Why do we travel? Why is it such a big selling point that at St. Stephen’s University I got to spend 2 terms going around the world with my class? Well, it could be the Belgian waffles, Austrian schnitzel or Italian gelato. Or it could be Michelangelo’s David, Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace or the rugged hike in the Swiss Alps.
It’s also been the moments like: forging deeper friendships while in conversation on the beach in Barcelona; swing dancing in front of the Eiffel tower; interviewing a kind older couple in Strasbourg (in French!); learning about international law from a PEI-er working in Paris; standing au naturel under a cool, refreshing waterfall at Lauterbrunnen; missing the last bus in Vienna and walking back to the campsite with a friend.
But I think most of all it is the formation of deeper relationships. I found that after being with a group of 40 people camping in 10 different countries over 8 weeks, it was a really humbling experience that showed me at my weakest at times and brought out my strengths at others. I’m not usually an emotional person, I tend to keep to myself, so it was really unusual that there were moments of laughter and tears, pain and ecstasy. (Just kidding, my life is always a roller coaster!) But in the midst of this, I’ve had friends around me that I could rely on and in turn I found that by passing along encouragement and being available to others, it made the trip a really rich time of building friendships and caring for each other.
I believe that community is made stronger by reaching out and intentionally making better friendships with people you’re not as close with. This requires sacrifice, time and it also means not expecting anything in return, otherwise it wouldn’t truly be giving. I think that might be what Jesus is getting at when he says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It may not involve taking a bullet for someone or literally dying for them, but it does require selflessness and constantly trying to value others above yourself.
And just as I am imperfect, I am realizing that I need to love people where they are at, not where I want them to be or, if only they were different. I also learned that time is short and you need make the most out of every moment; you never know if you’ll have the opportunity next week, next month or next year to have a great chat with a friend, so have it today and don’t live with regrets!
Take Risks. Live purposefully. Love unconditionally.