A few years ago I’m not sure that anyone who knew me would have said I had an adventurous spirit; navigating high school as a teenage girl was more than enough adventure for me. But I think there comes a point for most people when a thirst is developed: a craving for something more than what you have at home, whatever that ‘more’ might entail.
For me, traveling was the answer. The summer of 2012 was the summer I left school, the summer I found myself in Japan living with a woman with whom I could only communicate in a variety of grunts and sounds due to the language barrier, the summer I slept on trains and buses and in parks, the summer I was recommended what became my favourite novels by people I met on the street, the summer I truly began my life.
I am a great believer in the idea that the journey is just as great as the destination; the actual process of traveling is something to savour. There is something magical about slipping through different scenery, from hazy mountains to green fields to industrial cities, watching the world pass by through the window, its magnificence on display for all to see.
Better still, there is something somehow unreal about traveling in the small hours of the morning, during that small pocket of time that starts after the witching hour and lasts through twilight, a period that feels somehow removed from reality. That feeling of traveling with the steady sounds of wheels turning, the tranquil breathing of other sleeping passengers, perhaps rain pattering delicately against the window, whilst the soft orange glow of morning swells on the horizon, mixed with the knowledge that in a few hours you will be hoisting a heavy backpack onto your shoulders and stepping out into a whole new world, is one of such pure, serene beauty that I doubt I will ever be able to match it.
I am certain that traveling is one of the most beneficial, satisfying experiences for those on the cusp of adulthood; the way you naturally absorb little pieces of the different cultures you experience, and learn so much from the diverse mix of people you meet is the sweetest gift I have ever received.
To this day I am completely in awe of the way my Japanese host mother would pull up outside a shop and leave the car running with the key in the ignition while we went inside, utterly reassured that it would not be stolen. I will never forget the Australian guy I met in Frankfurt in the hostel bar because he gave me and my friend a bag of empty cans and told us we could exchange them for beers at the store across the road. When we came back, we sat with him and his friends and drank together and talked long into the night about experiences and freedom. He taught me a lot about freedom; it started with asking him why he never wore shoes and ended with all of us running and jumping into the river Main at three o’clock in the morning, screaming and shivering with cold and excitement and reckless abandon. We all walked back to the hostel bare foot, just as the first morning birds started singing.
I could go on forever about all the weird and wonderful people I met whilst traveling that summer, each of them filled to the brim with their own unique kind of beauty, but I think one of the most significant things I learnt from the whole experience is that laughter is a universal language.
And I know it’s been said over and over again to the point of exhaustion, but there’s something that happens to you when you travel. I’m not sure yet if it’s as simple as ‘finding yourself’ like people say, but perhaps it’s a process of looking, of opening yourself up to kindness and generosity from strangers—an exercise in trusting the world to be fascinating and dazzling and enchanting, so that you can ingest a tiny piece of it and grow as a human being because of it.
Traveling has shaped my ascent into adulthood, allowing me to find independence and knowledge and a sense of self. But above all, traveling has allowed me to fall in love with the world I live in.
Amelia Crowther is a film student living in the UK. She is a self-professed past addict dedicated to the art of the mix CD who enjoys journaling, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and thinking about outer space. Check out her personal blog here: http://www.moonbody.wordpress.com.