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Where I Want to Go This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” - St. Augustine
Eyes closed, the soft skin on the very tip of my finger skidded across the surface of the globe, anticipating each new bump, groove, and smooth area as the tilted sphere slowed to a stop. I eagerly opened my eyes and looked where my finger had landed, slightly disgusted by the dust I had gathered. Each time I gingerly place my pointer finger on the globe and repeat the process, my final destination has changed. Kalabo, Zambia. Santa Clara, Cuba. Kunming, China. Some places I have never heard of, but I wish for the coveted chance to visit them when I grow up. If we do not travel, we miss out on many worthwhile opportunities.
It’s only a matter of time after I meet an adult until I am bombarded with the question, “So, Meagan, what do you want to be when you grow up?” This is the question of choice at family get-togethers, often asked by the same person who articulated the “My, how much you’ve grown.” It’s not a difficult one, but for me it is more of what I want to do rather than be. What I want to do is travel.
Travel is a wonderful way to accomplish so many goals - travel connects us to our past, helps us understand our fellow human beings, and offers a new point of view. Personally, I feel obliged to be connected to others either living or from another time, because of the world we’ve shared.
Many today probably feel distanced, disillusioned, and dissatisfied with how little they know of their history. Travel can bridge the gap between fantasy and reality, or family folklore and its reality. What better way to gain understanding of ancestors - the lives they led and possibly why they left that world behind to come to America - than visiting the actual place where they lived? Connecting to the past may seem clichéd, but insights into heritage and culture are invaluable.
Connections can also be made between cultures, helping us to accept others who may seem different. If we can learn to coexist peacefully with someone who grew up halfway around the world, imagine how much energy and time we could save accepting those in our own town or school. We all need love, friendship, laughter, and tears to make us human. Immersing yourself in a different culture is an excellent way to discover the common denominators that connect us.
Regardless of where you come from, everyone should be proud of their heritage, focus on their family, and hope for a better tomorrow. Regardless of where you live, a mother’s love is still a mother’s love, though it may be a million miles from your home. Regardless of where you are, a smile is a universal sign of happiness everyone understands. As humans, these connections are precious, and when we can unearth them through travel, relating them to the most rudimentary fibers of our being, we can view our fellow people as more similar than different.
Yet the most indispensable and significant aspect of travel is the potential of a different point of view. Looking at something in a new light not only alters our perceptions, but allows us to become well-rounded, free of stereotypes and prejudices. Knowing about the world and its mysteries is crucial to bridging the gap between past and present, misconceptions and fact.
It may seem a bit absurd that I am writing about travel when I have done little myself. I am not fully satisfied with what little I have seen of the vast world. How can I preach to others the incredible benefits when I have never experienced them myself?
Not traveling, however, has made me acutely aware of the world I experience by hearing others talk about their journeys. I absorb their conversations and tuck them away, like a present hidden in a closet on Christmas Eve. Whenever I need an encouraging thought to motivate me for the challenges of everyday life, I simply unwrap this small gift someone unknowingly gave me, and I am instantly optimistic about what the future will hold.
I have images of a lake in Vienna, wrapped in red and green striped paper and tied with a crinkling bow, given to me by a friend who traveled through Europe last summer. I have a beautiful picture, painted by my grandmother, of a little brick village where the houses sit on cliffs by the sparkling ocean in Italy, like eagles’ nests. This is in a tissue-stuffed bag with a festive ribbon on top. I can almost hear the waves breaking and feel the merciless heat of the Mediterranean sun. One of my favorite gifts is a foliage-filled snapshot of a Costa Rican jungle. I can sense the fear and awe as my grandfather encounters a hungry crocodile on the banks of a river. This image, along with the others, are mine whenever I choose to open them.
Opening these presents in my mind is fine for now, but someday I hope to wrap and share my own gifts. Hopefully I will have read more than a page of the world’s book when all is done.
“Meagan, what are you planning to be when you grow up?” I hear a familiar voice ask.
“Well, it’s not so much what I want to be, and more of where I want to go.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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