“Why do you travel? What is the point?”
Shocked, I stared across the table at my friend who had just asked this seemingly absurd question. I thought the answer was obvious.
It is no secret that I love to travel, and my year studying abroad in Germany solidified that desire in me. I am one of the first, last and loudest advocates of adventures. Traveling not only promotes enjoyment and personal growth, but also has a positive and measurable effect on one’s health.
According to the U.S. Travel Association, an annual vacation can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 50 percent. Additionally, homemakers who vacation every six years or more have twice the risk of heart attacks or coronary death compared to those who vacation at least two times a year. Alternatively, blood pressure, heart rate and levels of the stress hormone epinephrine are reduced after only a couple of days of vacation.
Micheal Hodin, the executive director of Global Coalition on Aging, predicts that traveling may be prescribed by doctors in the years to come, just as diet and exercise are prescribed today. Currently, the U.S. Travel Association is conducting more studies to observe additional benefits of traveling on personal health.
“But why do you travel?” my friend continued. “What do you personally gain from it? I mean, in Europe the countries and cultures are similar; when you have seen one city, you have seen them all. So what is the point of going somewhere new? Is it really worth the money and time you spend just to say you have traveled to so many countries?”
At that point, I began to understand his underlying question, and I agree with his premise. If one visits new places just to take pictures and check destinations off a list, it is rather pointless. Traveling then becomes only a matter of pride at having visited numerous places, and not about interacting with others.
My reasons for traveling are not simply to tell someone that I have been somewhere. I do not travel for the photo opportunities or the greatest collection of passport stamps, although those are exciting. Instead, traveling allows me to immerse myself in a new culture — to experience the sights, smells, tastes, languages, mindsets, histories, hopes, dreams and ideas of those outside my comfort zone. It teaches lessons that do not exist in textbooks and is a rare gift that opens the traveler to both the world and oneself.
Traveling gives a dual appreciation of the vast world and one’s cozy home. It is a rich experience and gives something that cannot be bought: a unique perspective and understanding of the world. It is a black swan moment at its finest — a journey full of unexpected and impossible adventures that simultaneously transform and reveal what you had and were capable of the whole time.
Growth is connected with moving into bigger spaces, and what better way to grow mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually than to create those opportunities to expand your horizons? If you challenge yourself, step outside your comfort zone, or seek to understand another perspective — how can you not gain valuable gifts? What could be better?
Traveling enriches one’s worldview and broadens horizons. It is not an action contained within itself, but one that lives beyond the photographs and memories. This is why I travel, and this is why I believe others should take the opportunity to travel as well.
Our time as university students allows us to learn, explore, discover and grow. What better way to meet that goal than by taking the opportunity to study abroad? Troy University offers numerous study abroad opportunities for students to take a step outside their normal stomping grounds. I went to Germany, but there are several other options available, including trips to Costa Rica, Scotland and the Netherlands, to name a few. Odds are, you might get the travel bug, too.
Theresa Kiernan is a senior communication major from New Hampshire. She has participated in Troy study abroad program to various countries.