Taylor Michie: What Travel Has Taught Me About Independence

Sunsets from the sky.

Sunsets from the sky

As I type this, I’m sitting on American Airlines 75, direct service between Washington and Los Angeles. We’re on our way to California to complete the final round of college visits before the May 1 decision deadline. As a high school senior, I’ll be out in the world on my own in only four short months. While many parents are busy coaching their kids on life skills before they head off, mine feel relatively relaxed. Letting me go is going to be a bittersweet moment for sure, but I believe there’s one reason why they (and I) feel so confident:

Travel.

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

I embarked on my first international journey during the summer of 2011, flying to Morocco via Belgium with my aunt for a traditional Muslim wedding. For me, someone who had always dreamed of international travel, Morocco was a dream. I imagined that I’d start slow with international travel; a trip to London, maybe, where English was the native language. Instead, I was thrust into the multicultural, foreign depths of Morocco, a country with language, culture, and customs very different from our own. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me.

After nearly two weeks spent in Morocco and Belgium, I returned to Annapolis for a week’s respite before heading back out to Spain, where I did some consulting and then spent ten days teaching English in the countryside. All in all, a solid month spent abroad. I’m lucky, and I know it. The experiences I had that summer were unbeatable, and even when I returned to Spain in 2012, I still yearned for my first trip, that feeling of newness and the desire to explore the unexplored.

Afternoon in Andalucia, Spain.

Afternoon in Andalucia, Spain

There’s no travel on the books for this upcoming summer. It’s a major first world problem, but I can’t help but feel empty; it’s like something’s missing. In early 2012, I published a piece about the wonders of travel on the Huffington Post that garnered me some negative feedback. I was accused of being entitled and selfish, “part of the 1%,” and even a “brat.” While all that criticism was hard to take, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m still a typical high-schooler, with a part-time job in addition to writing and consulting. I work hard during the year and save money so that I can travel in the summer. Where some others may choose to spend their money on expensive clothes or car modifications, I put it away and save it for summer.

The lessons that travel have taught me are invaluable. I’ve learned a great deal about myself, about being adventurous and living outside my box. I’ve learned  that the sky is the limit. I’ve learned to work hard and play hard. I’ve learned to live beyond expectation, which is the tagline for my media company, Racing Winds Media. All of these lessons are ones that will serve me well in college and beyond, ensuring that I’m always prepared for whatever life decides to throw at me. Some college students flounder as to whether or not they should pursue a semester or a year abroad. For me, the choice is obvious. I’ve learned a great deal through travel, and I can only assume that it will continue to teach me a great deal.

‘Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively … choose a challenge over competence’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

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