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Backpacking. Taking a gap year. Traveling to foreign countries. DON’T DO IT!

You don’t have time to do that stuff. I mean you gotta study to get into university, go to university, get a job, keep your job. Priorities right? There’s going to be plenty of time to travel once you’re 35, sitting in an office cubicle, and eating Fibre-1 bars as you wonder where it all went wrong.

Well we’re students, and even though it feels like you’re managing 20 things at once, now is when we have the most time on our hands. As my coach put it once, it doesn’t get any easier as you get older. You have to start paying the bills, managing your vacation days, and take care of your family. Right now, we get two months in the summer all to ourselves.

So what do you think of when I say the word “travelling”. Are you sitting in a resort? Drinking pina coladas? Getting tans (and tan lines)? As great as that sounds, I think travelling can be just a little bit more than an opportunity to fill up your Instagram with artsy photos.

Life is different outside from home

I just got back from Nashville not too long ago. They have one of the best libraries that I had ever seen (highly recommend), easy-going, smiling people who welcome you to Nashville in southern accents, they even have their own Broadway! Lemonade in hand, you can wander down the streets for hours listening to the strains of live music drifting out of the bars and restaurants. There’s nothing quite like that in Markham.

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived here for so long, but Markham is starting to get a little boring. Everything is so far apart, the buses suck, and so do the Asian drivers. On top of that it’s always so damn cold. Travelling to different places is a breath of fresh air; you get to meet new people, soak in the local culture, and see a different side of the world.

In fact, you don’t even have to get out of Canada before you can start noticing some of the changes in local culture.

In Quebec, I waited at least an hour for my food to come out at the restaurant. Turns out it was because over there, dinner is a time for them to sit, chat and catch up with each other. They would come in at 5 or 6 pm and leave 3 or 4 hours later. Here in Markham, at least from what I’ve seen, you’re in and out of dinner within an hour, 2 hours top. Half an hour if you’re eating at Chinese restaurants like I do.

While I was training In Halifax, I was really thrown off because everyone kept stopping me. Why? Complete strangers wanted to say “good morning”, ask me how my day was going, and how cold the water was. When that happens here, our parents would sit us down for a talk on “stranger danger”.

As a side note, did you know that people in Halifax surf? The parents will even give their kids these tiny body boards and let them ride the waves rolling in. I thought that was pretty awesome.

If Canada alone is so diverse and multicultural, just step back and imagine what the rest of the world is like. I just realized that as I’m checking off my travel bucket list, all the cultures I’m going to see and all the people I’m going to meet are just going to be a drop in the cultural bucket.

Travelling helps you gain perspective and worldview

I’ve been here and there, but every time that I go out and travel, I come back with a different perspective on the world, whether it be about politics, food, and even jobs.

For example, in Nashville, you see a lot of people forming bands and playing professionally as their job. It’s something that a lot of us won’t even consider as a career, and they are living the life.

Let me give you an example of a band that just happened to be playing during a lunch. They had just gotten back from the Netherlands, loved to make fun of our Canadian accents, and seemed to be having the time of their lives. They also got free beer from the restaurant we were sitting in, so they were pretty set.

Here’s another example. I went to Hong Kong a few years ago to visit some of my relatives. Until then, I didn’t realize that a lot of people in HK make their living in small shops that are half the size of our classroom. I’ve seen some shops that are barely larger than my closet.

Turns out some of my aunts own a shop just like that. They help others tailor and repair clothing, and they work hard in the sweltering heat and smoke-filled air. But they still had plenty of smiles, loud jokes, and candy left over for a kid like me.

All this to say that by travelling, you can see how different people live their lives. It’s not always what you expect, but there’s always something which you can take away from it.

It’s not going to hurt you

I know I always mention her, but my English teacher shared a story about one of her students. Bright kid, seems like a smart guy. He decided to go backpacking in Europe. After that, he came back, finished university, and currently makes 6 figures as an accountant, exactly what he wanted to do. If that’s not successful, I’m not sure what is.

Of course, travelling doesn’t have to be exotic as backpacking alone in Europe. It can be something as simple as a road trip, or as extravagant as a resort in the Bahamas. In the summer of Grade 12, I want to take a road trip across Canada! Or someone also recommended backpacking in the Montreal area. I’ll figure it out.

To me, this future trip is my own little adventure, a chance to see what life is like outside of Markham, a rite of passage if that makes sense. It’s a way of proving to myself that I can be independent, but also take charge of my own life.

Here’s the bottom line. If you want to got travelling, don’t do it for your parents. Don’t do it for your friends. Do it for yourself.

Go out and have an adventure.


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