Valuable experiences gained through travel

Commentary by Vesna Brajkovic

Telling a bunch of broke and disgustingly complain-y college kids to travel the world might be a lost cause, but it’s my cause. (I’m not calling anyone young adults here because, let’s be honest with ourselves, some of us are barely there.)

It’s really not overdramatic to say that most students are actually and truly broke, even while working into the night and all summer. I understand that even though most people want to, they just can’t justify or find the money to fly to Florida for Spring Break every year. I wouldn’t ask you to do that unless you could, but my advice is to take advantage of every opportunity to explore the world. Spend your extra money on experiences, which equal education, rather than materialistic gains.

Travel to somewhere different and out of your comfort zone, not necessarily on a dream trip to Greece (although that’s decent, too). Experience the food, culture and people everywhere you go. Above all, don’t be scared to ask questions because that’s when you truly learn to better understand the world.

The most valuable experiences I’ve had in my short life have been learned through my travels to different countries in Europe and across the U.S. I can confidently say my spectrum of “common knowledge” is much more vast because of my experiences and my education at UW-Whitewater has only improved because of the real-world connections I can now make to my courses.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have parents who emphasized the importance of travel and discovery before I could even appreciated it. Growing up knowing that no education is complete without being immersed in different cultures was an essential part of who I am.

My father was born and grew up in Serbia before he eventually moved to America in his late 20’s. My mother was from a military family and lived in places like Malta and Libya throughout her life. Both never had very much money; yet I was constantly surrounded by stories of different places and people.

If there’s one single thing I’d like to thank my parents for, it’s for giving me the chance to see and experience another little piece of the world and for working so hard their entire lives to make it happen.

I know it’s not always realistic, but if there’s ever a time to travel, it’s now – when you’re young and not so set in your own ways, and when you’re going to be broke either way. But all joking aside, there is a way to make this happen without actually breaking the bank. Look into travel study, which offers financial aid for students, stay with relatives in other places to minimize housing costs, or consider splitting trip costs with a couple friends.

My dad said something on the importance of traveling that didn’t mean anything until I recently realized how much I valued the opportunities I’ve had since I was young,  “We won’t have money, but we’re happier.” And I really think that’s true.