November 2, 2012

Get Out And Travel

Traveling around the country and the world provides experiences that can only enhance our lives. Worldwide travel is obviously pushed often, but I think it’s important to consider domestic travel, too.

Traveling the U.S.

So often Americans do not leave their backyards, yet the U.S.A. has some of the most interesting cultural experiences just next door. The United States is so large that we have cultural diversity from one state to another. This allows Americans to experience cultural diversity yet stay in country. Still, many Americans never see any place out of their home states. I live in Oklahoma and know many people who have never left their towns let alone the state. This saddens me. Oklahoma is a beautiful place filled with wonderful people, but many other states have many other wonderful people and experiences. We only become better stewards to each other when we connect to others through travel.

When traveling out of state, many people fear for their safety. I’m sure this happens because of the unfamiliar. We are comfortable with what we know thus if we travel, we expose ourselves to different and new. This can be stressful. However, this shouldn’t prevent people from traveling especially in the U.S. If people take that first step to travel in the U.S., then this anxiety about traveling will alleviate. Exposure to travel makes it easier. Furthermore, once we eliminate our fear of travel, we allow ourselves to experience other people and places.

Traveling around the country has given me a greater appreciation for my home state. Having been to almost two-thirds of the states, I’ve realized what is so great about Oklahoma. I have also been exposed to other ideas and experiences that I have been able to bring back to Oklahoma and share with others. And all I really did was travel to another state.

Traveling the World

Once we become comfortable with traveling within the United States, we should broaden our travel experiences to the world. We live in a global world primarily due to the internet and easier travel options, but too many people stay glued to the virtual world instead of experiencing the world in person. I am all for research and knowledge, but I also think experience is important to creating well-rounded individuals.

For instance, I am currently in Brno, Czech Republic, at a conference for work. Prior to my travels, I read books and websites and talked to people who had been here before.  I felt like I had a good idea of what I would see and experience. I felt prepared. But nothing ever could prepare me for actually being here. Though I certainly feel comfortable in this new place because I recognize the similarities, I also feel excited about the differences from language to food to transportation to education and everything in between. These differences are what drive me to travel and see and actually experience. I felt prepared for the Czech Republic by my research, but actually tasting a Pilsner Urquell is very different from just reading the brewery’s history. Talking to the Czech people about their government has proven very different from what I read online. This is why actual travel is invaluable; we learn by doing.

When we travel abroad, we expose ourselves to totally new and different while domestic travel connects us to other Americans. Traveling does not mean we are looking for something else. Traveling means we are adding to our lives, enhancing what we already have. Whether we travel at home in America or overseas, we only gain to improve ourselves and our communities. Never leaving home limits our capabilities and knowledge, so as soon as you can, get out and travel.

Image Credit: Seyyahil / Shutterstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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