“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”
When I was 16, my father took me on my first international trip to Hong Kong, Thailand, and Viet Nam. Having grown up in Northern California my whole life, this trip was an eye opening experience that forced me to live in conditions I was not accustomed to. While climbing the Fansipan mountain of remote Sapa, Vietnam and meeting the warm indigenous people who tend the layers of rolling green rice fields and raise water buffalo to survive – the tranquility I felt is locked in memory to this day. In Bangkok, Thailand, I had to barter for a trinket until my throat ran dry, washed my underwear in a sink while traveling through the countryside of Vietnam, got lost in the bustling streets of Hong Kong (and was scared to death) yet still managed to find my way back. But by golly, the chance to see the world has made me humble.
Students, I want you to step out of the world you know and see sights so breathtaking it will render you speechless. I want you to gaze upon the 7 Wonders of the World that you have only seen in text books and discover the intrinsic value of new experiences. While your mind is still vibrant and receptive, spend some time traveling to a country that will expose you to a different environment, culture, and people that you would not often see in your own bubble. By traveling, you can see first-hand the knowledge you have acquired through history, and geography class. You can apply the life skills you have attained and perhaps even use a bit of the Spanish you learned in high school. I want you to tickle your senses by seeing, smelling, feeling and tasting new things. I still remember the first time I sunk my teeth into the juicy white flesh of a sweet mangosteen after parasailing in Pattaya, Thailand. Now every time I see pictures of people parasailing, I immediately think of the luscious mangosteen I had.
Traveling allows you to learn more about yourself. It gives you a moment to get away and develop new perspectives. It will challenge you to take risks because when venturing to a new area, you will have to adapt to a new lifestyle and learn to communicate with others to find your way around. Most of all, the one thing I was really able to take away from traveling was an appreciation for what I have. During my stay in Vietnam, I was bombarded by little children living in the streets begging me for money or trying to sell me chewing gum to make a living. When they looked up at me with their sad puppy eyes, my heart just melted. After that trip, I began to value what I had and became less wasteful.
Are you ready to book your ticket? Be prepared to convince your parents to let you travel during your summer break. Although take SAT prep courses and going to a summer program is valuable, the experience you get from traveling may be life-altering. The state of discomfort is just your mind acting narrow, if you let go, you will really see the world for what it is worth. Life is too short to stay unpacked.
By Nancy Le , ThinkTank Learning Senior Admissions Consultant and Academic Counselor