It can be both humbling and inspiring to see the bigger picture and witness exactly how you fit into the intricate web of the world.
As travelers, when our eyes are opened to something new, whether food, cultures, places, or stories, our world expands to include these new experiences. We, in essence, absorb and take on what we experience. The world shapes us just as much as we shape it. It is a piecing together of sorts, an elaborate puzzle in which the image is constantly changing as we are exposed to what was previously unknown. Instead of simply knowing the world, we become the world.
It is this aftermath, this remaking of self that makes travel so rewarding. After each trip, each venture outside of ourselves, we bring something back with us, whether knowingly or not. It could be as complex as an altered belief system, as simple as a newfound love of curry. Sometimes we choose something tangible as a means of preserving out experiences: a unique piece of pottery from Portugal, alpaca scarves from Bolivia, fair trade clothing from Malawi, or a handmade lotus fountain from Vietnam. These physical items can serve as a representation of the change in ourselves, a way of remembering who we are, where we have come from, and where we are going.
And we aren’t the only ones who benefit from this transformation. By bringing a piece of each place back with us, we are also effectively making the world smaller for others. Through our gradual transformation, we allow others to be exposed to places, ideas, and experiences they might never have been able to access. I become part of you and you become part of me.
It is easy to forget how interconnected we all are. As people we are both entirely unique and also entirely united. You can have something in common with every other person on the planet, yet no two people are alike. Our humanity and shared experiences link us together, and we each have a specific purpose, a place we are meant to fit in the world. You are the ambassador of your particular peculiarity. It is because of this, because of the fact that nobody else in the world is quite like you (or me, or your neighbor, or grocer), that each individual is then so important.
Not that anyone is deserving of special treatment. Not that anyone is a “special snowflake,” better than the rest, more unique, more important. Instead it means one person can make a difference. No matter your age, race, religion, wealth, fame, or nationality, you have influence in the world.
The person you are (and the person you are becoming) has the power to shape others, to mold minds, to effect change. And others have the same power over you–and isn’t that the whole point? We are meant to be relational, to encounter, interact, and react with our surroundings. This extends beyond human interaction to the planet, the universe as a whole. We cannot begin to understand who we are if we do not recognize and appreciate where we are, bringing us full circle back to the sublime realization of our simultaneous significance and insignificance in the world.
It is a big responsibility, and one that we cannot take lightly. When we go out into the world we should consider who we could be when return. What pieces do we choose to leave behind, what do we pick up along the way? By transforming, we free ourselves from the idea that people must be static, unchanging, set in their ways. We choose differently.
We choose to grow.