Traveling Abroad / by Jean Bai

Venetian gondolas in the early morning after my first night in the city. Sep. 2007.

Venetian gondolas in the early morning after my first night in the city. Sep. 2007.

“It’s not your experiences, but it’s what you do with them,” a Brazilian woman once told me, while I was staying a night in Venice.

“sin no es tu experiencia, es lo que haces con ellos”

Looking back, that entire experience traveling on my own was one of the happiest times in my life. There was nothing more than a backpack for survival. You appreciate what you have so much more. The most important thing to me at the time was a small point-and-shoot Travels camera to remind myself of the times.

I’d gone to try find answers to what would be most important for me in life. Up until then, most of what I had been striving for was academic in nature – higher grades, a nice internships an Ivy League graduate school. Why was it that I could find no correlation between happiness, success and meritocracy though?

What the trip did teach me was that I loved experiencing new surroundings, meeting different people and understanding new cultures. Above all, I valued the feeling of thinking independently. It was as if by being in another country, I was free to reconstruct the ideals and ways of perceiving the world that I was used to. There was no set path to get where I wanted.

It seemed strange to myself at first when I looked through those first photos I took. I remember my friends would ask why it was that no one was vacationing in Europe when I went that September. There were people – I just chose not to photograph them.