What Semester at Sea Taught Me about Travel

December 22, 2014
study abroad
What Semester at Sea Taught Me about Travel

I didn’t realize I was obsessed with traveling until I was 17. My family just isn’t a “traveling” family. The farthest we ever went was to other states to visit family, so I was never exposed to the idea of exploring new cultures and places. I stumbled upon it myself, and since participating in Semester at Sea, I think about traveling daily. Where am I going to go next? How can I strategically afford going to this place? You get the picture.

During the summer of 2013, I was finally able to realize my dream of becoming a “world traveler” of sorts when I attended a Semester at Sea study abroad voyage. I went to a total of 10 countries and have so many stories – most of which are still untold. One of the greatest challenges I faced during that experience was in learning how to be a traveler– not a tourist, not a vacationer, but a traveler.

When you think about traveling, especially when you haven’t previously done a whole lot of it, your daydreams consist of grandiose excursions where you discover things and meet amazing people and take beautiful pictures.

Perhaps this is just me, or perhaps this is characteristic of everyone who wants to travel the world. But when you think about traveling, especially when you haven’t previously done a whole lot of it, your daydreams consist of grandiose excursions where you discover things and meet amazing people and take beautiful pictures. Most importantly, you believe wholeheartedly that traveling is going to change you.

What I learned was that travel shows you things you don’t already know.  Every memory you create has a certain glow around it in your mind. Traveling also does change you, but the process is much slower than I previously imagined.

What Semester at Sea Taught Me about Travel

What Semester at Sea Taught Me about Travel

As it turns out, traveling does not produce any crashing moments of understanding about yourself or anything else in the world. It’s more like you are gliding forward, experiencing a series of changes that you can’t possibly recognize in the moment.

Similar changes are happening to your travel buddies, so you don’t have a way of judging whether or not you’ve changed. This was hard for me because I expected to feel like an entirely new person immediately, and that did not happen.

As it turns out, traveling does not produce any crashing moments of understanding about yourself or anything else in the world.

I remember sitting on the observation deck of the MV Explorer on our last day in Portugal and wondering what the answer was. What had I gained from the past two months? When I returned to “real life,” would I feel different?

I wanted to know what it all meant, and in my mind, traveling would give me an answer. After feeling stressed out, shedding a few tears alone on the observation deck, and doing a lot more thinking, I came to the realization that there is no single way to “find yourself” and become a global citizen through traveling.

The beauty of traveling is in your ability to embrace and remember your experiences. Through my travels, I have learned that sometimes, imperceptible changes have the most profound effects on your life. All you really need is a little bit of patience and a little bit of trust in your potential to change.

What Semester at Sea Taught Me about Travel

What Semester at Sea Taught Me about Travel

About Kathryn Swynenberg

Kathryn SwynenbergI grew up in a small rural town in central Texas, and after high school did my freshman year of college in New York at Hofstra University. That is where I first heard about Semester at Sea. However, I transferred back to the University of Texas for the remainder of college and forgot about SAS for a time. I was reminded of it when I got a call from SAS to finish my almost complete application. One thing led to another and I was able to attend the Summer 2013 voyage. I started in London, and then visited several cities in Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Crete, France, Malta, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. It was quite the adventure. I returned home with an even bigger desire to constantly be traveling. Ever since then, it’s pretty much all I think about!

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