my friends, I've learned that Islam is a beautiful religion that has been scewed by a handful of fanatics.  Fanatics that are not representative of the whole.

This is but one way (I could tick of dozens) that travel has made me a more open-minded person. 

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