Thinking of spending some quality time with a Playstation 3? Forget it. Or how about watching a potpourri of reality shows on your 50-inch plasma? Forget that too. Planning to just party, party and party some more this summer? Vote no on that.
Whether you plan on it or not, traveling abroad is something that should be a to-do list topper this summer, and with exchange rates having leveled off and airfare getting more and more affordable every day, the world is as accessible now as ever.
Growing up in a household with an ambitious mother not only altered my personal goals but also reaffirmed my duty as a citizen of this world.
Nevertheless, the vision of travel my mother saw for me was soon realized three years into my high school career.
Munich, Budapest, Prague and Bratislava. Where were these places? And more importantly, why should I care about countries that are nowhere near me?
The question I now ask myself is “why didn’t I care about them sooner?”
The evening that I stepped off that arduous Delta flight to Munich was the dawn of a life-changing experience that can only be expressed through the beauty of Vienna and the ghettos of Prague.
But for some reason, being across the Atlantic felt more like being across the street. I wasn’t afraid, rather, excited for what splendors I had yet to immerse myself in.
I wasn’t afraid to throw myself into the Marienplatz on a busy afternoon and spend three euros on a doner kebab. I wasn’t afraid to sit down with a complete stranger in Madrid and share stories of a land he only knew through movies and music. I wasn’t afraid to learn from the student in Prague, or the McDonalds cashier in Porto, Portugal.
There was no sense of cultural isolation, only a need to quench the thirst of my curiosity. Culture shock was never an issue.
Entering my senior year of high school I had been armed with the knowledge of a European union and the humility of a Czech Republic that only realized the virtues of democracy only a decade ago. It was only then, did I realize my future was tied to more than just my academic achievements at Crescenta Valley High School.
It was then that I understood that what makes us all different binds us together.
More recently, I re-visited some old friends in Marburg, Germany. What these special individuals have taught me about life, about culture, about friendship goes beyond anything that I could ever hope to achieve in my lifetime.
These are a group of people whose parents listened to two American presidents say the words “Ich Bin Ein Berliner” and “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” These are a group of people whose history is one of controversy and turmoil, but yet they remain steadfast in their willingness to learn and their commitment to each other as a nation and the rest of the world.
Traveling each summer has been a joy and most of all a humbling experience. It has been an experience that I know many will enjoy this summer. It will be an experience that will keep you awake at night, and carry you through life’s most daunting of times.
It’s the experience of saying “buon giorno” in Florence or “danke” in Munich that will open up the arms our global society.
It is the values of a new culture, and the ideas of a people that will move us forward in an era of globalization.
It is that lonely piece of cement that you come across in Berlin that serves as a reminder to not only a period of time, but also a group of people, a country whose cries of despair, and shouts of joy serve as a reminder to all of us living in this country, that we should take nothing for granted.
These are the things that all people, of all nations should come face to face with. It is these things that serve as a constant reminder to our own struggle and our common humanity.