These days it seems as though everywhere I look, there is something reminding me of Italy or other trips I've been on. My father's subscription to Home & Away featured an article on the Cinque Terre. I made the mistake of watching Letter's to Juliet the other night (Verona and Siena). A friend brought up the topic of cruises. A character in a book I read moved to London.
So clearly, my wanderlust has been kicked into overdrive. Thankfully, my sister and I have a vacation coming up, so that should alleviate the constant internal nagging going on.
I recently read an article, which discussed how my generation mistakenly believes that simply traveling can make them better people. In some cases, it can be very true. But in most cases, that's not usually the end result. I, myself, have felt a little bit of both. Some trips I truly believe helped to make me the person I am today. They taught me so much about who I am and who I want to be. Other trips, were less "soul-searching" and more about just having fun.
When I lived for a summer as a foreign-exchange student in high school, it really helped me learn about myself. Being dropped into another culture, forced (albeit willingly) to live life like the natives really helps to stretch your limits. It got me out of my comfort zone and opened me up to new experiences. I learned how to be a better listener and absorb a new language. It gave me insight into human behavior and the similarities with my home country.
When I visited London, Greece, and went on a family cruise - it was usually more of just a "get away and see new things" vacation. I wasn't focused on my inner-self, focusing more on just making the most out of my time in those places.
While my summer as a study abroad student in Rome was one of my most memorable and favorite experiences, I wouldn't say I learned much about myself that I didn't already know. It did teach me a thing or two about having roommates that you don't necessarily mesh well with, but getting through it anyway. Rome ended up becoming my all-time favorite city, but it wasn't a true growing experience for me. At least, not in ways that I have been able to notice.
I'm starting to think that there are certain factors that dictate how much effect traveling can have on a person. When you are just doing a quick getaway, focused on "getting the most" out of your trip, I think people tend to miss things. When its a family vacation and you have to take other people's wants into account. Basically when you can't really give yourself over to the new place and culture. When you're too inside your own head, you can miss a lot.
I'm not saying that it's an "either/or" situation. If anything, it truly frustrates me when people have that mindset. While every trip might not be completely life-changing, there is always a chance it could have a smaller, either positive or negative, effect on someone. I think you have to let life happen to you, while not being completely passive, if that makes any sense.