I’ve been told studying abroad will be the peak of my existence. It doesn’t get better than this, eighteen years old, living the dream! I’m a sophomore in Stern studying Marketing and Information Systems with a minor in BEMT at NYU Prague. Some of my favourite things include karaoke, coffee shops, and animals wearing clothes. An experienced tourist from humble beginnings, I grew up in the quiet suburbs of Seattle until my family was shipped to the chaotic city of Shanghai when I was twelve years old. There, I was informed of the meaning of the word “travel.” I settled in my new niche, on the fringes of the city, looking within. I learned, in these formative years, that to travel is not just to see with one’s eyes, or to hear with one’s ears. Rather, it’s about immersion, empathy, and understanding. I was surrounded by constant thematic musings and phrases such as “third-culture kid,” “Where is home, really?” or “It must be so hard to fit in.” What I eventually realised was that I wasn’t entirely enchanted by the idea of “fitting in,” or having a home. I wanted to become the type of person that wasn’t defined from where they came from, someone who could belong anywhere.
After reading Pico Iyer’s “Why We Travel,” all I could think was, thank goodness that we’re “optimists abroad, pessimists at home.” It would be entirely too difficult to be a pessimist abroad.If I were one, maybe I’d attempt to complain about obstacles such as my Airbnb not providing shampoo, or rain in Prague on a Saturday morning at the farmer’s market, or the effect running on cobblestones has on my dry, cracked heels. I mean, so far, the only thing that has revealed itself as an anticipated disappointment is the disparity between my European experience, romping around, and the romantic, art-filled, renaissance-like journeys of the writers of the 20th century that I had read and imagined in the past. Rather than a game of risk, fear, and the poetry of venturing into the unknown, my travel has become distorted and forged by technology, by Uber, Yelp, and TripAdvisor: a game on the principles of planning and confirmation, sure-things and guarantees.
Ultimately, I’m grateful for the shortcomings of technology, and grateful that no matter how much effort I exert in documenting every inch of my experiences, whether it’s through photos, videos, or writing, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, there will never truly be a way to match reality to the tee, or capture more than a moment. Every day and journey I embark on in the next few months will be totally and completely my own, and each event and experience will exist as close to truth as possible in only my own memory.