When flying back home to New York City after an extremely fun and whirlwind cruise around Europe, covering mainly the Scandinavian countries along the Baltic Sea, I came across this information board about Denmark’s most famous author Hans Christian Andersen at the Copenhagen airport. A quote from his own autobiography entitled The Fairy Tale of My Life was highlighted on this board which really resonated with me, “To travel is to live.”
The entirety of this quote actually struck a chord with me and I took a snapshot of it as my own personal keepsake and memory. Below is the photo I took on my phone just before I walked to my gate.
I thought it was a fitting send off for a trip that has come to an end, but invoked all the memories and experiences I created during the last week and a half on a continent thousands of miles away from my own home. You’ll probably hear this a lot from seasoned travelers on travel websites or articles when they talk about their personal experiences and relationship with travel, but it’s entirely true––traveling expands your mind and makes you open and curious about other people, places, and cultures that are significantly different from your own. It creates understanding and it helps your world feel much smaller than it really is. You realize people aren’t all that different from you as you think and we’re all going through similar experiences no matter where you live or what language you speak.
I don’t believe you have to travel to a far off, exotic place to have the experiences I just mentioned. I believe it extends to simply taking a weekend or a week away from being around what’s familiar and routine. It’s as simple as traveling to a new city or town you’ve never been to before. I love traveling abroad, as did Hans Christian Andersen, but my travel goals also extends to exploring what’s already in my own country. Fifty states make up the United States, and I’m certain traveling to each and every one of these states at some point in my life (at least the ones I haven’t already visited) will offer me something new and exciting that will broaden my perspective and experiences exponentially. Coming from a big and cosmopolitan city like mine will feel a lot different if I traveled to say, Austin, Texas. It may be another major and well known city in the U.S., but I’m sure the lifestyle and people will be vastly different from what I’m used to in New York City.
There’s a sense of wonder and adventure behind the act of simply taking yourself out of what’s normal for you and seeing how another person might do things in their own hometown or country differently than you. Language barriers and being in a place you’re not familiar with are scary and will make you feel uncomfortable, but it’s part of the excitement. It helps you learn as you go, pushes you to see what you’re capable of, elevates your courage and confidence, and you may actually gain a story or two to tell your friends and family back home.
I always recommend getting out there and traveling to anyone who’s passionate about seeing new places, engaging with different people and cultures, or want their world expanded more and more each day. I’ll always be forever grateful to my mother who extended her desire to see the world beyond what she knows to me and my older sister. She’s my inspiration when it comes to taking chances, being courageous to venture out on your own at the risk of being potentially lost in a foreign place, and always being eternally curious. I have much to live up to, and I’m certain when the day comes and she’s no longer on this earth, I’ll continue traveling without her and drawing from her example.
Traveling from place to place isn’t exactly cheap, but like my mother likes to quote very often, “When there’s a will, there’s a way.” I’ve read many stories about people who didn’t have a lot of money, but managed to see the world on a budget. When you’re willing to make the time and save enough money, you’ll somehow find a way to indulge your passion for travel. To travel is to live because it makes up another part of the human experience. Our memories become our most precious and irreplaceable possessions we have as we get older. I can acquire many things throughout my entire lifetime, but in the end, those won’t matter half as much as the time a handsome Finnish stranger on a bike went out of his way to stop and ask me and my mom if we needed help (true story, by the way, and it happened during this European vacation). The stories I have and the lessons I’ve learned during the time I’ve traveled will be what I value most and what I hope I can pass on to my own children and grandchildren someday.
I’m very fortunate to have seen so many beautiful places during this vacation and it’s a reminder to keep feeding the passion I have for travel for as long as I’m able to. Sometimes, you need to get away to appreciate what you have and what still awaits you on your next adventure in life. If traveling is to live, I’m going to keep on living until my own time in this life is up.