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by Darcey Rydl, news editor

I have been traveling for, honestly, my whole life. According to my parents, the first time I stepped on an airplane, I was six months old. It was naturally ingrained into my soul that I would be the traveler in my family, taking my aunt’s place after she retired from the job. I can proudly say that I’ve stuck true to my job throughout the years, visiting over 30 states. And when all else failed — volleyball, tennis and gymnastics — I was in love with traveling.

It wasn’t until the summer before 8th grade that I went out of the country for the first time (with the exception of Canada, because my grandma lives an hour from there). My family and I went to Australia to visit my aunt’s former exchange student. Don’t get me wrong, traveling in America is remarkable and even indescribable in some places. My mom’s friend once said that she wants to see all that America has to offer before going to other countries. However, when I first stepped onto Bondi Beach in Sydney, I could feel my body absorbing the ocean breeze and hear the surfers, who kept surfing despite the chilly water, calling my name. Maybe it was the awe and excitement of being away from my home, which seemed rather dull, boring and hot at times, but the sense of belonging, freedom and self-identity that I got when I traveled was even more enforced when I was on that beach. I never wanted to leave.

This feeling grew even more when I traveled out of the country without my family for the first time. When I went to Germany to live with a family I’d never met and who spoke a different language from me, I believed I could understand this culture better than my own culture just because it was new, different and interesting.

At times, I compete, unintentionally, with others about how many places I’ve been to, but the true result isn’t the number of places but rather the experiences made at each place. The definition of traveling may be different for me; I used to think traveling was simply going somewhere outside of my hometown. In reality, if we want to experience the true joys of different cultures in this perspective of traveling, we would have to talk to the people and immerse in their experiences instead of just visiting the tourist sites. Whichever  definition of traveling is your cup of tea, I found mine when I stayed with a family from a different country and was able to learn all their culture had to offer. My soul longs to learn about languages and cultures, to not just learn about them but to experience them — I can’t help it. When somebody describes to me the feeling, the simple joy or the sense of belonging they get when they play an instrument, solve a math problem, read a book, write a paper or play a sport, I respond with, “I get that same feeling when I travel.”

That being said, I want to continue to experience other cultures and lifestyles in college (wow, that’s so soon). However, I also understand that “the grass is always greener on the other side” no matter where we go; every place will have its ups and downs. I used to want to go as far away from here as I could, and I used to think college would be the best opportunity for me to finally get out of this place. But then again, I reminded myself that I have never actually been away from my home for over a month consecutively. It irritates me when people are too scared to go anywhere outside their comfort zone, but at the same time, it annoys me when people complain, “I just want to get out of here, go to Europe or something.” As I travel and immerse myself more and more, I see similarities between places. One thing we all have in common is our desire to leave the place that we have lived for the majority of our life and go somewhere interesting and fun. This took me a while to grasp, and I still am trying too, but while I encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone once in a while, I believe we should not forget where we come from either. After all, our different cultures exist because of where we come from. and even if your home may seem dull to you, it will not be to someone else.

Bon voyage!