What I Learned When I Traveled the World this Summer

This summer I traveled over 10,000 miles to the other side of the world—to Singapore, where my mother’s family lives—and then took the long way home through Europe. Traveling opens you up to experiences you never get at home; perhaps it was because this summer I am at an impressionable age, or the fact that I traveled with my younger sister or simply because it was a darn good trip, but this particular vacation left an impact on me that I had never felt before.

Always travel with a change of clothes: I cannot stress this one enough. You might swear that you’ll never miss a plane, but even if you arrive at the airport four hours early, you have no control over outside influences. The weather could act up and delay your flight, causing you to miss your connection, even after you run across the airport. If—like mine—the next available flight isn’t going to be there ‘till the following day, you’re going to have to spend the night in a strange city. This is why you need to be prepared. At the very least, your carry-on should have a change of underwear. In similar vein, remember to always keep essentials in your bag—I recommend at the very least some painkillers and deodorant.

Be open to new experiences: This is such a broad, all-encompassing statement, but it is one that holds true. You won’t get the most out of traveling if you are not willing to step outside your comfort zone. This means trying new food—that weird Southeast Asian spiky fruit that smells like garbage? Go ahead and take a bite. Performing a lip sync to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” in front of 300 people for a wedding? Why not? Talk to people you normally wouldn’t get to know, go to places you don’t think you’d go to otherwise, and open up your mind to what the world has to offer.

Get in touch with your roots: If you know where your ancestors came from, I recommend taking a trip to that particular country. Whether you still have relatives living there or your family’s been in the United States for generations, it’s still a remarkable experience to get in touch with your roots. See the places that your ancestors grew up in, try the food the way it was meant to be served, learn about cultural traditions that your family may have forgotten. It’s important and definitely makes you feel complete.

Family matters: The vacation I took was very family-orientated. There were times where I was reunited with family members I had not seen for years, but we laughed and talked like we hadn’t been separated at all. I told them what America was like and they told me how their countries were different. I stepped away from the experience feeling like I just met dozens of friends that I somehow already had. But reconnecting with distant relatives wasn’t the only family appreciation I gained. I spent a long time traveling alone with my younger sister, whom I have not spent a lot of time with since going to college. We roamed London, missed our flight, took a bus to Vienna, and really bonded. If you’re traveling with family, it’s an experience that’ll make you feel even closer.

Take a moment to appreciate: I understand that I am incredibly privileged to have traveled the world like I did. If you find yourself watching a beautiful sunset in a foreign country where you don’t know the language, take a moment to let it all sink in. You have had the fortune of going on a wonderful vacation, it is beautiful and this world is a fantastic place, with new discoveries around every corner. Watch the sunset and just remember that you are part of this wonderful world.

 

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