\ “Traveling: it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Batutta \
I caught the travel bug in college.
My family traveled while I was growing up, but I was 21 when I first went abroad. I spent a month in the United Kingdom with my sister and some college classmates. The excitement of traveling without parents and exploring new countries on the other side of the world from my home in Texas lit a fire for adventure and exploration that changed my life. My passion for new places and new histories has only grown and each trip changes the way I experience the world.
As I have explored more and more new places (inside and outside the United States), I have exponentially expanded my understanding of the value of travel. Far beyond seeing the sights in an unfamiliar place, the value I find in travel is transformative: the opportunity to find a new part of yourself.
I am a firm believer in a simple truth: every new place you visit stays with you. This inherently means the places you visit become a part of who you are and broaden your world view.
When I was in Ireland as a college student in 2011, I had the quintessential experience of gaining a new perspective. My perception of the country and what I thought I knew about its history was completely turned on its head when I visited Northern Ireland. Among other things, I learned about the still very real religious conflicts. That knowledge was compounded when I saw a literal wall dividing the city of Londonderry: one side the Protestant neighborhoods and the other the Catholic neighborhoods. One section of the wall backed up against a neighborhood and the houses visible from the road had chain-link roofs over their backyards (what looked like cages) because, according to our local guide, teens had made a habit of throwing all manner of objects into the backyards directly against the wall for decades.
The knowledge of this divide was compounded by the feeling of surreal disconnect as I watched a (peaceful) protest from the upstairs window of a pub in Belfast a few days later. A group of Protestant protesters decked out in orange advanced down the street toward a group of Catholic protesters clad in green. The long history of the Troubles in Northern Ireland jumped out of a history book larger than life and represented the first fundamental change I experienced from travel.
The hunger for more transformative experiences after this trip has been insatiable. I had so many exhilarating experiences, leaping outside of my comfort zone time and time again and my “Must See” list grows daily as I learn more about any number of histories or places. I have made a point to travel as much as possible since completing my degrees and I still haven’t made a dent in my list. So I live vicariously through the experiences of my friends, family, and co-workers who share my passion.
So the pose the question to you: Have you experienced transformative travel? If so, what was your primary take-away from your experiences?