Go West, Young Furmanite (Or Anywhere, Really)

By Emily Barksdale

I greatly value travel. It allows us to experience new things, broaden our horizons, and begin to understand people unlike ourselves. It teaches us that the world is not all about us and that, in fact, we are far from being at the center of the universe.

Travel has definitely influenced my opinions on politics, education, the environment and more. (Speaking of which: yes, I feel that the benefits of long-distance travel even outweigh the negative environmental side effects.)

I have been fortunate to travel quite a bit in my 21 years. Many of these opportunities have been through Furman, and for that, I am thankful. My total number of countries visited is seven, and while I know that that pales in comparison to some, I realize that it is a lot more than many others will ever get to. I will defend day in and day out, though, the benefits of domestic travel, as well.

A lot of my extended family lives some distance from where I grew up, so throughout my childhood, my parents, brother and I took many-a journey across state lines to see them, especially at holidays.

We also took family vacations to the beach, Chicago, Williamsburg and Disney World, among others, and I went on school and extracurricular trips to Washington, D.C. and the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area.

By my high school graduation, I felt fairly familiar with a good portion of the country, and since then, I have continued to wander my way around the U.S. – I’m now up to 21 states! Visiting all 50 at least once is on my bucket list.

I’m not the only advocate of travel. Furman has some pretty good study away trips set up themselves that I would highly recommend – I have been on Fall in China and Spring in Edinburgh, in addition to the May by the Bay May X – but if you can’t find one that suits your fancy, check out the affiliate programs as well, or even an independent student program. I’ve heard of great experiences from all of the above.

Study away is completely different from leisure travel, and in some ways, I contend, better. Rather than going about things from a tourist angle and with a generally limited amount of time, you are able to immerse yourself in the local culture and see how the people there actually live.

Another thing that a lot of people may not realize is that simply getting over that first hump of international travel – acquiring a passport – can sometimes be the most difficult part. Passports are expensive and require a lot of paperwork, and I am of the opinion that the first step is often the hardest: for example, I try to start writing some part of assigned papers at least a week or two in advance, even if I know it is mostly gibberish and will be greatly edited later.

The fact that I have something from which to start building is enough; it makes that process so much easier as the deadline looms closer. Much as beginning to write is the first hurdle for me, acquiring a passport can be a huge obstacle for many.

Encouraging others to get out there, see the world, and educate themselves – and by providing them with necessary tools to do so – can foster hope and inspiration in us all. Thus, I believe in the importance of a passport. They can be official, sentimental, interesting, educational. Most of all, they are the first step.

In conclusion, I encourage each and every reader to get out there and travel. As mentioned above, this can be a small step: perhaps, for you, travel encompasses looking a little more closely at downtown Travelers Rest. Maybe it’s a day trip to Atlanta or Charlotte or Charleston. It could be a weekend spent in the Midwest or the Northeast, or it could be a whole week on a cruise or a hike near home or abroad. Whatever your baseline is, I challenge you to expand your horizons.

Categories: Opinions

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