Aegean to Appleton: Catch Me if You Can

 

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Notorious American author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson once encouraged his readers to “buy the ticket, take the ride.” Throughout my life, I have followed his words religiously. Whenever the opportunity to travel presented itself, I seized it without second thought. The medium or convenience of transportation I had to use never mattered to me. I firmly believe that traveling is of grave importance; it fuels our sense of adventure and exploration, whilst also exposing us to situations that can challenge many of our preconceived ideologies.

Throughout my travels, I noticed, much to my surprise, that I never failed to find something unique about the places I visited. Milan’s awe-inspiring architecture, Sweden’s arts and crafts, Switzerland’s ineffably beautiful landscapes — in every place I have been to so far, I always managed to identify something that stood out, something I had never seen before. Partially because of this, travelling around Europe sparked my intellectual curiosity, encouraging me to start investigating new academic territory like art history and the science of architecture. Another aspect of travel that has always fascinated me is that of cultural exchanges. Through various interactions I have had with people on my travels, I improved my social skills and become more empathetic towards others.

Travel can bolster one’s sense of empathy, whilst also promoting pacifist ideologies. In The Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain warned his readers that, “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Twain, having traversed Europe, the Middle East and the American West, suggests that being exposed to numerous unfamiliar situations and interacting with people of different backgrounds can help broaden one’s horizons and eliminate their vile preconceptions. Personally, I consider my decision to study in the U.S. to be the best one I ever made. Not only was I able to escape from the abysmal educational system of my country, but I also became acquainted with concepts that were completely foreign to me. Being raised in a progressive household in a country with minimal racial diversity is one thing, but seeing first-hand the atrocious nature of institutional racism is something entirely different. I realized that being eyewitness to various social conflicts helped me become aware of my privileges and fight for the rights of those who are less fortunate.

I am convinced that traveling is one of the more powerful antidotes to ignorance and bigotry. The media keep highlighting the differences between us — like language and skin color — and feed off of conflicts that arise because of them. Given the trend toward globalization and the increasing popularity of foreign travel, I sincerely hope that members of future generations will also experience these benefits and be more trusting of and caring towards each other.

 

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