Over the years I have been very fortunate to have explored and lived in many places. I could give dazzling descriptions of cities such as Barcelona, Spain; Medellín, Colombia; and Lisbon, Portugal, but they would be merely superficial accounts of why traveling is so special. The true wonder of venturing to another part of the world is not what you see, it is how you change. It is the reality that everywhere you've been remains with you beyond the journey.
I was a naïve 17-year-old when I made my first excursion outside the United States on a two-week high school trip to Mexico. My time there was brief, but I can still remember how it hurt my jaw (and brain) to hold a Spanish conversation for more than an hour. However, after returning home, I needed more. I found myself throughly engaged in my language classes and even pursued a degree in Spanish at the University of New Mexico.
In college, I joined a study-abroad program that took a group of students to a small town in Spain called Trujillo. Each of us was assigned a host family, with whom we would live for five weeks.
My Spanish was fairly good by this point, and my host-padre and I hit it off immediately. Every day he would teach me new words and colloquialisms, and every night we would meet in the Plaza Mayor, drink wine, and talk into the early morning hours. Before I knew it, five weeks had passed, and, as I left Trujillo, I realized I was leaving a part of myself with the town and with a "father" who had become a best friend.
Each time I return home, I do so as a slightly different person. Whether it is finding inspiration to learn another language, keeping in touch with a friend from Argentina, or planning a trip to visit my Spanish "father," my understanding of who I am and what it means to be a citizen of the world is rooted in the cultures and people that I've come across during my endeavors as a curious vagabond, searching distant places for life's little secrets.
Dillon Fischer-Ives writes from Elkins Park.
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