Why I'm Grateful to Have Traveled Young

Before I was 10 years old, I had already visited 6 countries in Europe and lived in France for 3 months, and since then I’ve visited Ireland, England, Germany, and Croatia.

My dad is a Linguistics professor at UCSC and we were fortunate enough to travel during his sabbatical when I was around 5 and again when I was around 7, and I got to join him in Ireland when I was 16 where he was conducting research on Irish-Gaelic language. I have a million memories from when we traveled across Europe, some more vivid than others. I was young so it’s hard for me to remember everything, but many experiences have left an everlasting impression on me. We visited Italy, Spain, France, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and Poland when I was young. Some trips were a lot longer than others, and I specifically remember our time in France better than anything and dream of returning one day.

I feel extremely grateful to have traveled at a young age, and here are some reasons why.

1. I was exposed to different cultures

Image via Inspires

There are so many cultures out there to experience. I think my feeling of culture shock isn’t as strong as it would’ve been if I hadn’t traveled young. I got accustomed to the acute differences of a culture, and understood that things won’t always be the same as you’re used to. You have to figure things out on your own and fully immerse yourself if you want to understand a particular culture and lifestyle. My mind was opened a little bit more every time I explored a new place and I learned to welcome people, ideas, and customs that were unfamiliar to me. Since I was so young, I was especially amazed by all the new smells, sounds, colors, and environments. It was overwhelmingly fascinating and I feel that I can truly appreciate and respect the variety of cultures there are.


 2. I learned how to travel

Image via Allure

Traveling is no walk in the park. It takes preparation, punctuality, and patience. When we traveled my parents did most of the work like buying tickets, booking hotels, checking luggage, etc. However, we did it so much that eventually I understood the basic rhythm of travel and what you need to be prepared for. Being on a plane didn’t scare me, I knew how to behave, what to do at security, and I quikcly learned that flights can be extremely exhausting. Because of all this exposure to travel, I was able to travel on my own more confidently when I was older. I flew solo to Germany and navigated through a German airport. I also flew back from Croatia alone and have flown to Hawaii solo a couple of times. It gets less scary each time, and I’m proud that I’m able to go through the whole process without much guidance.


 3. It gave me a broader view of the world

Image via Medium

Before traveling, I only knew my hometown of Santa Cruz, Los Altos where my grandma lives, and maybe San Francisco. My world was small, but my imagination was large. I knew there were many places out in the world and that I would one day get to explore them all. I dreamed of going to India to see Bengal Tigers (my favorite animal!) or walk through tropical jungles and beaches. I definitely wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and eat French croissants. When we lived in France for 3 months in a small village called Lourmarin, my whole world was expanded. Suddenly I was in this unfamiliar place where people spoke a beautiful language and the food seemed to be 100 times better. The air was warmer and thicker, the landscape was unlike anything I’d seen before, the music was enchanting, and everything was so different from what I was used to. It was an intense sensory experience. I learned how to order a glass of chocolate ice cream which came in handy many a time: “Je voudrais une glace du chocolat s'il vous plaît!”

I learned just how expansive the world is, and that not every place is going to be alike. You have to keep an open mind and welcome new experiences. It’s also important to be respectful of another culture even when it may feel strange or uncomfortable. Not every experience is positive, but you just have to remain adaptive and see from another culture’s point of view. Patience and kindness are key.


 4. I have memories to look back on

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I’m grateful for the beautiful memories I can look back on, and traveling young is something I’ll never forget (even though it wasn't all positive). I clearly remember getting a horrible case of strep throat AND pneumonia at the same time while we were in France during an intense thunderstorm. A French doctor had to come to our place and tend to me with his first aid kit and I felt like I was dying. I also remember unplugging a huge water fountain with my French friend in the middle of a town square because we thought it would be funny. I remember distinct smells such as lavender fields, fresh paninis being made right below us, the smell of freshly made pastries in a bakery, and much more. I remember the sound of cobblestone pathways and loud vespas. I remember picking out small glass animals to play with at a local market. I remember amazingly loud thunderstorms and warm rain. I remember being eaten alive by mosquitos and hornets in the Italian countryside, a less favorable memory. Thankfully my parents took thousands of pictures so I can remind myself of these experiences that are sometimes fading. However, I look forward to making new memories that I can hold on to. 


5. I’m hungry to see more of the world

Image via Among Other Things

Lastly, traveling made me hungry to see more. I caught the travel bug for sure. Though it can be exhausting and you might get sick, I love it. Packing for a trip is one of my favorite things to do and I usually can’t sleep well the night before out of excitement. Yes, I’ve been immersed in many countries, but most were in Europe and I want to explore other parts of the world too. Some of my tops destinations include Iceland, Greece, and New Zealand. I’d love to go back to Paris and London, see Berlin, Amsterdam, Venice...the list goes on. One of the reasons I love travel is because I'm able to document my experiences with photography. It’s been my passion ever since I got a camera in the 8th grade, so any opportunity to photograph new places I will take. I want to broaden my view of the world even further and learn as much as I can, see as much as I can, and make meaningful connections. 

I urge everyone to take any opportunity they can to travel, no matter where. It’s important to see the world from different perspectives and to learn about cultures that aren’t familiar. It helps you understand how we all interact with one another and thrive in a variety of ways. Traveling can be an eye opening and beautiful experience if you allow yourself to be open. If you have a chance to study abroad while you’re in school, I highly suggest you take advantage of that while you still can! Personally, I'm hoping to study abroad after my senior year to finish some units because I don't want to miss out on that experience. Being able to afford travel can be hard, so any opportunity for cheaper and more convenient travel is truly a blessing.

Bon voyage!