While rummaging through some old documents sitting on my desk today, I came across a letter I wrote while applying for a scholarship through the program I was to study abroad with in Paris. I completely forgot I wrote it, but it was just the surprise I needed. I read this letter and knew I wrote it, but it became so interesting to realize how my mind has evolved since writing it.
Here I am. I’ve applied for internships, worked in television production and spent my senior year trying to soak it all up, but I feel slightly unsatisfied. This letter reminded me of why I am doing all of this work. I’m not trying to get internships at Discovery Communications and others like it because I want money. I am applying to work for these specific companies because of the possibility of travel opportunities. I love cinematography and broadcasting television, but so much of my soul is based from a fire within me to travel and help other species. I don’t just want a job I want irreplaceable experiences. I am going to copy the letter I wrote here, for any of you who may have the same feeling about travel that I do. This is why I travel…this is why everything I am doing matters at all.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Beginning the moment I could understand the written word and recognize rotating images on Animal Planet, Travel Channel and Discovery Channel, I became a restless soul constantly seeking the ever changing and expanding world of endless culture surrounding each corner of the planet. To me, travel became an innate obsession after watching the genocide in Africa, reading about the extinction of the Baiji White Dolphin in the Yangtze River in China and observing the timeless architecture in Paris. In no way would I sit in one place watching the world from behind a screen ever again.
My curiosity and desire to see the world through the eyes of those living thousands of miles away grows by the day. This has resulted in flying across the world to Reykjavik, Iceland to discover the plentiful landscapes and budding philosophy based on the notion that we must care for the planet the way it cares for us. As my Icelandic tour guide Oli believed, “nature must be preserved completely. Without it, we have nothing.”
The memory of my travels has resided deep within my heart and has been a privilege that I am grateful for as each day passes. I recognize the opportunities I have been able to grasp; a significant reason why I have chased this Parisian journey so incessantly. My goal is to understand the way the world works. I want to feel what others feel. I want to be out in the field fighting for what is right.
Without the glories of travel, I believe imagination is limited. Just the way a dog living inside a home cannot experience the softness of the grass, a person cannot respect the differences between her and the foreigner beside her without traveling to culturally diverse countries. In order to develop an true internal acceptance of others, a person must live alongside other less fortunate or perhaps more fortunate cultures. Broadening the knowledge of how the world spins will generate empathy for those living with less. In life, this can be one of the most difficult mindsets to embrace.
I know that travel an be frightening and it can be challenging in more ways than one. This is a life lesson; that which requires bravery will muster the greatest of changes. This is the largest hope for my future: to change, to develop, to be confused, to be uncertain and to learn what it means to make a significant impact on someone’s life.
Now, I wrote this letter before I traveled to live in Paris for four months. And to be completely honest, my feelings before the semester have only grown more intense. Still, I have learned one special lesson that I never thought I would. Sometimes, us travel fanatics tend to feel unhappy in one place for a long period of time. If we feel upset or frustrated, we look outside ourselves and want to change our environments. Perhaps our problems are from the weather, the air quality or even traffic. After I lived in Paris, I noticed that
some of the problems I would have at home still existed when I lived abroad. So I learned that my little problems weren’t from external sources at all. They were stemming from inside me. So, being here in Southern California once again, I’ve made the distinctive choice to be happy right where I am. I often complain that I want to travel, but the truth is, I am traveling right now. When I lived in Seattle, I was so eager to come here and go to school. That was my biggest adventure to date. I was going to experience college outside of my hometown because I felt just as eager to live in a new place. But a year passed and I wasn’t happy because of things that I couldn’t change. So, I wanted to up and leave once again. But what if changing my environment wasn’t the solution? What if changing my mindset was the answer.
Truthfully, it was my mindset. So reading this letter to myself now, it means something completely different than it did then. I don’t travel just because I want to see new places, I travel because I truly want to help others and make a difference in the world. I want humans to live as one with their planet, not against it. That was the reason buried deep in my heart. It took sifting through the muck surrounding it to find the authenticity I always had, but never saw.
I ended up being offered the scholarship. When they gave it to me, they had no idea their money was going toward me finding myself once again, not just funding a travel-hungry college student.