by Rina Patel
I’m sure every traveler will tell you that traveling isn’t the same for all: Experiences, the people you meet while you travel, and even the way in which you decide to live while away, drastically gives everyone a different type of experience. That being said, people also set out on their adventures for many different reasons: It can be to see more of the world over the holidays with family, or it may even become a lifestyle.
Travelers come from different types of backgrounds, some who don’t have a ‘home’ to go back to, a family that might be in touch every so often, or a loved one that is waiting back home. For me, I’ve come to realize that I come from a place where those closest to me are essential towards my growth as I continue my travels.
Straight after graduating from university, I spent six months backpacking around Southeast Asia and another four months doing service work in urban India and rural Nepal. For some reason, I assumed my family would get that I was actually around civilization, amongst people and other travelers like myself. But the realization I have now didn’t once occur to me when I started the journey: How would they know? They’ve never been anywhere besides the U.S. and India!
Before leaving, I didn’t foresee that traveling was going to become a lifestyle or even that it would drastically change the trajectory of my life decisions (for the better). I also did not foresee how important open communication would be while I was gone. It might seem like a no-brainer, right?
[A scenic view of a river in Vietnam, a country famous for its sandy beaches, busy city life, and alluring rivers.]
As a first generation Indian-American, I didn’t even think to put myself in my parent’s shoes. Our relationship was already built off of so much trust and understanding, but I didn’t realize that I was leaving the most important people in my life behind as I continued my journey. While we have always been close knit, I failed to recognize how difficult this would be for them.
As immigrant parents from small villages in Gujarat, India, they never in their dreams thought their youngest daughter would go back to India as much as I do, and travel the world. Now as I head off again, I’ve learned an important lesson that I think a lot of first generation children from conservative families learn. Although my family’s greatest concern was my safety, I’ve come to realize that this lesson represents something much greater.
[Read Related: Why Studying Abroad is Your Ticket to a New Beginning]
A very wise friend in India once told me to continue my journey as I would, but to include and [metaphorically] bring my family along with me. Traveling doesn’t just give you life-changing experiences, it can also give you the gift of life clarity, and introduce you to people that will change your life. To bring those you love along with you, to share some of the most authentic and vulnerable experiences with them, is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family.
[All photos are courtesy of Rina Patel]
Rina Patel is a 2015 graduate of Drexel University where she studied Marketing and Legal Studies with a minor in Public Health and International Studies. She is the founder of a non-profit organization, Aahana, which serves as a catalyst for youth social activists working in the United States and Gujarat, India. She has spent the past year backpacking and traveling throughout Southeast Asia, exploring the depths of her definition of service as she continues learning about the world of international development. She is currently exploring the world of creativity and social impact through her writing and business strategy work with startups, non-profits, and artists. To read more about Rina’s travels, work, and story check out her website www.rinagpatel.com