Why I'm Thankful for Travel

As a high school student, I yearned to see more of the world, to experience new cultures, try new activities and foods, and take in beautiful architecture. In just a few short years, my dreams of travel became a reality.

This year, I was fortunate enough to visit eight countries outside of the United States, and I could not be more thankful for the wonderful experiences I had. Last winter break, I took a trip through EF College Break (now called EF Ultimate break) –– and I was lucky enough to start my 2017 in Berlin, Germany. From there I visited Poland, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary. I went to a Christmas market in Berlin, met up with a friend in Warsaw, got the opportunity to visit one of my dream cities (Prague) in the Czech Republic, saw a classical concert in Vienna, and visited the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, among many other wonderful experiences. I also met several other young adults through the trip and had the opportunity to make new friends.

Bear statue in Berlin

In late May, I visited Toronto, Ontario for my sister’s wedding reception. Before the reception, however, my mom and I took a few days to explore the city. I didn’t really know the city, despite the fact that the wedding (which was a few months before) also took place there. I noticed a lot of modern architecture and glass buildings; I found it both similar and different to many major American cities in layout and architecture styles. We also went to a coffee place where they made colorful cappuccinos, and as a coffee lover, I thought that was really cool.

A little peek of the city

From July to August, I studied the Spanish language in Cadiz, Spain. Not only did I take classes, but I lived with a host family and was completely immersed in the culture. My host mother cooked traditional Spanish food from croquetas to empanadas, and I went to a mall in nearby Jerez de la Frontera. Both the food and the cultural experiences were distinctively different from the US, and allowed me to better connect with and understand Spanish culture. I loved exploring the city, also; it has a rich history which dates back to the Phoenicians, and it just so happens to be right on the beach. 

Cadiz from above

When I completed my study program, my parents met me in Spain and we traveled together to Lisbon, Portugal. I instantly fell in love with the city’s steep hills and colorful buildings and was able to pick up some of the language due to its similarities to Spanish. I visited two palaces, one which has been called a sort of “mini Versailles,” and another, a fairytale structure on top of a large hill. I tried pastel de nata, a type of custard pastry Portugal is known for and visited both a monastery and a former convent-turned-restaurant.

One of the first parts of Lisbon I saw.

Each of these places offered a unique, different, and valuable experience. I am so thankful I got to see so much of the world in just a year’s time. The traveling I have been so fortunate to do has fueled a passion for getting to know other countries and cultures. I feel so lucky to know I will be able to reference and hold onto these memories for the rest of my life. If possible, I really recommend traveling to at least one new place each year, because you will learn a lot about not only the world, but yourself. Travel informed and developed my perspective, and I couldn’t be more thankful. 

 

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