Compared to previous generations, one thing we are truly lucky to have is the capability to hop on a plane and travel to any part of the world. The chance to travel, work and see what Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa have to offer is something that should never be taken for granted.
I have been lucky enough to travel to almost every continent on earth. These experiences have contributed greatly to how I see the world. How is it that travel changes us so much? And why is it that we get the “travel bug” and want to see more?
I got the chance to speak to two travelling Macquarie University students: Samuel Scott, a Science student majoring in Environmental Management and Human Geography, who at the time of writing this was in Turkey for ANZAC day celebrations; and Tierneigh Elise Parnell, an Arts/Law student majoring in Indigenous Studies, who recently returned from Africa after working for three months as a volunteer teacher.
Sam has travelled through most of Europe. He’s also worked with the Thames Water Company in the UK and summer camps in the US. He’s backpacked in Egypt and travelled to South-East Asia.
Tierneigh has also travelled extensively through Europe; plus North and South America, South-East Asia, and over to Africa, taking in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
For Sam, the diversity of cultures and the experience was what made travelling so enticing. “Travelling has given me, more importantly, an appreciation of people and their own customs.”
Those feelings were something that Tierneigh felt too, especially within Africa. “Travel opened my eyes to how diverse, and vulnerable the world is, giving me global perspectives and a strong independence that no other teaching method can impart. When I relocated from my home in Alice Springs to Sydney, I was thinking about the part I could play in my own local community. Travelling has helped me see the bigger picture of my role as a global citizen, where I could help those less fortunate than myself. This was something that inspired me to do my Africa trip.”
For many of us, the chance to see the rest of world, warts and all, as well as gain experience, may seem the main benefits of travelling. However, from my own experience, what you learn about yourself is equally as important. Often, the travelling experience of going beyond your comfort zone is an enlightening one. We, as Australians, don’t fully get that until we are back at home.
Tierneigh, reflecting on what she considers life-changing experiences, said “Often, I do not realise how truly amazing a country is until after I’ve left. Often the best part about travelling to countries is when you are back home, engaging in everyday life, and you are able to capitalise on your international experiences and draw on them. This definitely happened for me when I came back from Brazil, which was a trip I took for granted at the time”.
This experience of self-discovery is something Sam felt too. “With travelling, it's an amazing experience wherever you go. No place is the same. People are different, and everyone has their own, incredible, story to tell. Some places you'll love, some places you'll hate, but it's all about finding where you are happy”.
Obviously, travelling experiences depend on the person and where she or he is placed. Some will find the huge world daunting; some may love being part of the global picture.
Australians have a well-founded reputation as serious globetrotters. Maybe the reason we enjoy travelling so much is because we are tucked away in a corner of Asia. What the world has to offer is so different from what Aussies used to call “back home”. It would not be much of a leap, then, to assume that if this article was from a European viewpoint, where everything is much closer, the desire to travel – and the destinations - would be radically different.
It is the uniqueness of every place in the world that leads to “the travel bug” when we return to the comforts of home. For Sam, his adventures are set to continue. He has plans to go to the Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore in September, and then migrate to the UK after graduating at Macquarie. “For me, it’ll be to just experience something new and interesting instead of the plain reality of home."
For Tierneigh, her trip to Africa may have quashed her desire to travel for this year. But she confesses she plans to travel again. “I feel like every week a new place pops into my mind and I make a mental note of going somewhere ‘one day."
If there is somewhere you really want to go, work to get the money, figure out your finances and time management, and just book it!
Tierneigh is planning to go on exchange to the UK next year, as well as travel to Burma and Peru.
In today’s world, we are lucky that travelling is much easier than in the past. Instant travelling, and instant capabilities to travel are literally at our fingertips. But the experiences we have become an important part of who we are as people. When I will hop on a plane again later this year to travel to Malaysia with PACE, (having worked my arse off to get the dollars) I’m sure it will cause me to see the world in another different way to how I see it now.
In the end, you can look at travelling as being about seeing other cultures, getting work and experience. But in truth travelling becomes more than that; it becomes a part of finding yourself as a person. And wherever the travel bug takes you, that enlightenment is sure to follow.