By Austin Andersen
As the temperatures remain low and mid-term exams take their toll on both body and soul, I wanted to embark on an exercise of mine that gets me through the toughest of times.
That, of course, is ruminating on the beautiful and inspiring gift that is travel. If there is one thing in this world I live for, it is experiencing this world in its rawest form.
People seem to be intimidated by travel, thinking that it is dangerous, uncomfortable and expensive. However, it doesn’t have to take this negative form.
Travel can mean making one’s way to the furthest boundaries of our physical Earth, but it can also mean getting off one’s ass to take a walk off campus.
In its very essence, travel means putting yourself in a situation you have never been in before, talking to people you never thought existed and, most importantly, unearthing the slightest segment of your being you otherwise did not know was there.
In nostalgically submitting a piece of my writing to The Aleph that captured my end-of-summer hitchhiking adventures down to Mexico, I once again felt that long-dormant yet familiar itch to travel.
This itch, which only grows to irritation if left unscratched, has led me to situations of extreme enlightenment, but also landed me in situations of extreme question.
Travel is how I best make sense of the world that surrounds me, as it fine-tunes my perspective both inward and outward. I don’t want to say it is an escape, because there is nothing that I am running from.
For the sake of this article however, it helps me determine what really matters to me in this world. Travel, if done correctly, cleanses the soul and fosters a fresh outlook on life, but I feel that many here at Union are reluctant to take that step into the unknown.
On a campus such as Union’s, it is very easy to become complacent and comfortable in one’s current situation. It is easy to become resigned and indifferent as to what is going on in the greater world around oneself. I realize how tantalizing a drunken frat-row party can be to some people, but that doesn’t mean it has to be one’s sole weekend revelry during one’s four years of higher education. I am confident in saying that my best times at Union have been when my friends and I have taken to the road, leaving campus in our dust. However, true satisfaction, as far as travel is concerned, is epitomized by the Term Abroad experience.
My official study abroad experience culminated this past spring where I spent 10 weeks in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was a tough decision for me to leave campus, especially for spring term, but it had to happen sooner or later.
Of course, as I applied and was ultimately accepted into my South American experience, I had my doubts and reservations. One can say that it was the fear of missing out that got the best of me.
I was going to be leaving the beautiful people I surround myself with for spring term, by far the best ten weeks at Union. That meant no Spring Fest, no Alumni weekend, no lounging out with the people I love on sun-kissed quads or in Jackson’s Garden. However I knew deep down inside that the benefits of 10 weeks exploring Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil would pale in comparison with what I would soon learn about myself and the world around me. Looking back now a little more than a year after I embarked on this adventure, I could not have been more right.
So what is the point I am trying to make? Whatever the circumstances, whenever the opportunity, no matter how much you feel like you are taking a step into the unknown, don’t think twice, just go for it. Whether that is for a 10-week study abroad or a weekend spirited away from campus, it will be a decision you will look back on with confident assurance that you did the right thing.
So, what does travel mean to me? It is cruising over the Vermont border at dawn’s first light, a steaming cup of coffee awakening me for the morning chairlift ride as fresh powder awaits. It is late nights of guitar-playing and bon-fires while on beaches ranging from New Jersey to San Francisco.
It is paddling into the waves of Baja Mexico, accompanied by a pod of playful porpoises. It can mean clubbing amongst thousands in Buenos Aires, or it can mean lounging on the golden sands of Rio de Janeiro. It can mean being confused and intimidated or inspired and enlightened.
At the end of the day, travel is what you make of it, and that, my friends, is an art worth living for.