Traveling to new and different places helps open your eyes and your mind to the world. To me, the only way to know people, their culture and even their traditions is to walk down their streets, eat in their cafes, stroll through their parks, and frequent their cultural institutions. It’s only when you’ve achieved their same vantage point that you can really gain an understanding of their lives, their celebrations, their hardships and their triumphs. That, is why I travel without fear, but always with an open mind and heart.
Traveling without fear allows you to leave those well-treaded streets and seek out quiet lanes where residents live their daily lives. Traveling without fear allows you to leave the big tourist sites behind and discover ones not listed in the pages of a guidebook. Traveling without fear allows you to let go of preconceived notions and embrace new experiences. But, it isn’t easy.
To travel without fear means to take a leap of faith that you can immerse yourself in a culture, strike up conversations with total strangers, and open yourself up to completely new experiences. And, I believe it can be done – by anyone, at any age and in practically any location. It just takes time, effort and good old fashioned chutzpah.
Traveling without fear to Israel as a college student
One of my first international travel experiences was to Israel when I was a senior in college. As a young child, I had heard about life in Israel, I had eaten Israeli food, and I even knew some Hebrew words. But, I didn’t really know Israel.
Fueled with a passion for knowledge and an interest in learning more about a country where some of my relatives had made their home when Israel was a fledgling state, I took the leap of faith to travel without fear to Israel.
But, truth be told, I didn’t do it alone. I took that big step with my twin sister by my side, and together, we signed up for a two-week work/study program that enabled us to live in Jerusalem, shop at the local markets, study the local traditions, give our time to local charities, and travel throughout the land.
It was our first time out of the country without our parents for any extended amount of time. I didn’t feel totally comfortable navigating the country. I wasn’t sure how I’d fare in a country where I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t feel completely confident that I could let any worries dissipate and just embrace it all. But, I did it – with my sister.
By travelling without fear, we met locals, participated in traditional celebrations, rode on public transportation, shopped in the local shuks, and even got used to buying milk sold in bags. We made ourselves open to everything, anything and everyone (but with a good dose of street smarts and comment sense thrown in, of course).
I know I speak for both of us when I say it is something we’ll never forget.
That one, extended travel experience gave me a new appreciation for learning about and experiencing new cultures and new traditions, and it instilled in me a hunger for more of the same. That one trip set me on a course to find out more about other people, places and cultures – and give each one a little bit of myself, too.
Leading my sons on the same path, hoping they follow my example
I know I would never of had that life-changing experience if I let fear hold me back and keep me at home in Chicago. And, I am forever grateful that I took a leap of faith – with my sister by my side – and experienced travel without fear.
When you travel without fear, you leave yourself open for anything. And, while it may not always be positive or enriching, I do believe that you’ll always walk away happy that you did it – for yourself or for others.
These days I travel a lot with my family and two young sons. And, true be told, I’m sure my sons sometimes question the need to leave the comfort and familiarity of our home, our city and our country. But, I know with each trip we take they learn so much about other people and cultures – and themselves, too.
In the end, I hope it helps paves the way for them to keep traveling with open minds, eyes and hearts - without fear of things that are new or different. Fear can always threaten to hold you back. I hope it never keeps my sons from experiencing life and the world - just like I've sought to do ever since that one trip to Isreal.
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