The Meaning of Travel
The Meaning of Travel
  • So Chan
  • 승인 2019.06.13 13:11
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Last January, I went backpacking to Europe for a month alone, following my parent’s advice- one should go traveling at a young age, even if it gets one in debt. During this period, starting from London, I visited Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Interlaken, Venice, Munich, Praha, Vienna, and Budapest – a total of 11 different countries. 
During the first week of backpacking, I woke up early every day to tour famous tourist sites until it became pitch dark, just so that I could make the most out of the time and money I spent to get to Europe. I enjoyed appreciating the famous artwork (the Sunflower by Van Gogh) and architecture so much, I was able to ignore my accruing fatigue. I definitely enjoyed the freedom of my tour as I rode my rented bicycle around the town without any specific destination, stopping wherever interested me. 
However, as time passed, both my mind and body became completely worn out. Nothing seemed new to me anymore- every castle was just a castle, the Sunflower was exhibited in pretty much every single country in Europe, and the style of architecture seemed similar all over Europe. I felt like my travelling experience held no merit over using the road-view mode of Google Map with my phone. To make matters worse, my bag with all my clothes and utilities was stolen at a café while I was waiting for a train. I didn’t lose anything valuable, but the incident mentally shook me. I started to regret coming to Europe, and the meaning of travel I held started to diminish. 
As I walked effortlessly near the subway station, I encountered a trumpet player performing on the streets. For some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off him, and I listened to the sound of the trumpet for a long time. During the performance, I realized that I decided and planned to travel in Europe not only to observe architecture and artworks, but also to experience the culture and lifestyle of diverse countries. From that point, I was able to enjoy my travel once more. I started to only visit tourist zones that I was truly interested in and invested more time in watching people buying and selling products in the local marketplace, musicians playing instruments on the streets, and lovers whispering their affection towards each other. At night, I shared life stories and drank beers with other Koreans who came to Europe to travel and foreigners staying in the same hotel. In this new way of traveling, I experienced joy incomparable to the one I felt during the beginning of my journey. The meaning of travel, I came to realize, was in developing who I am by experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, and listening to their stories.
The journey, in the end, changed my perspective towards life greatly. I used to be someone who took a while to befriend people and was afraid of meeting someone new. However, now I enjoy meeting new people and listening about how they live their lives, what perspectives towards life they hold, and what they plan to do in the future. 
To become a better person and to live a happier life, I will continue to travel whenever I can.


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