Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Come Fly With Me: That (Very Important) Extra Step

Katie in London

That (Very Important) Extra Step
Katie Helete

            I could go on and on about the benefits of traveling-- I have and do, as my friends and column can attest to. I firmly believe that there is no substitute for travel’s ability to fundamentally open us up and allow us to discover not only the world’s truths, but also our own. But, after my most recent trip, I now also believe that travel cannot do this without our help and effort

             In fact, you can see the world, every little corner and stretch of ocean, and return home exactly as you had left it. You can rush through sightseeing and eat hamburgers for dinner and go back to your hotel at night and perpetually live in that familiar bubble called comfort. Nothing will change unless you allow yourself to let it do so or, rather, unless you take the initiative, because the things around us – the people, the places, the culture, the food – cannot truly affect us without our consent.

         I saw that in myself as I traveled around Europe this summer. I noticed my own fears closing me off, whether it was in skipping out on an adventure in favor of resting in the hostel or halfheartedly engaging in conversation at dinner or refusing to look a cute local in the eye when he looked for my gaze. I ignored opportunities, looking forward to that instant afterwards of relief when everything goes back to being comfortable, when I would leave dinner or put in my headphones or when he would look away. And, nothing would change.

          Our methods of coping with the unfamiliar while traveling can become entrenched patterns that are hard to recognize in the middle of it all. And, it is no wonder - it can be extraordinarily challenging to force ourselves to live in the moment when we are tired or oversaturated with newness. But those moments can add up, and before we realize it happening at all, we are on the plane home. Yet by recognizing those small instances of chance, by pushing ourselves and testing our own boundaries, we can transform ourselves in huge ways. 

         Though there is no doubt that feeling everything – the ups and downs and excitement and disappointment – can be daunting, it is the only way to feel truly alive. You cannot have the light without the dark, the good without the bad. And, that can be both uncomfortable and difficult to remember when the safety of comfort is oh, so close. But, by letting yourself feel, by saying “yes” to opportunity, you will not only fully take advantage of your adventures, but also come home a changed person.

Change is hard, but that feeling of happiness and fulfillment after change does come from fully taking advantage of a new place? 

Travel Section Columnist, Katie Helete:

Katie Helete is a cultured old soul, with a kind of energy that would entice you to travel with her anywhere. Attending UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, she is majoring in Political Economy. Explore the world, bucket list by bucket list with the brilliant and bold Ms. Katie.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more and am guilty of not always getting the most out of the experience I have sacrificed so much time and money to live!
It takes a constant internal monologue to say "Go! Do it! don't sit back and let it pass instead..."
Your words get at that, thank you.

khelete said...

I'm glad the article resonated with you! It really is so important to make a conscious effort to step outside of our comfort zones and yet it can be so difficult at the same time. But, in the end, so worth it. Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment!