GRACE WRIGHT | OPINION COLUMNIST | email@example.com
“Flight 601 with service to Punta Gorda is now boarding.”
Those are some of my favorite words to hear — with varying flight numbers and destinations, of course. Whether you’re traveling for a study abroad program or just for leisure, stepping onto a plane, or whatever your preferred mode of transportation might be, is the start of an opportunity to learn, grow and refresh.
Traveling can be an escape, but I’ve found that if you are able, it can be really rewarding to design a trip that will still complement your reality. For example, amid a busy, stressful semester, my mom and I take off to Florida for a relaxing week of spring break, but with life at a bit of a lull over the summer, my trips are typically centered around attending concerts with my dad.
Junior strategic communication major Lydia Laker also considers her needs and her present state of mind when she makes plans to travel.
“When I schedule a trip, I base it around where my current stage of life is at,” Laker said. “Do I need to rest and relax? Or am I up for a nonstop, whirlwind experience that is beautifully chaotic?”
No matter the purpose of a trip, one of my favorite parts of traveling is the brief yet impactful interactions we have with the strangers we meet. These are people that we’ll probably never cross paths with again, but they remind us that life is beautiful.
On my most recent visit to Florida, I met two new parents and their eight-month-old daughter Maeve. What drew me to this little family was the apparent and genuine love Maeve’s parents had for the beautiful little girl they’d brought into the world. I saw a lot of myself and the mother I hope to be someday in Maeve’s mom, and I know I’ll think of Maeve and her parents when I start my own family.
Laker made a similar connection with a Canadian couple she met on her trip to San José del Cabo, Mexico when they stopped and offered to take a photo of Laker and her friend. She explained that their kindness brought her a feeling of home in a completely unfamiliar environment.
“[The couple] stepped in and made us feel safe and taken care of in a home away from home,” Laker said. “I will never forget their hearts and the way they played a familiar role of our own parents.”
College also provides unique opportunities to experience the world. Butler’s Center for Global Education provides Bulldogs with a lot of study abroad opportunities. These programs give us the chance to explore new countries without having to put our education on hold.
Calie Dickey, the Center for Global Education’s associate director for study abroad, sees studying abroad as an opportunity to expand your mind and gain a new outlook on life.
“I think studying abroad … is so important because it opens up your eyes to different perspectives and ways of doing things,” Dickey said. “You learn more about yourself, the world and ways that we, as people and as a country, can do better.”
By traveling and immersing yourself in a new culture, you step out of your comfortable corner of the world, and you become more mindful of others’ customs and values. You see people for who they really are — not who the media or anyone else has made them out to be — and you’re given an opportunity to respect and embrace their differences. In a world that has become so polarized, this is invaluable.
First-year psychology major Emma Magee had this opportunity when she went on the study abroad trip to Paris over spring break. She expressed the gratitude that her experiences abroad have evoked.
“[Traveling] makes me more appreciative of everything,” Magee said. “I feel thankful that I get to see new, beautiful places.”
While these experiences are priceless, they do come with a price tag — one that can be difficult to afford as college students. Fortunately, there are some tips to help you save money in some potentially unlikely places.
In terms of studying abroad, Dickey suggests choosing a semester-long program to capitalize on your financial aid.
“When you [study abroad] for a full semester, you’ll have access to some or all of your financial aid. Many study abroad experiences are similar in cost to — and, in some cases, less expensive than — a regular semester at Butler,” Dickey said.
She also recommends being aware of what it costs to withdraw money with your debit card and if your credit cards have any international transaction fees. By avoiding unnecessary charges, you’ll have more money to spend on souvenirs, food and activities.
Laker also has a method for avoiding extra or surprise expenses: travel to an all-inclusive resort. She explained how this helped her save on her spring break trip to Mexico this year.
“I stayed for 5 days and 6 nights and spent much less than my friends traveling to Florida,” Laker said. “ … the flight ticket, meals, drinks, transportation and hotel are already taken care of, so there are no ‘extra costs’ that randomly pop up aside from tipping others for their service.”
Knowing ahead of time almost exactly what your entire trip will cost can reduce a lot of anxiety and help ensure that you won’t go over your budget while you are at your destination.
A couple of things I’ve found especially effective in saving money on a trip are booking in advance and avoiding traveling around major holidays and popular vacation times. This allows you to save on transportation, accommodations and activities. Another tip — if you’re flying to your destination — is to travel mid-week. Flights tend to be cheaper and less crowded from Tuesday to Thursday.
While it’s not always realistic, sometimes spending a little extra on a trip can be worth the one-of-a-kind people, places and experiences that will continue to shape your perspective on the world even after you’ve returned home. Laker shared that she has never regretted taking advantage of an opportunity to travel.
“Money will come back, but the opportunity to travel with your family, friends or even just yourself is something that is always worth it,” Laker said. “It’s worth it to invest in traveling, and it most certainly is worth investing in yourself.”
Something that I think encompasses the beauty of traveling is flying over a city at night. You see our world from an entirely new perspective, and all of the lights below remind you that in the grand scheme of things, your problems are so small. Yet at the same time, you’re reminded that you’re never alone, and you know there’s still so much out there to discover.