The Importance of World Travel

March 6, 2010
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Mr. and Mrs. Jones have resided in Nowhere, New Jersey their whole lives. They watch football, shop at Wal-Mart and eat at Taco Bell. Their kids are receiving the typical American education and scheduled in numerous activities 5-days a week. Juggling between Susie’s cheerleading and little Andrew’s soccer often gets stressful for stay-at-home-mom Sally. Father Mark works late at the office on a regular basis. They live in a large house in a cul-de-sac, which looks like all the others on the street. The neighbors that reside in those “cookie-cutter” houses are just like the Jones family. The kids, and parents alike, have been friends since they all moved there two years ago, when the trees were cut down and the houses appeared from what seemed like nowhere.


Out of the blue, Sally received an email from “Working Mothers” magazine. (Isn’t being a Mom a job in it’s self nowadays?) She was ready to delete the pesky message, Just junk mail, she thought to herself as she moved the cursor across the glowing screen. Sally accidentally opened the email to see large text appear, “You’ve won an all expense paid tour of Europe compliments of ‘Working Mother’…” An excited shriek escaped her dry lips as Sally reached for her cell phone to text Mark. I’d call, but he’s in a meeting with a client, she thought.


That “gift” changed their outlook forever. The Jones family evolved how they lived, to fit the amazing journey they had. They now eat organic food, watch less TV, read more books, spend time as a family and moved to a smaller home. Mark got a lower-level, less pressured job at his company to spend more time at home and Sally works at the local library for more financial support. Andrew and Susie make fewer commitments, and the parents are saving for the next trip. Don’t they seem European? Maybe that slower way of life should be embraced by modern Americans?


Foreign travel has affected my state of mind and my family’s way of life. Last spring, we traveled to London and Paris for two weeks. We had wondered, even before the trip, if our way of living differed from fellow families we knew. And we observed we had a lot more in common with the families “across the pond”, than we thought prior to our journey.


In my home, just like the Europeans, we take things slowly. Lazy Summer days are spent rowing around the pond, hiding in the storage barn, hanging from the jungle gym, and reading on the porch sipping cool drinks. On weekends, Dad tends to the lawn, Mom finishes her latest novel, and little sister Chloe and I ride bikes down our country road. I “hang out” with my family, more than my friends, on those hot summer nights because our home is in the woods. The trees block out road noise and other people. The property is our own little world when school isn’t in session; we’re free to live without modern interruption that spoils simple fun. Who says smoky campfires and gooey smores are limited to RV travels? Bug catching and chalk art are only for elementary recess fun? And a blanket spread on green grass, welcoming you to a meal, can only be enjoyed in the city park? I love my iPod, don’t get me wrong, but I believe my family’s way of life is slower and more fulfilling than the average Jones family’s. Our eyes were opened even farther last spring when we realized that there are whole societies that function like our home; I wish everyone could see these cultures for themselves.


In Paris and London things run slow and fast at the same time. There are cars buzzing and corporate buildings, but dig deeper and you’ll find little cafés, local grocers and women walking toddlers in strollers. Everything runs slower and everyone seems happier. No words are muttered such as “stressed” or “swamped” and no one rushes through errands. Thirty minute lunches are a foreign concept to Parisians and four o’clock tea time would never be missed by the average Londoner. The people of these cities let off a vibe of simple satisfaction. People truly enjoy the gift of time.


Seeing how similar my “abnormal” American lifestyle and the “normal” lifestyle of a European compared, made me feel personally connected to these far away countries. Though I walked the streets completely anonymous, I felt like one of the locals. I wondered if people saw my family and thought “American” or “Tourist”. Though I am American, I felt as though that European experience made me more of a local, able to connect myself with the people of London and Paris, a “regular”.


Why should people experience foreign travel, especially as young as me? The connection with the locals and the understanding of European culture opened a whole new spectrum of learning. Now, during a lesson in any subject, I can relate it to myself. Geography… I know exactly what the European countryside looks like. Literature… I understand the culture of the people in the novel. Art… I saw Monet’s “Liles” and Mona Lisa’s famous grin. History…I know all about the monarchy, let me tell you. Language…I can survive and thrive in a city full of confusing new dialect.


These connections had broadened my outlook in a million directions. A deeper understanding of other people’s culture and diverse lifestyles not only increased my respect for other countries, but sparked a deepening curiosity to know more about them. If other Americans could see the importance of distant lands that feel so far away, and even open their hearts to learn from them, we’d be a different nation. If everyone gained the experience I have, those places, too far off to conceive, would then become a perceptible resource for growth and change for our whole country.



As American teenagers, we stay in our little pockets of suburbia, and never fully experience life. We can access information about other countries with the simple click of the mouse. We can read about nations in our history books, watch the latest headlines on the news, and even admire views in movies shot in faraway places. But, with these simple modern conveniences can we truly appreciate all a diverse culture has to offer? No matter how many articles you read and history you learn, there is no personal connection with foreign countries. Not until you step on the soil of that overseas land, talk to the people, touch the history can you create an intimate relationship with the culture, and feel like a “regular”. To the dismay of my generation, none of this can be done virtually, and no television program can create a bond with a culture. It’s only when you’re the foreigner, the lost one, can you appreciate the differences between cultures. At least once in everyone’s life, they should experience this travel which bridges barriers, broadens prospective and establishes mutual respect.





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Just_elena said...
Mar. 11, 2010 at 3:14 pm
really well written and i totaly agree on your views here! :)
 
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