Yes, I am not naïve enough to trust every person that I meet. Yet, I am constantly humbled and surprised by the goodness that has come my way every single day that I spent in a country other than my own. People didn’t need to help me; they didn’t need to give me directions or point me to someone who knows the answer, especially when I am clearly a foreigner. But they took a minute to care for me, and it made all the difference. Yes, I did meet those few humans who were disgruntled, annoyed, angry, and callous. However, they were few and far between; the kind, generous, and inspiring ones were more far more numerous and truly made me remember their kindness.
I believe that travel teaches tolerance.
No one is perfect, not even the conductors of trains or the pilots of trains. Nothing is always on time, and tickets don’t always give you the right to overrule the old lady who took your seat next to the window. At one point or another, you will be sardined in a subway or stuck next to that annoying guy who yells into the phone for 20 minutes straight. You learn to put your ipod in and read a book. You also learn to let go of the little things. If you travel with a partner, you aren’t always going to agree on how to get back to the hostel the fastest, what your favorite city is, or if it is worth it to buy yet another leather purse. But, you compromise and become more open-minded because throwing a fit or crawling in a corner to cry will not make this trip any better. You even learn to laugh- at yourself and the entire ridiculous situation- which makes everything more tolerable anyway. And if none of that works, try your hardest to break through the wall to get what you want.
Traveling is exhausting. The grime builds up, your shoes fall apart, and your body hates you for waking up at all different times. Why is it worth it to see a million art pieces and sift through streets full of strangers if there is no friendly face at the end of the tunnel? I couldn’t tell you the name of half of the fountains in Rome or recap the number of artists I saw in the Louvre. But, I could tell you about a boy from Brown who showed us the best apertivo in Bologna and a friend in Rome who explained all the buildings in the forum Those people changed my vision; they made me see the city from a viewpoint that was much deeper than surface level, and made me appreciate the effects of people who live there which were not deemed great enough to be housed in a museum.
I believe in food.
There is a reason why books like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Eat, Pray, Love are best seller for all ages: they are centered around food. Everyone eats it, everyone talks about it, everyone integrates it into their day. Whether you have a vendetta with it or not, you can’t go very long without begrudgingly giving into your food cravings. It is the one thing that can transport you back to your grandmas kitchen or make you want to share it with a new friend. It holds passion, memories, new inventions, and creativity all in one bite. It is always in fashion. Perhaps this is why there is not one other single thing on the planet that embodies culture better than food. The smell, look, touch, and taste of it tells you so much about the people, the land, the philosophy, and the art so much so that going to museums seems irrelevant after eating something so miraculous. And after you’ve eaten it, you feel like you are embodying the culture. What more could a traveler want?
I believe in being thankful.
The most useful words that I learned throughout my travels has been please and thank you. Sil vous plait, merci, per favore, grazie, prego. Even the French, who are notoriously known for being snooty and only helping those who speak French, are unbelievably nice as soon as you use those words. There is something about being polite that humbles us, and makes us worthy of help.
So, hail travelers, full of grace, may friends be with you. Blessed are you among good company, and blessed is the food that you eat, salute! I pray for your awesome experiences and your safe journeys now and at all hours. Amen.