As I slowly crept to the edge of this beautiful island, there was nowhere for my feet to be planted. I felt like I could see for eternity. Some people search for peace where their feet are planted, I find peace when I am lost. It is only then when I realize what I truly want. I remember thinking this to myself sitting on the edge of the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. When I was younger, traveling was a luxury for the rich and famous, sometimes for the upper middle class and hardly ever for the lower middle class. I recall hearing teachers and classmates talking about how they’d love to travel the world, but they have never rewarded themselves with the experience.
I had enlisted into the United States Army in 2008 and I reenlisted in 2009 for Germany. Once I got to Germany, the opportunity to travel was presented to soldiers about twice a month for a single soldiers retreat. I rarely took up that opportunity. Instead, I would either get one or two of my closest friends, maybe even a small group of six to eight and hop on a train to another country.
Most times we didn’t care where we were going, to us it wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey. I remember on my way to Frankfurt with one of my closest friends, Ryan, sitting in the dining part of the train, talking about traveling. We were drinking Portuguese red wine, it was tart and dry, so we changed our drink to amaretto and sprite. It tasted just like ginger ale. I told Ryan, “You know, I remember being a kid, hearing about all these wonderful places that people would love to travel, but they did nothing about it. And here I am, living those dreams that others dreamt. Life is good, Ry-Ry.” Ryan admitted that traveling changed our lives, being able to eat, sleep, drink, and live a different culture was much more gratifying in history than learning about it through books.
If I had never traveled, I would not be who I am today. Embracing European traditions and mingling with the locals really opened my eyes. It helped me value history in a different way, a more meaningful way. Sure we read about history in books, we are shown videos, pictures, and recordings; but to actually go there, and see the bullet holes in the walls, to be in Anne Franks house, to walk the pathways and read the engraved information plates where some historical event or person took place has a meaning you can’t explain. When I was in Budapest, Hungary, there was this artist who created a heart wrenching dedication piece to the victims who were shot along the edge of the Danube River by arrow cross militiamen during the Holocaust. To stand there and create this imagery in your head, to process the emotions that could have been expected of those victims, it is just purely moving. It was just life changing.
Sometimes while I was traveling, I would soak in the morning sun in another country as I sip on my coffee from the local shop, and I think back to sitting in a classroom full of thirty to forty students with one teacher who all shared similar dreams of traveling. I am thankful for my career that allowed me the opportunity to become culturally rich. Being able to get lost in my thoughts, lost in myself in a foreign country really helped me figure out who I wanted to be, where I wanted to go and how I was going to do it. I would suggest anyone who has an undying thirst for history, knowledge and adventure to explore the world. After all, the world is our playground.
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