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My mother is a born traveler. My dad goes along for the ride, but it’s my mom’s innate wanderlust that propels them across the globe at least once a year. This past spring, they were spelunking through cave dwellings in Cappadocia, Turkey. Next up: a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. I beg to be taken along—Mom passed her wanderlust down to me, and I’ve got it bad—but it’s not in the cards right now.
I used to travel. I’ve snorkeled through bioluminescent plankton in Puerto Rico, swayed to live reggae music in the Bahamas, practiced yoga on a platform overlooking primeval New Zealand forest, watched a pride of lions through the early morning mist in South Africa, sung in centuries-old cathedrals in Eastern Europe, and attempted to climb a baobab tree in Madagascar. I took a job in Australia that allowed me to travel all over the country. And when I moved back to the States for another job two years later, I managed to incorporate regular trips to Japan into my work.
Even when it’s difficult to communicate or navigate in foreign countries, travel enriches us. We witness and, on the better trips, actually experience how our fellow human beings live under circumstances that may be radically different from our own. We learn that it is possible to witness both incredible beauty and tragic poverty in the same moment. We learn that we are not the center of the universe. In short, travel makes us better. And, of course, our travel dollars can improve the places we visit by creating jobs or conserving the environment. It’s a win-win.
So, why haven’t I left the country for the past five years? Life happened. I met and married my husband and had two kids. We bought a house. All good things – things I wanted my whole adult life. But meanwhile, I changed jobs and money got tight. It’s expensive to fly a family of four across the country, let alone across the globe. That’s probably why my parents took us on a lot of road trips when we were growing up. I’d like to do that, and to take my kids on even more exotic adventures, someday. I will. I must. For them, and for me.
So, I’m here to tell you that the time to travel is now. Do not wait; life might just get in the way. Fortunately, the university offers a huge array of opportunities to get you out of Central Illinois. ACES Education Abroad coordinates faculty-led courses in a number of countries, as well as international research opportunities and internships. The U of I Study Abroad office will find a place for you to spend a semester or a year. Take advantage of these opportunities. Go, now, and get better.