Saturday, January 22, 2011

Blog 2: The Journey Itself is Home

1. Why do you travel? Do your reasons align with Iyer’s essay? Please explain.

There is not an easy answer to this question. There must be hundreds of reasons for why I travel. An important one: because I love it! I love experiencing and getting to see new places and cultures. I agree with Iyer even more now than I did before the China trip. I completely agree that “we travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” We travel to lose ourselves so we can understand new cultures, but by doing so, we soon discover new things about ourselves. By the end of the journey, you’re hooked.

We travel for the little things just as much as we travel for the big ones. The small ones are actually what make a trip the most memorable. Spontaneity is what keeps you excited on a trip, and even in life. Living for the moment is much more fun and rewarding than sitting there pondering if you should poke your head out of the comforting background. My lesson: Live your life. If I hadn’t put myself out there in the action on the China trip last year, what would have happened? I would have sat on the sidelines, in my comfort zone, wondering for the rest of my life what those moments would have felt like. I don’t want to spend my life in wonder. I want to live. Why do I travel? I travel for the adventure. You only get a short amount of time on this Earth, how will you spend it?

2. Iyer says, “The real voyage consists not in seeing new places, but in seeing with new eyes.” What does this mean? How might this relate to you?

A change in perspective can truly make a trip memorable. By being put right in the middle of a new culture you’re faced with two options: embrace it or judge it by choosing to point out the differences. While embracing a new culture, you’re able to achieve a wider view on the world. When you are taken from the pretences of your normal comforting life, you are given new eyes. You can then see the world without complaints and you are able to give your own interpretation of life based on your own true experiences. We travel for these new eyes in particular. By stepping back and looking at ourselves with these new eyes we discover things inside of us we never really understood before.

After the China trip last year, it became a little easier for me to talk to people and participate in activities that were clearly out of my comfort zone before the trip. Obviously this is a difficult task, and I often find myself shrinking back into my turtle shell, but on the trip I realized I didn’t have to be shy. This may sound like a silly realization, but I now try to push my limits because I know that once I put myself out there, I feel more comfortable being myself in front of people I don’t know very well, which has been a struggle for me my entire life.

This new perspective allows us not only to see the beauties of a new culture and understand ourselves better; it also allows us to see our own nation better. Through the eyes of a new culture, we are able to look at our own culture and see what the rest of the world sees of us. Whether it is good or bad, we can understand it once we are far enough away from our daily lives and agree to accept new concepts. While in this new country with new insights on our own culture, we have the choice to help change the views that the people we meet have on our nation (we want to make a good impression).

3. Iyer says, “What gives value to travel is fear.” What does this mean? How might this relate to our journey?

No matter how brave you are, there will always be fear residing in travel. The fears change from place to place, but they are always present. Becoming lost, losing baggage, illness, and being stolen from were some of my top fears while traveling to China. Another challenging fear I had to overcome was the fact I had never been that far away from home before or away from my family for that long. Fear may be one reason that draws people to traveling. Fear brings a sense of excitement to things. Just like adrenalin junkies are drawn toward scary movies and roller coasters, travelers are drawn to new places and new experiences. When you overcome a fear you are rushed with an intense amount of emotion; pride, hope, encouragement, excitement, etc. I believe the personal challenge of pushing one’s limits gives value to traveling like Iyer stated.

4. Iyer talks about a traveler being a human “carrier pigeon”, transporting ideas and culture from one society to another. Do you believe that travelers have a responsibility to share their knowledge and experience with all they visit and those they return to?

Travelers are literally carrier pigeons as they move from place to place, collecting their own ideas on different cultures and gathering a wide view on the world. Many people are not as privileged as we are and may never be able to visit another country and experience the things we will get to see. We are very lucky and should be eternally grateful for all of our fortunes and for the opportunity to see the world. I know I am. The people who cannot experience the world for themselves, whether it be because of insufficient funds or a restricting government, they rely on other travelers to relay their memories and experiences so they can create their own opinion on other nations and the world as a whole. Travelers help bring upon cultural diffusion. As Iyer states, “…we carry values and beliefs and news to the places we go, and in many parts of the world, we become walking video screens and living newspapers, the only channels that can take people out of the censored limits of their homelands.” As I have said before, as travelers we need to set a good example for the people in other nations, so we can leave a positive impression on them about the people from our country. While we are in a foreign land, we represent our nation as a whole to the people living in the country we’re visiting. When we come home, we then represent a gateway to a new culture to the people in our country. As a result we should share our stories to give others the opportunity to initiate their thoughts on other countries (Well… that and who doesn’t like a good story?!). This is why we are making these blogs- So we can share our story and our knowledge to better everyone’s understanding of the world around us.

5. “Travel, then, is a voyage into that famously subjective zone, the imagination, and what the traveler brings back is-and has to be-an ineffable (def: deep) compound of himself and the place, what’s really there and what’s only in him.” As your teachers, this is our favorite quote. Please find your favorite quote and explain why you chose it.

“Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. We live without a past or future, for a moment at least, and are ourselves up for grabs and open to interpretation. We even may become mysterious-to others, at first, and sometimes to ourselves-and, as no less a dignitary than Oliver Cromwell once noted, “A man never goes so far as when he doesn’t know where he is going.””

This is one of my favorite quotes because it reminds me of some of my favorite memories in China. The spontaneous actions made the trip incredible for me. I like this quote because it reminds me to live for the moment. I like the idea that while we are without a past or a future, we are able to open up to interpretation. I love the quote from Cromwell at the end as well because it paints a nice picture of living through impulse. While we travel we are free and open to the beauty around us.

Blog 1: Down Under Baby!

Good'ay mate! My name is Shelby and I have a passion for traveling. Last year I went to China. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It certainly had its ups and downs, but in the end I couldn’t believe what an amazing trip it was. This year I have the opportunity to visit Australia and New Zealand. A trip that amazing, incredible, and exciting I simply could not let slip through my fingers. In June of 2011 I will be making a trip literally half way across the world to see new cultures and the marvels the world has to offer in both Australia and New Zealand.

Growing up I have always wanted to visit Australia. I basically grew up watching “The Crocodile Hunter”. Since before I can even remember I was fanaticizing about visiting the places Steve Erwin went; seeing the outback and visiting Australia Zoo. Later on in my life I ‘discovered’ the beautiful landscape of New Zealand (from the comfort and safety of my computer desk) and automatically knew I wanted to see it in person. An opportunity such as this one where I can visit two of the places I have dreamed about in one trip makes me ecstatic! I’m going on this trip for the adventures we are sure to have and excitement of a new and foreign land.

Traveling is an experience that has opened my eyes to new lands and people. I would defiantly recommend it ;) By traveling, our “normal” literally gets flipped upside down. We are able to look past what we normally see and are capable of stepping out of our shells to experience a new culture. By only understanding the country we live in, we are constantly looking at other nations through a thick wall of bias. When we travel, we break down this bias, and are able to look at the world with new eyes. What I hope I can achieve by going on this trip is to see not only the world in a new light, but myself as well. Last year after the China trip, I had learned so many new things about myself. I learned about new tastes and interests I now have, how I react in certain situations, and how to stress my limits to experience more. I’m going on this trip to discover myself. …Well, that and the Outback!

I’m looking forward to many things on this trip. I can’t wait to see the Great Barrier Reef and all of the organisms that live there. I’m taking zoology this year and I’ve learned many interesting things about marine life. I’m excited to see it in person! I want to be able to recognize the organisms and say “Oh! I know what that is! It’s a free-living gastropod!” or “Hey look! It’s a sponge with a leucon body form!” I’m also excited to see the Sydney Opera House and learn more about it. I would love see and will always be on the lookout for a kangaroo, a wombat, and those crazy rabbits. And, of course, I cannot wait to hear the accent! …Hopefully I will pick up some of the Australian phrases, because how awesome would that be!? I also would like to see and meet the Maori along with the indigenous people if I get the chance. I can’t wait for the New Zealand landscape!

Learning about the place you plan on visiting is always a good idea, whether it’s a trip downtown, to a new state, or to a new country. You have to know why you’re going somewhere. The answer to this question cannot be as easily answered as, “Because it’s popular.” Why is it popular? How was it important to the region? What is the historical background? Why and how did it come to be here? How did the landmark affect the culture and the nation as a whole? Did it result in changing the social, economic, or political aspects of the country? As travelers we need to be able to answer these questions. You can go somewhere and see something truly amazing… but without the background knowledge on the topic, all you have are empty pictures. The “so what” factor is one of the keys to filling those pictures – so is having a good time and creating good memories! I feel like I could have known more about China before I went there last year, even though we studied the culture extensively. Hopefully this year I can learn more before we leave to make the trip even more memorable.

Join me as I document the next upcoming months as I prepare for my trip and for the 2 weeks we will be in Australia and New Zealand!