A funny thing happens when you travel. Somewhere along the point where you bought a ticket and you post dopey pictures on Facebook, everyone suddenly thinks you’re way cooler.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this. But more than one person, usually people whom I used to be close with but I have grown apart from over the years, have messaged me in some form or another and said something along the lines of, “Glad to see all you have accomplished in life! I’m so proud of you!”
Not that this is a bad thing in the least; I feel very happy and fortunate to not only talk to these people once again, if only for a fleeting moment, and of course be in Italy too and spending my semester across the pond. But one thing that kind of gets to me is this: why is it that travel is what has validated everything else that you have accomplished?
I’m gonna toot my own horn here a little bit- although high school was a lot of fun and I made the best friends I think I will ever have and I really figured out what general direction I wanted to go in during life, I was kind of a mess. I was always upset over this and that, stressed out and sad and making silly teenage drama something of a big deal. College started out rough, but now I feel that I’ve done pretty well for myself: I finished my Honors thesis last year, I will graduate next semester with two minors, and I’ve held various positions in my University from editor-in-chief of the Honors Newsletter, Features editor and Senior editor of our University paper, president of the Honors Student Council, writer for our literary magazine, tutor in computer skills and English, and Supervisor for our alumni contact program of the Annual Fund.
So now I have to ask: why is it that one semester of running around Europe suddenly makes you successful?
Well, it doesn’t. That’s all. Maybe what you have done becomes more visible to people throughout your lame photos that you send to your friends. But the point I’m really getting at here is that you don’t need some obscenely expensive trip to prove you’ve done something or change yourself into someone important.
I think that many of us held the notion that after leaving from our semester abroad, we would be totally different people- enlightened, mature, responsible, independent. Have we retained some of these skills throughout the few short months? Yeah, probably. But I think that in part, they were already there.
So students abroad, don’t fret that you didn’t have some Great Revelation throughout the weeks you were chugging wine on Via del Proconsolo or that you didn’t find yourself within one of the many airports you trekked through. Hell, you could have done those things within the comfort of your room. If everyone at home wants to think that now you’re something great, then let them. But the truth of it is, if you made the conscious decision to abandon your mom, your dog, your comfort, and basically everything else you’ve ever known to hop on a plane with fifteen (or zero) random strangers for three months, you probably weren’t as awful as you thought to begin with.
Pretty sure I was already this weird before I bought a plane ticket.