I never thought much of traveling while growing up, or at least not the importance of it. My true desire to travel did not really begin until late high school then continued through college, where, after discussion with my parents, I took advantage of one of the school’s study abroad options and spent a semester studying in Italy. That semester consisted of me not only being the farthest from home I had ever been, but really opened my eyes to a part of the world I had only read about until then. After that semester concluded I promised myself I would travel at least one new place per year - domestic or international - and until COVID-19 began, I kept that promise.
The more I travel the more fulfilled I feel. It was a feeling beyond the novelty of going somewhere new, and it took a few years for me to realize that the “high” I felt by traveling was because every place I had gone nourished my mind, body and soul in one way or another. And once I came to that realization, my desire (or perhaps need) has only grown.
To me, the nourishment of the mind comes in varying forms, such as conversations with people, books, research, movies, religion... so many things; including travel. Traveling to places you have only learned about in a history class, through your religion or just by listening to others talk about it can have a profound effect on you. There are so many places to go around the world to learn and experience something first-hand, they can complement what you already knew, but open your eyes and mind to so much more.
I have always found history fascinating, one of my two favorite subjects in school. Spending a semester in Italy not only allowed me the opportunity to enjoy my family’s culture, but I was surrounded by history. Ancient structures were all around us in Rome and we ventured to different cities in Italy and throughout Europe on the weekends. All were incredible experiences. However, the experience I had that impacted me the most in terms of not only having an effect on my mind, but on my soul as well was when I was in Germany.
While in Germany for a few days with one of my roommates, we took the train from Berlin to Oranienburg to see the Sachsenhausen concentration camp; an experience that will never leave me and I do not think it is meant to. Until that day, I had only ever learned of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in a classroom. Visiting what remains of the camp took that out of the history books and put it in the present.
This is nothing wrong with going somewhere tropical and just lounging beach-side, but there is so much to learn in this world, even if it is just taking a cooking class while in another country - make sure you nourish your mind.
For me, having experiences and going places that help nourish or repair my soul unequivocally end up being some of my favorite memories and destinations. I cannot always explain it, and do not always expect it, but I always feel more fulfilled when it happens.
One such experience was after a particularly hard breakup in early 2015. I went to Virginia Beach a few weeks after it happened with two of my best friends, and while I was having a great time with them, I was still filled with sadness and anger. On the day we decided to go jet skiing, that all changed. While bouncing over the little whitecaps at 35 mph I felt like this black mist was lifted off me by the wind and carried out to sea. I slowed my jetski until the feeling passed then suddenly found myself feeling so much lighter. As I bobbed up and down on the water, a dolphin fin broke through the waves a few feet from me. I love dolphins. The site made me cry a little, then I hit the gas and as the jetski and I sped over the water I began laughing. By the time I took this selfie [see selfie picture below] that night, one of the first comments I received was that it looked like the first genuine smile I had expressed in a while, and it was.
The second time I felt like my soul had been touched like that was in Bali in 2019. From the moment I arrived I felt connected to the island. It almost felt like I had been there before, but this was my first time. The longer we were there, the more I felt this way. I even brought it up to my friend. It is hard to explain exactly everything I was feeling, but I experienced it on a soul level. The more I learned about the culture, the people and their beliefs the greater this feeling got. My friend and I even discussed past lives and how maybe that is where my feelings were coming from.
In closing, when you have the opportunity to go somewhere new, really live in the moments you experience there. Learn something new, revitalize your body and nourish your soul. It does not have to be all at once but experiences shape who we are and expand our understanding of the world as well as ourselves.
-Written by Alyssa Romeo