Many of the readers that find their way to these pages love to travel. I think “loving travel” can mean different things to different people. Susan loves to travel – being able to get in the car and go for a Sunday drive is the best feeling in the world. David loves to travel – he packs a backpack and takes off for the mountains, he has made a goal to climb a different mountain every summer. Rachel loves to travel – she signed up to study abroad for a semester at university in Avignon, France.
The point is, there are many types of travel. Travel is the act of going from one place to another .. but how far / how long / how often do you have to go to qualify to be well-traveled? Is it like airline miles? The more you have the more elite your status. Is there a fiscal tie-in? The more you spend or scoring the cheapest deal wins you the heavyweight belt. I don’t think so.
I would argue that the degree of your well-traveled-ness is not measured by the number of stamps in your passport. Just because you’ve been to 12 countries and I’ve been to 10 doesn’t mean you are more well-traveled than I am. Being well-traveled is a state of mind. What did you accomplish when you set out on your travels today? Maybe you found a new place to call home, or maybe you simply made it home after a trip. You’re traveling, either way.
For example. I’m an American, born and raised in the great Northeast in these United States. I’ve seen the Northeast, no problem. One of my best friends lives in Texas, so I’ve been there. Furthest west? Arizona. Furthest south? Florida. Furthest north? Maine. But do you know I’ve only seen 18 states? That’s nothing! One of the highlights of moving to the Midwest is a chance to see all of these places I’ve never been before. It’s a funny feeling to be sitting in a café in Vienna when a random stranger finds out you are from America and raves about a) the Grand Canyon, b) Yellowstone, c) California and I’ve never been to any of them!
Language acquisition and immersion are big buzz words in the field of study abroad. I was part of a spectacular workshop this past spring in Madrid and we talked about what immersion really is. You can’t put a person in a foreign country and call that immersion. The person needs some sort of interaction with the place, via it’s people, it’s culture. This can be related to language acquisition, as it was in my case. My host family in Spain? Zero English ability. My Spanish? Improved in a big way, and in a hurry. This is immersion at it’s finest – when your surroundings demand your attention.
So what am I saying? You can travel by car, by plane, or from your couch. The brightest and best souvenir you bring home from any voyage, trip or expedition is .. knowledge. About yourself, about your surroundings, about others. It doesn’t matter if you are an inch or a mile out or your comfort zone. Just go!