Tomorrow we celebrate the day America gained independence from Great Britain, and what better way to acknowledge the independence of our country than reflect on our own personal independence.
I’m sure many of us remember what it feels like to transition from childhood into adulthood. It can be difficult to navigate the process of becoming comfortable making your own decisions and accomplishing tasks without the help of the loving parents and guardians who have always been around to guide you in the past. For several reasons, traveling is a phenomenal way to develop independence.
I’m an only child, which means the entirety of my parents’ focus has always been on me – I could never just slip through the cracks. Anything I ever wanted to do and any place I ever wanted to go was scrutinized by my family to a T. While I always felt blessed to have such wonderful people in my life who cared so much about my well-being, it ended up with me feeling babied. I wanted to make my own decisions, go places on my own, learn from my own mistakes. Well, lo and behold, I got exactly what I wanted upon my first trip abroad without my family.
In the summer of 2011, I traveled to Greece – my first time overseas, and also my first time on a plane. Ever. I was, of course, nervous, but this was symbolically my first solo flight from my parents’ nest, and I had to “take my wings and learn to fly.” From learning how to calm my nerves without my mom to pat me on the back and tell me everything was okay, to navigating the winding streets of Athens and bargaining with locals for deals on food and souvenirs, I was reassured that I could, in fact, handle a plethora of new and challenging situations on my own. My confidence in my abilities to conquer my own life was solidified – I could be, and now was, independent.
I know travel has changed lots of people’s lives, just as it has changed mine. In fact, according to a survey of students who traveled with ACIS, a whopping 94% claimed they came back from their ACIS trip feeling more independent than they had upon leaving. This statistic is followed closely by 92% of students feeling more confident after traveling abroad, and 91% feeling an increased sense of maturity.
If that still hasn’t convinced you how important travel is for developing independence, take it straight from 2009 ACIS traveler Katie Shea, who told us:
“To say that my high school experiences traveling abroad influenced my life would be a huge understatement. Rather, these experiences defined my future. I have since lived and worked abroad, and the courage and independence I gained from my initial trips allowed me to couchsurf and trek across the Caucuses into Turkey.”
So this weekend when you’re celebrating the independence of our nation, don’t just think about stars, stripes, and fireworks, but instead consider taking the bull by the horns by getting out there, seeing the world, and seizing independence for yourself!