So the title is a little misleading because I technically have not been around the world in 80 days, but I thought it was a catchy and appropriate title for what I will be writing about in this blog post, i.e., traveling.
For the first 20 years of my life, I was content living in the great country of the United States and limiting my travel to different places in the U.S. As a child, my family had always taken vacations to places within driving distances of my hometown, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When I entered college, I decided I would take small steps in my traveling career, and the first summer after my freshman year, I lived in the great plains of Nebraska, doing summer research on a protein similar to one active in early-onset Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. The next summer, I stayed in St. Louis, Missouri, to work in a genetics lab and to play with fruit flies. My last summer of college was spent in sleepy Happy Valley, home of the infamous Jerry Sandusky. At Penn State, I rekindled my interest for electrical engineering when I worked on a microscope that lets one see down to the nanometer!
Earlier my junior year, I had started dating a French Asian born in America, who was appalled at the thought of a girlfriend who had never stepped foot outside of the United States. With that, we began to travel.
I had always gone to books to satiate my thirst for travel, because in a book, your mind can be in the Bahamas, snorkeling with the protagonist; in Russia, spying on the neo-Nazis; in South Africa, fighting against the beginning of the apartheid era during World War II; or in England, acting with Shakespeare in the Globe Theatre. I thought I never needed to visit a place if I could just read about it in a book. To say that I did not know what I was missing out on would be an understatement. The donut never knew that it was missing a center until it saw the donut hole.
During the winter of my senior year, we decided to go to Taiwan, since Taiwan had recently begun allowing Chinese citizens to visit her. (Not that JQ was a Chinese citizen, but somehow I don’t think the Taiwanese government would look too kindly on the great-grandson of the man who pushed China into simplifying written Chinese.) Anyway, it was my first time in Taiwan (first time abroad for that matter), and I was amazed at the ideas, knowledge, and culture that I met in the people of Taiwan. I know it’s really cliché to say that my eyes were opened, but I mean it when I say that I think every young lady who wants to know more about herself needs to get out of the country at least once.
Something unbelievable happened the next year. Over the winter break (I know, I know, I technically don’t get “breaks” anymore now that I have a full-time job; they’re called “vacations”), JQ and I went to visit his family in Saint-Genis-Pouilly, France, a 10-minute drive from Geneva, Switzerland. I was really in for a culture shock in the land of bread, cheese, and wine. The French school of thought is very liberal; American liberalism is considered extreme conservatism in France. Many of JQ’s friends were very Swiss (or very French, and take care not to confuse the two lest you find yourself being lectured on the distinct differences between the Swiss and French), and they were all interesting to talk to. I felt like Europe was refreshing in that I could have a deep, meaningful conversation with anyone I wanted to, but that’s a blog for another day.
In Europe, I was exposed to many peoples, histories, foods, and passions. In terms of family, careers and salaries, their view of the “good life” is incredibly different from what we Americans think of as our “happily ever after.” People are extremely open with their opinions, thoughts, and views, which can sometimes be off-putting to the typical close-minded American, namely me. However, by remembering to keep mind open and receptive to people different than me, I was able to thoroughly enjoy my time spent in Spain, France, and Switzerland.
Now go see the world for yourself!