After traveling around Italy, France, and Spain for the past month, I have truly grown as a person. There’s a quote that says, “Travel is the only thing you buy, that makes you richer.” I whole heartedly believe in that statement. I’ve always been firm on believing that money does not make you happy. Granted, it’s needed to live and survive/do what you’d like to do, but it’s definitely not the end all be all in life. America has this way about it that’s based on this fictitious “American dream.” Over the years, this so-called “dream” has just become a euphemism to say, “get rich or die trying.” Ironically, I’m not BUYING it. Since America was born without a real cultural identity, it grew out of a staggering amount of tragedy and a false sense of superiority. So, we have created a society that values cars, clothes, and status symbols over a life filled with community, love, care, and kindness. Of course, these same pervasive values are seen in European culture to an extent, but as I was walking around the beautiful cobblestone streets, I felt a sense of history, culture, art, and community. People sit at cafes for hours conversing with one another, eating slowly, and enjoying their conversations. I am really not trying to romanticize this reality, but rather make it clear that there is a stark difference when crossing the ocean. Cell phones and tablets have become appendages, text messaging has replaced verbal communication, and eye contact is something that children almost seem to fear nowadays in California. I say California because I haven’t been to all the states, but of all the states that I have been to in America, this epidemic is real and exponentially growing.
Nonetheless, my month abroad has taught me many valuable lessons. I truly do believe that there’s no better way to learn about life, history,culture, art, and people than to venture outside of your borders, both literally and figuratively. Putting down my phone for longer than I have for a while and being away from a computer allows for the time to experience moments and emotions in a different way. There are certain very important things in life, many of which are realized by seeing different parts of the world and being entirely present. The journey has contributed to the immense gratitude I feel to have what I have. I am not talking about the tangible objects in my possession, but rather, I am just thankful to be able to see, touch, taste, feel, hear. The opportunities I’ve worked for, including: getting an education, traveling outside of America, and meeting people along my path have been imperative in shaping the person I am today and the person I am becoming. I know that I have a purpose, and there’s something out there waiting for me to be able to give back and make a difference. Everyone that crosses our path gives meaning to our life and teaches us a lesson. This past month has probably been the best and most liberating month of my life. There’s an art in being able to decide what to take seriously and what to forget about. There’s beauty in understanding that you are a very small piece of a large, moving puzzle. And, there’s peace in realizing that sometimes the best way to grow is to let go of wanting to be in control, and instead following what feels right at the time, in the present moment without any worry about the future.