By Leo Gray
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I know I’ve been gone for a long time, and just like I did to Emma, I did with all of you, I kept teasing that I was releasing something, and then Emma would announce it, and then I was like, well I don’t have it done. Which makes it seem like this is going to be some grand thing, but really, it’s not, but I do have a good reason. I just graduated from my undergrad, and with all the money I’ve saved, a couple of friends and I went backpacking through Europe, and may I say, if you stay at the cheap places, you get a lot farther with your money. We went through Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Greece, and then ended in the British Isles, hitting all the areas in that region. We hiked and took trains, ferries, and cars to get all around, and it was the best three months. We left right after graduation and got back just in time to start grad school. And by just in time, I mean, I arrived three days before I was supposed to move in. So I was cutting it close. We planned to do Western Europe this summer and then go back next summer and do Eastern Europe but that right now is up in the air. I’m sure you can guess why.
All that aside, I learned a lot during my time in Europe. I learned about different cultures, met different people, and even learned some of the languages as I got to order and interact with people in their countries. I learned a lot about the history of these places and the people that reside there. Being there is so much different than watching travel videos. I got to dance with people in the streets of Rome, go to music festivals in Germany, and eat with some of the best people when I asked locals what they recommended. I met some of the best people and got to truly experience a different part of the world.
I don’t want to sound privileged by bragging because trust me, it wasn’t one of those influencer trips where I stayed in fancy apartments, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel and had been saving money since sophomore year of college for this, and I stayed in hostels to save every dime to make sure I could experience this trip. It was a great time, but I learned so much.
I got to walk along roads that were older than my home country. I’ve been to churches that are hundreds of years old, and I walked along the Greek and Roman ruins that have been around since before Jesus Christ. There is a lot of history in the world and going to Europe was only the tip of what I wanted to experience in the world. After finishing Europe, I want to go to Africa, Asia, and South America to see the history and cultures that are there. I think backpacking allowed me to experience the places I went to differently than a typical vacation. I slept in hostels with other travelers, most of them the age of my friends and I. We spoke with the locals being we stayed right in towns or passed through rather than going to only tourist places. Backpacking is a lot of work, and it is not overly glamorous, but you experience every part of the country, from its cities to it rural areas.
There is a lot to learn from people who honor their cultures and histories. I learned about traditions that have been going on for generations and the reasons why people do what they do.
I highly recommend doing this. Go and meet people in the world and learn about the history of these areas. Many people talk bad about tourist, but if you go in with an open mind and make it about learning the culture rather than just taking pictures and trying to be the center of attention, they are very welcoming of you because they want to share their cultures and ways of life. If you go into these towns and cause a commotion, they aren’t going to like you. But when you sit down and have a genuine desire to learn and experience it, then they are equally happy to welcome you.
Don’t sit behind your phone. Go out and explore the world, even if it is just going down the road of your town to meet someone or experience something new. We have become a world that is so focused on the present and the future that we forget how much we can experience because of the past. Learn from the stories, traditions, and cultures of those who have come before you, and you can grow as a person. I learned so much, and I’m still learning things as I go back to reflect on what I was told and how I experienced things.
The world is out there, and history is so vast that it is unimaginable what you can learn from it and how it can help you create your own stores.