In first year, I experienced independent travel for the first time. When I say independent, I ping-ponged from Paris, to Berlin, to Rome, to Florence, to Venice with my best friend. We mixed up hostel bookings, packed too many clothes, got stuck in the barriers at an Italian train station, and had the most fantastic time. I returned with over 2000 photos, blonde hair, and a promise to myself that I would do that again someday.
The following year saw me shouldering a rucksack, jumping on a bus, and making my way round Germany. We saw Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin and Cologne. Our hostel in Munich was the highlight of my trip, set in the middle of a forest, with no pick up after 8pm. We made friends, drank beer, played cards and sang songs. It was fantastic. With the friends we had made, four Americans traversing Europe, we climbed to the top of a mountain to see Neuchwanstein, ate beer cheese, jumped into a lake in our underwear and ran around Munich to see as much as we could in the short time allotted us.
I sometimes wonder if it was a bad idea taking that first step, whether our first trip into travelling with dresses and dolly shoes and misplaced bookings, was only setting my up. Suddenly, Britain wasn’t enough, the world was waiting! I want to see everything, meet everyone. I want to hear everyone’s stories, learn about their language, their culture, how their lives differ from ours. So where I have been restricted to Europe for price and time reasons, I want to go to South America, to Thailand, to Vietnam, to South America, to Russia. I want to be sucked in, live like a local, see children playing, eat foods I can’t pronounce and probably don’t want to know the translation to. I want to send postcards home signed, Must dash! Bea. I want to run and dance and write and draw everything I see. I am so inspired by the idea of travel, of not belonging anywhere for a few months. Of having a camera and a pen and paper to document memories and experiences that will last me the life time. I want stories to tell my children that start with, “When I was in….” and have them convulsing with laughter.
But, it isn’t just the culture, the excitement, the travelling that draws me like a moth to the flame. Its the people, the languages and how they differ from English. I am not bilingual, not from lack of trying, but the effect of language and culture is one I find inherently fascinating. Especially in context effects and processing and innumerable other concepts I have learnt through psycholinguistics.
So, hear I am, a final year undergraduate, at the precipice of adulthood. People keep asking me what I want to do when I graduate. I have tried to explain that I want to travel, that I want to see the world and everyone in it. That I want to hear their stories and learn from them. But travelling isn’t financially viable. It isn’t a career. It’s a dream, a hope, a fantasy. So, instead I tell them part of the truth. I want to teach English language abroad, I tell them. I want to be able to help those who want to learn. I want to study linguistics and learn about the world and their languages and how they differ. Find out if Linguistic Relativity extends to nomadic languages as opposed to the mainstream. I want to travel for the people and the cultures I will meet and learn from. The ruins, the sunsets, the drawing opportunities are all added extras!
Why stop here when the world is waiting?