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Short Trip or Odyssey, Travel is an Eye-Opener

By Tamara Wood-Downey, Grade 11
Travelling is an important part of life. Whether we realize it or not, everyone travels, even if it isn’t as glamorous as what most of us see on Instagram.

From short commutes to school, work, and sports events, to the longer trips that some of us are privileged to take to the four corners of the globe, travelling is a crucial part of what makes us human.

Just take a look around the room and appreciate who is sitting around you this morning! All of you, no matter what distance, have travelled to get here. While some people’s trips were short – a quick ride across the border – others took days to complete! In the end, it isn’t the distance covered that should make a trip memorable, though it is a factor, but rather the memories and things that we learn during that time.

Just by travelling to Stanstead, there are a thousand-and-one things that can be learned. When we first got here, nothing was the same as at home. Everyone learned to eat new food, live with people from different places in the world and accommodate the heavy schedule and different cultures. We all needed to adapt to a new lifestyle, and this experience has allowed us to open our eyes to the world without any of us even realizing it.

Granted, a short trip to BCS for a soccer match through the Eastern Townships might be boring, but there is actually a lot that can be learned about Canadian heritage just by observing the names of the landmarks and places we drive past on that trip.

On a larger scale, over the summer I had the privilege to travel a HUGE distance to Vietnam with a small group of people from our school. While the trip to get there was by far the longest I have ever made, it was all worth it in the end. We went to run an English summer camp. We had the chance to teach kids English and teach them what a real North American summer camp feels like, and because in Vietnam summer camps are normally where you go to learn extra work for the year to come, it was a real culture shock when we first got to the camp and I saw 1-year-olds in class learning things instead of playing outside! It just wasn’t something we were used to seeing. On top of the rice-based diet and the very real language barrier between our group and others, often it felt as though I had somehow found myself on Mars. I was disoriented and confused.

For the next two weeks, we brought the kids swimming, played games, made lots of arts and crafts and also taught them how to cook. Apart from being at the camp, we ventured off into the streets of Vietnam to explore the markets, the food, the beaches and the people. It was all so different. It allowed us to learn about a culture not only older than our own, but so rich and multicultural that it makes even our most metropolitan cities feel rather bland in comparison.

Some of the most memorable parts of the trip, however, were by no means the most exciting. The long flights, or the time we all got matching banana outfits, or even when we made the guys try bubble tea for the first time – in hindsight, these are silly little memories but the ones that I cherish nonetheless. Most memorable, however, was probably learning how to bargain, a skill entirely useless here, unless you want to get in trouble with a store manager! Despite this fact, all around it was a trip I will never forget.

As I have said before, travelling isn’t only about the long trips but also and often more importantly about the short trips. The memories made on short trips are just as memorable as the long ones, and often are filled with unexpected surprises that one would not expect to find right around the corner from home. It all depends on who you're spending your time with and what you are doing.

The best memories I've had from travelling were mostly the ones that were short road trips with my friends or my team. These are where I often learn the most and experience things that I would not in a similar setting on my own. This was made perfectly clear during the CAIS soccer tournament when some stroke of genius convinced us that all-you-can-eat-sushi and laser tag were two perfectly good activities to tackle in the same evening. Even though we were all exhausted, it was the most fun I have had all year. These moments are the ones that truly makes you believe that travelling is how you make friends that will last you a lifetime.

More importantly, life is meant to be fun! Though it might not always seem that way now, especially during math class, if you take the time to look at what you HAVE TO DO now as a minor hurdle (like clearing customs at the airport or double checking to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything at home), suddenly work and responsibilities don’t seem as stressful as they once did. Simply said, sometimes a different perspective about culture, ways of life, and knowledge are all you need to remind yourself that just the fact that we get to travel at all is a blessing in itself!

So to finish it off, I'm not telling you that you need to travel far or go on expensive vacations to make great memories. Rather, the importance is that you simply have the chance to travel, and thus should never give it up, even if it’s just a last-minute road trip with friends or a roundabout way of getting to where you were already planning on going because you never know what you will get out of it. You only live once, so take advantage of it, and always remember that even a trek to IGA in the snow is a trip with the right attitude!