For those of you who follow me on Instagram you know that I just returned from an 8 week adventure in Europe. In those 8 weeks I visited 11 different countries and learned 11 new cultures. (The countries I visited were England, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Denmark.)
The most amazing thing about this journey was experiencing the lifestyles of different people. Each country that I visited had their own unique history, their unique beliefs, and their unique way of life.
If you have the opportunity to travel I would highly recommend doing it as soon as you can and as often as you can.
Traveling is a very important thing for the human mind and the human soul.
Staying in one place for your whole life is like trapping your mind in a box. You expose it to only one way of life and one way of thinking and one way of existence. You teach your mind to do as everybody else around you are doing because that is all that you know.
You need to let your mind out of the box. You need to expose it to different cultures and to different ways of life.
Each place that I have traveled to in my life (whether it be around the United States, Mexico, Canada, Africa, or Europe) has exposed my mind to something new. New cultures have uncovered flaws that I was exposed to while my mind was trapped in the box, but they have also revealed to me some amazing things that were in that box.
There are positives and negatives in every culture. That is why traveling is so important.
The more we travel, the more we can teach other of the successes that we have discovered and the quicker we can fix the flaws in society.
A quick example of a cultural difference that I experienced happened in Gaborone, Botswana. The people of Botswana are extremely relationship oriented while, on the other hand, the United States are very time oriented. So, for comparison sake, let's say there is a Botswana man and an American man who both have meetings at 11:30. The current time is 11:15 and both of these men are deep in conversation. The Botswana man will continue this conversation until the conversation comes to a natural ending, even if that takes them until 12:15. He will then go to his meeting late. The American man, however, will end the conversation right there, because he has a meeting he needs to get to.
Now, there is no right or wrong culture when it comes to this situation, there is only a personal preference. For the first couple weeks this cultural change was very difficult for me to get used to, but once I really thought about this cultural change I really came to appreciate it. It really got me thinking about how much we, as Americans, are so fast paced that we often neglect relationships. So this experience has taught me to live more in the moment with a person. Take advantage of the time you have with the people you love, don't be in such a rush to get on to the next meeting.
Because I traveled and experienced new cultures I was able to grow in this way.
Experiencing new cultures can also reveal to you some amazing things in your culture that you may have always taken for granite.
An example of this was taught to me in Italy. There is a huge difference in restaurant experiences in the United States and restaurant experiences in Italy. In the United States restaurants offer you free water, often free bread or chips, and they even offer free restrooms. In Italy, on the other hand, they rarely offer you any of these things. But that was the least of the differences. The main difference in these experiences were the behaviors of the waiters towards the customers. In the United States waiters are taught to treat you with respect, patience, and hospitality. In Italy, however, waiters seemed to be taught to treat you with hostility, anger, and pure evilness. I spent in total 2 weeks in Italy, and I think only one or two waiters treated me like an actual human being, the rest all treated me like an unwanted rat who just snuck into their kitchen.
Because of this experience I am able to more appreciate the service we have in the United States and I now have a better understanding on how important treating humans with respect is.
Each place that I travel to has revealed to me more and more what is important to me and what isn't so important.
Rome and Athens are two cities that I visited that were filled with some of the most important moments in ancient humanity. Each of these cities are filled with ruins from those ancient cities. The Parthenon, the Colosseum, the agoras, the columns, the statues all stand high continuing to represent the beginning of civilized humanity.
Each of these monuments represent a development in humanity that progressed us to the humans that walk around the earth today. What I found the most interesting was that very few of these architects, sculptures, and inventors are known today. Yet their contributions to humanity echo still to this day. Because of their movement towards a civilized city we are no longer cave men, but instead are city men. But, again, their names are not written down in the history books. Their posters aren't on our walls. Their names aren't written on history tests or on the cover of "US Weekly." No, they have been forgotten, but their contributions to humanity will live on forever.
This was the most important revelation for me on this entire trip. My name does not need to be remembered. For all I care, after my death my name never needs to be uttered again. The important thing in life is contributing to humanity. Contributing to pushing humanity towards the future. Your name doesn't need to live on forever, as long as your contribution towards humanity does live forever.
There is so much to learn by traveling the world and experiencing new things.
You can read books, you can look at pictures, you can read my blog, but you can never fully understand until you experience it. Reading Anne Frank's diary can reveal to you how blessed you are to live the life you live, but walking around her actual bedroom and seeing with your own eyes how small of a room she was trapped in for two years is much more eye opening than her diary can ever be. You can learn about the Holocaust in history class, but nothing will compare to walking through the gas chambers and staring into the furnaces in the cremation room at Dachau.
I can sit here and tell you about the unbelievable beauty that is the Cliffs of Moher. Or I can tell you about the complete tranquility you experience while sitting in Zaanse Schans watching windmills collect wind. But you will never truly understand what I mean unless you experience it for yourself.
It's a big world. Go discover it.