Before I left for my month abroad in Budapest, a sweet lady from my church told me that I was a brave girl for traveling to so many places. I laughed. I didn’t think myself very brave at all.
Only a few days after arriving in Hungary, I would be traveling back to the States to be with my family at my brother’s graduation. My 12-hour layover between Budapest and Houston was in Manchester, only three days after the Manchester Arena bombing. My heart raced at the thought. My mind flashed back to the attack at the Istanbul airport last year. My phone and television flooded with headlines about the critical threat level and the ongoing investigation. I didn’t feel very brave at all.
Thinking back over my past travels and my first week in Budapest, I am beginning to see that traveling does, to an extent, require a few ounces of bravery. It looks different for everyone. Maybe it’s going on a trip where you don’t know a single person in the group. Taking the scenic route home. Hopping on the metro with no destination in mind, just happy to be along for the ride. Ordering a new, foreign dish at a restaurant. Attempting to speak Hungarian with the women at the Central Market.
Wherever we are, wherever we are going, the best kind of travel takes us out of our comfort zone. It doesn’t require that we act recklessly or without thinking, but it does mean that we refuse to allow fear to keep us in a box we created. Whether it’s the fear of missing out or the fear of the unknown, I would say that we owe it both to ourselves and each other to discover our limits and then to go beyond them.
Today’s world is scary. Maybe every generation says that, but it seems that hardly a day goes by where there is not a new reason (or excuse) to shut up our doors and our lives. There are people who do bad things in the world, there always have been, but traveling is one of the best things you can do. Traveling allows you to see people and places that, while far in distance, can be close in heart and in spirit. Learning about the rich history of countries such as Hungary allows you to see that everyone has their own struggles. There is a point where dots on a map and strangers in the bus become cafes where you share laughs and friends who share their country.
To be honest, I came to Budapest a little scared. I didn’t really know anyone I would travel or live with. I’ve never been to a country where I didn’t speak the national language or at least could manage with my rudimentary skills. I knew nothing about Hungarian culture or history. To be even more honest, I didn’t know Budapest was in Hungary until I decided to go on the trip.
I hope to leave Budapest a little more brave. I hope to immerse myself as much as possible and to leave with no regrets. I want to see the real city, not just the photo-ops and tourist traps. Who knows what I will learn along the way, but right now, I don’t think that’s the point. Maybe the willingness and the openness to learn is just as important as the lessons themselves.
The good thing is that you don’t have to cross the Atlantic to experience the benefits of travel. We gain little victories each time we open our hearts and our homes. Wherever and whatever it may be, find your brave and go there.