I’m sure many of us have spent time swiping through travel blogs, national geographic magazines and even the catalogs of mountain warehouse for hiking and backpacking equipment. Certainly, backpacking has had its Hollywood glamour through many films including Daniel Radcliffe’s recent feature in Jungle, Under the Tuscan Sun, Wild and my personal favorite: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
Never did I imagine, or even expect that I could be a part of such amazing life-enriching experiences as well. The beauty of going on exchange, is that you meet so many people with the same yearning to experience and to see the world around them as you. I believe that the people you meet while on exchange, or during any travel really, are very important actors in your life. These people allow you to see life outside of your hometown and home university; you quickly begin to realize that you are all quite similar people, with the same spirit to travel. You also begin to realize that life doesn’t necessarily need to be confined to the borders of one city alone, you can shape and make the decisions as you see fit. I think this is probably one of the main reasons I haven’t felt homesick as much as I expected. Being so far away, you kind of tell yourself to get on with it and enjoy your time.
During my stay here in England, my mates and I (how British, I know) have done several spontaneous trips… And by spontaneous, I mean less than 1-hour planning to look for a train and directions and we’re off to a new location! As I write this, two of us are currently in Scotland, despite all the snow warnings we took the risk to face the snow. Nonetheless, being two Canadians, we found ourselves rolling our eyes at what was considered extreme snowfall.
My favourite trip so far must have been one four of us took to see the Peak District in Sheffield, England. It all started when we were sitting at brunch one Sunday morning and my friend Anna was raving about Pride and Prejudice on Netflix, which happened to mention the peak district; our friend (and trusty guide in all these adventures) googled it and saw there was a train leaving in an hour for Sheffield. We put our plates away, ran to our dorms and packed in less than 20 minutes. It was an adventure for sure. We put skills to work that we didn’t even know we had. Such as map travel, hiking (for HOURS) and quick thinking when it came to realize we only had 2 hours to catch the last bus from the small town back to Sheffield – we were miles and miles away and had been walking for four hours at that point. When we managed to find the bus stop, we all sat there waiting, freezing and what seemed like every muscle in our body was sore. Its travel that brings these skills to the surface and it brings an incredible amount of joy when you reflect on them afterwards. That true satisfaction of reaching the mountain top when your body felt like it was against you. Or when nature meets you in its raw untamed form seeing a tunnel that was half covered in ice, and half in moss covered waterfalls.
When you travel you can see history, geography, politics, social studies, and economics largely at play. Education mustn’t stay solely within the walls of an institution, rather let’s use what we learn from our degrees and apply it to the real world.