I’m almost 3/4 of the way through my degree (finally!). I started university right out of high school, and I’ve been pretty focused on studying and saving money ever since, because if anyone tells you anything, it’s how high the price of tuition is. Although I’m very thankful for the opportunities I have had -to explore most of Canada and a few corners of the U.S – I also feel left out because I have yet to travel out of North America. Even as a journalist and an International Development student, I’m not amongst the slew of my classmates and friends who have taken a trip abroad.
Whether it’s to Europe, South America, South-East Asia, or another corner of the globe, (though I find these 3 are definitely among the most common destinations for young people seeking to travel) I know at least a few people who have gone to each location, and for all sorts of reasons: everything from backpacking to a Spring Break vacation, from a school trip to a mission trip, to an internship for university. They leave for lengths of time varying from a week or two up to a semester or even a year.
As part of quite a wide-reaching university community in an (albeit small) city, I have also managed to meet countless people who have travelled to Halifax from abroad or domestically, and I’ve learned a lot about the world and its cultures from them. Still, I feel some sort of “worldly exposure” is lacking. I want to see the places people write about in ancient novels, the hills painted by Van Gogh and architecture of historic cities, places photographed in National Geographic, and the landscapes of lush, natural beauty. When people ask where I want to go – I never have a specific answer, because it’s everywhere. I want to see as much of the world as I can before I die (and sooner rather than later).
I’ve been given advice on travel by many people who have had similar opportunities, and even more people who have not. Speaking with friends who have gone abroad, they almost always speak of it as a life-altering and often an “eye-opening” experience, but of course the comments vary greatly depending on the type of trip. I used to scoff at those who would claim the trip “changed them” somehow, but when I think more, I wonder what type of person could be completely immersed in a world they had never even experienced before, and participate in the culture and the rituals and events and festivities that come with it, without making a few observations and reflecting on them.
I know several people who take annual vacations to places like Florida, the Caribbean, or warm sunny beach resorts in places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic. Admittedly, my very first out-of-country travel experience was to Disney World at age twelve. But I have realized the novelty of these vacations; sitting on a fabricated resort with unlimited mimosas, and only getting up to re-apply sunscreen. These vacations are always good for “getting away from it all” when you really need to take a break from working all the time, but I’ve decided it’s not the type of travel I want to do.
I would much rather see the mountains of Machu Picchu than the unchanging boardwalk of a waterfront town. These countries people vacation at, like Cuba, the Bahamas, Mexico, Brazil, all have interesting and complex geographic, historical, and cultural roots. I am far from discouraging travel to these countries, but simply stress the importance of getting off the beaten map of tacky tourist attractions, overcrowded beaches, and overpriced hotels.
Aside from the many friends and family members I know who have had several opportunities to go abroad, there are also those who’ve spent the majority of their lives in Canada. I often hear from people like my mother, who, aside from a stint in Germany in the 80’s, has worked the same 9-5 desk job all her life. She always tells me, as do many others when I begin to tell them about upcoming travel plans, to “do it while you’re young” because soon things will begin to tie you down. Debt. Job. Husband. Kids. Mortgage. It all comes so fast.
It’s true, but it is also more than that. At only 20 years old, I’m more ambitious than ever. My whole life is ahead of me and going abroad now could change my life and expose me to opportunities I would never have at home. Even if no new opportunity comes directly out of it, the sheer amount of opportunities for learning – about the world around me, about history, about people, and about myself – is something I wouldn’t want to pass up. I will never again be this new to the “real world” people always talk about finding after completing your education. The world is always changing, and it is important to take it in and to learn how it changes by place and time. Maybe I have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) about travel experiences. I want to see everything. I want to go to every city and eat every food and take an extra minute to go around the next corner of every road I walk down.
It’s only recently that I’ve started looking into a travel opportunity through school, and might have a chance to study Art, History, Politics and Literature in Florence, Italy this May. I’m still figuring out details so it’s not confirmed yet, but even if it falls through, I can still say this is only the beginning of a long life of wanderlust for new places and experiences.
And if I end up going? I hope to live completely in every moment as I experience a new place and (hopefully) learn a new language. I will be taking my camera and my laptop, so please continue to check back for updates, and if you’ve ever been to Italy please send me pizza place and gelato shop suggestions!