What Travel Has Taught Me (Aside From How Good Apfelstrudel Is) – By Jennifer Carter

When I was young, I once asked my mother where paradise was located. She told me that it was not a specific place but rather a place that is spectacular according to oneself. I did not realize that paradise was essentially ones own ideal part of the world. At a very young age, I was able to see my paradise. Having grown up in California during my school years and in Germany during the summers, I have been lucky enough to experience two separate worlds, cultures, people, music, and diversity while I was still young and impressionable. I traveled extensively throughout Europe multiple times before I even reached the age of 21. I know this has shaped who I am today and all of my experiences are held close to me. My heart is torn between the U.S.A. and Germany but in that battle I have found my peace. I have grown into a unique blend of American and German values, morals, and ideals. I appreciate and acknowledge the world for what it is and what it has to offer. I have built enough spirit to be fun and carefree – I am a traveler, dreamer, discoverer. I have found a wealth of treasure in lands far away, imagining places alive before me with music ringing down from the heavens. The quirks of every country, along with its awe-inspiring art, architecture, literature, cathedrals, and history have become my muses.

I always reflect on why I love travel so much when I am abroad. I think the human eye is drawn to differences… subtle differences and not so subtle differences that enliven our imaginations and stimulate the mind. While this can be an uncomfortable experience for some, I thrive on it. And the very differences that I am drawn to are the events, sights, and experiences that connect me to the country and to myself. Back home we tend to live solitary existences… there is very little public community. Through technology it is so easy to separate ourselves from life, whether through hours spent in front of the television and computer, or time spent in the car traveling from one point to the next, or the time spent shopping in a sanitized store for green tomatoes.

What I treasure in European villages is the unhurried appreciation of life. At home, so many experiences are cut short through efficiency. There, however, meals are savored with family and conversation, people stroll without any seeming purpose other than the simple appreciation of the stroll, homes take many months to build, a corner market sells homemade Apfelstrudel, and children play with each other and with their imaginations on the steps of the town church. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to see modern stores while strolling through a finely aged building. At home, however, meals are thrown down in a rush to get to the next engagement, people without opportunities for strolls are driven to the gym in a religious zeal, homes are produced en masse with little quality, a corner market sells only processed foods, and children are sent to camp to play in a structured living/learning environment. And being a product of my own culture, I have partaken in it all. But what I have learned from travel is that what I yearn for most, is simply a way of being with myself that allows the richness of experiences to unfold, so that I do not miss life through the efficiency and numerous distractions that surround us in our culture.

I’m inspired to live life with passion and seize every opportunity that I can. After all, I feel that everyone should strive to attain a permanent place in his or her own paradise. Being a wanderer, crossing a different land among people who speak languages strange to my ear… meditating in tune with the dreamy rhythm of train wheels against the rails… allowing the sounds of the world to be my mantra… has enabled me to transcend my known life. For me, “home” is anywhere my heart feels connected to heaven and earth, sometimes a lot to ask for anywhere.