Travel enriches lives

  • Published
  • By Michela Branch
  • USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
I have never met someone who regretted traveling. In fact, their only regret was that they failed to travel more during their time overseas because travel made them a different person than they were before they left.

As I look back on my past experiences as a whole, one fact stands out above the rest: traveling has shaped the person I am today.

Throughout my life as a military child I have had to move every few years, making me no stranger to the prospect of travel. As a child, I remember my parents gathering me and my younger brother and sweeping us away to some distant place for the weekend. I grew tired of constantly traveling as a family. I could not understand its importance.

However, as a teenager who has lived overseas for the majority of her life, I now appreciate the importance of seeing the world.

Traveling has an impact on a person, whether they are a child, a teenager or an adult. Visiting historical sites, experiencing different cultures firsthand and talking with locals of my travels have all played a role in shaping my character and outlook on the world. These experiences have contributed to my understanding of how the world works, history and my role in it all. They have also enabled my openmindness, eliminating assumptions and prejudices concerning cultures and groups of people.

Understanding and experiencing different cultures shapes character, regardless of whether or not a particular culture is one a person is used to. For example, when I moved to Turkey I was thrust into a culture far different than the one I was accustomed to. I was not accustomed to bartering for goods, going to the local markets or witnessing the burning of crops. However, experiencing a different culture firsthand and seeing people content with what little they had allowed me to become a person who wants to help others at every possible opportunity. As I look back on my experiences, the most memorable ones were not those that involved seeing major historical sites like the Eiffel Tower or the Coliseum, but those that involved conversations with the local people and gaining more knowledge of a their cultures.

Spending time in different places allow me to understand history better than ever before. There is an immense difference between reading about history in a textbook and actually standing in the places where the historical events took place.

It makes me sad to hear others speak about traveling as if it were only a dream.

If visiting or even living in Europe or any other country is only a dream to most people, those living on a military base overseas should make the most of the opportunities available to them.

So my advice to living overseas for a short period of time is to get out of the bubble of the base or military community you live in.  Expand your horizons and embrace other cultures.

Go see the world during your time overseas. Take advantage of the opportunities available to you whenever you can.