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Opinion

Notes on travel: why it’s worth the cost

Sophia Koch

April 25, 2018

After graduation this year, I’ll be heading out on what I’m calling the “trans-continental shuttle-run.” Basically, what I intend to do is load myself and my brother into a car, drive to the west coast, drive back, and then drop off my brother and drive to the east coast for an internship.

The trip to the west coast is kind of a dumb move on many fronts. It’s going to be expensive (I sent in my car to the mechanic to make sure it’s not going to blow up, and the bill is going to be $900 before we even hit the road). I have to squeeze the trip in before I have to make it to the other coast, and I’m doing this with my younger brother (we’ll either end up best buds or one of us will kill the other before the end of the trip). Why, then, am I doing this?

Because travel is often worth it.

In recent years, the value of travel has become heavily popularized in the millennial generation. It’s probably summed up best by those sleeveless shirts you see all over the place that usually feature arrows and some variation of the term “wanderlust.”

I’m in favor of this movement. Travel is an important part of figuring out who you are, especially in your twenties when you’re transitioning between high-schooler and adult. It’s an important time to be pushing the limits of what you know, trying out new ways of living and meeting new people. Travel offers you an opportunity to do all that and to possibly find something better that you’d like to pursue.

Or not. You might go out into the world for a bit and discover that you hate traveling, miss the environment back home or just feel unbearably lonely and cut off from the people important to you. That’s an equally important thing to figure out, and it does not mean that you are in any way inferior to the people who enjoy a more nomadic life. It just means that your priorities are elsewhere.

There are some ways to travel that I think are more valuable than others. I personally dislike cruises. This is not to say that they are bad – I’m sure plenty of people enjoy them a lot and feel relaxed and fulfilled after having been on one. As a means for personal growth, though, I don’t think they’re that valuable. You’re basically getting the same experience you’d find at a fancy resort, and they’re designed to make you feel comfortable, not pose some sort of challenge.

A constructive traveling experience is one that really pushes you to think differently. The extreme opposite of a cruise would be one where you get the sudden urge to travel, throw a sleeping bag in a car and head out into the wild world. Though I wouldn’t exactly advise this (it’s nice to find a balance that keeps you comfortable enough to enjoy the travel), this tactic would force you to learn everything on the fly. You’d have to navigate to where you want to go, figure out where to sleep, figure out how to eat, etc. If you’re determined enough to keep going, you’ll end up a more resourceful person.

You might, in your travels, also run into people and environments that differ very much from your own. You’ll have to figure out how to be polite in an alien culture (or not bother and risk being kicked out of town). You might have to contend with different environmental challenges (fun and interesting parasites like the Amazonian candiru, for example). You might also find something – a town, a clothing style, a job or a person – that you like so much that you want to make it a permanent part of your life.

Travel, as cliché as it is, is an opportunity to find yourself. If you do it right, you might end up a little smarter, a little more resourceful or you might just figure out where your priorities in life are. It will probably be expensive, time-consuming and a bit uncomfortable, but it’s very much worth it.

Also – if you’re brave, I dare you to look up the Amazonian candiru.

Sophia Koch is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

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