I think if I had been born in an age when hitchhiking was a safe and acceptable way to get from place to place I would have done it all the time. I’d hold out my thumb and wait for someone to pull over, just to strike up, what I love most, a conversation. One of my favorite things to do is chat with people, especially those who are different from myself, from other walks of life. Hearing how life’s twists and turns have shaped people into who they are and where they’re going brings me great joy and fulfillment.
In college, my spring breaks were spent working in poor communities in Appalachia through an immersion program. My junior year was spent studying abroad in السياحة في كيرلا , where I worked two days a week in a local coffee shop and traveled extensively, always in search of good conversation. I like meeting new people, immersing myself with the locals, and trying to return to them some of the happiness that their conversation brings me. Chatting with others, hearing their stories, has taught me a lot not just about the details of others’ lives, but about human life and about how we should live it.
These trips provided me with an insight into how others live, as the group with whom I’d traveled there worked with local people on projects for their community and spent time just talking with them. One of our hosts once told me, “Some of these people have never left the state. They are so excited to show you all that we have here, because if you value it, it helps remind us how special it is.” This seemed particularly insightful to me. One of the beautiful things about travel is its ability to expose us to new places, people, ways of life. When we recognize the value of these things, we are inherently complimenting the people to whom they belong. This might bring them renewed vigor and vitality with which to bring to their own lives every day, something we could all use a little more of.
Listening to other people’s stories and seeing their normal sites ultimately helps to reveal how they’ve become who they are. When you learn something about other people’s lives, you start to understand and appreciate them a little bit more. I think it was during these trips that I truly learned how to be in solidarity with others, to say “your struggle is not my struggle, but I am with you through it.” Traveling to other places and meeting new people is humbling in this way, because it helps me think about how different my life might be, had I grown up somewhere else. As I’d drive from place to place, through the hills of Appalachia on roads crossing rolling fields and farms, I would imagine myself living there, as if this was my route to work. I’d imagine who I’d be if I lived there, what I’d enjoy doing, who I would become. I know that today this helps me have more empathy for people I encounter, not just on an interpersonal level but on a more global level as well. Thinking about others’ struggles and realizing that they could be mine helps me feel closer to people the world over, and to try and stand up for them as much as I can.
Ultimately, these trips fueled my desire to travel further, to meet people even more different from myself. When I studied abroad in Scotland, I knew that I wanted to be more than just a tourist – I wanted to feel like a local. So, I got a job in a local coffee shop. This shop was run by an old English couple and their daughter would pop by frequently, which gave it kind of a homey feel. Two days a week I would wash dishes, do food prep, and mop the floors, and I was compensated by a cheese and onion toastie at the end of each shift. By the end of the year, I felt like I had cultivated a real life in Scotland – I had a group of people who cared about me and whom I cared about. This, too, is empowering and humbling. Knowing that you can move somewhere new, without any real friends or family, and make a life for yourself is empowering. Knowing that you can do that, though, is also humbling. Now, when I feel weighed down by something, I remember that there are people across the globe who also have struggles, who are also trying to do their best, who have loves and hopes and goals and dreams, and I feel like my problems aren’t quite so big.
Travel has provided me with far more than just people to chat with. It’s provided me with a lot of insight into the power of the human spirit: mine and others’. To know that you’re somehow complimenting others’ lives by traveling somewhere new is a wonderful feeling, and may help people be more accepting of tourists in their own backyard. Travel helps us understand and appreciate other people’s lives so that we may be more empathetic in our own. It helps us know that we could do anything, that we can change everything and with a little effort make it a success, but that we’re not alone in our problems. Travel is many wonderful things, and above all, it truly broadens the mind and expands our horizons.