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Traveling, especially when young, both fun and beneficial

Traveling, especially when young, both fun and beneficial

NORFOLK, Neb. – Many college students have a little voice deep inside that pushes them to try new adventures.

It could be meeting new people, taking challenging classes, trying new foods, wearing different styles of clothing or traveling to another state or foreign country.

Northeast Community College English instructor Tom Elliott has never been afraid to listen to that voice.

The Kansas native has served in the U.S. Army, lived 10 years in China and traveled to several foreign countries. This past summer, he and his family spent five weeks traveling in Europe.

Elliott was the latest speaker in the Hawk Talk series, speaking on “The Impact of Education on Our Experiences” on Thursday, Oct. 12.

He encouraged students to travel, sprinkling quotes throughout his PowerPoint presentation that did just that. Often, the quotes were under photos from such places as waterfalls in Switzerland, close ups of nature or Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

“Travel changes you,” he said. “Usually, it is in a good way.”

While it is easy to dismiss foreign travel because of the expense, Elliott said students are at the prime age for travel – in part because they can get discounts. They can stay at youth hostels and get off the touristy path, which is cheaper but sometimes requires a lot of walking or hiking.

So how do students with little or no money make it happen?

Elliott offers the following tips.

  • Commit to it. That involves setting up a separate savings account and continually adding to it. Some weeks it might be a few dollars. Other times, there might be a tax refund where it grows by several hundred dollars. Be patient as it can take a few years.
  • Plan and do research on the places one wants to travel. Then do more research. Seek more than one or two opinions online. Be patient.
  • When traveling, listen to the locals. If several recommend seeing something or going to a restaurant, it will be worth it – no matter what a travel agent or brochure might say.
  • Be open to adventure. Different cultures do things differently, and that’s not bad or good.
  • Live in the moment. On most trips, especially longer ones, there will be highs and lows. Accept it and try to enjoy the place one is visiting.
  • Try not to use credit cards to finance a trip. This is a mistake students sometimes make. While it can take years to recover, many students even years later will be pleased they took the trip. They just regret not being smarter about it.
  • Build in relaxation times and don’t try and see everything in a short time. That results in viewing a lot of sites by bus and not experiencing the cultures or often enjoying the most interesting parts.

Elliott said this past summer’s trip was inspired by viewing Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, on the internet in 2017. Located in the Alps, it features massive waterfalls coming down canyons with a little village at the base of the mountains.

“I thought, ‘I am going to see that someday. No, I have to see that,’” Elliott said. “It looks like something you’d see out of a movie. For someone who grew up in Kansas, it was hard for me to imagine a place like that.”

Originally, he and his family were going to go in 2020, but it didn’t happen. So, he kept researching, and the trip expanded. His daughter, Kailin, 13, wanted to add Greece, so they did. His wife, Li Na, suggested going to Rome because they were so close.

“I said, ‘You’re right. Let’s do it,’” Elliott said. “It then turned into a five-week trip, which is kind of intense. And we did it on a tight budget. The most expensive part of the trip was the plane tickets.”

Elliott did all the planning himself – hotels, transportation, tours, points of interest. He did lots and lots of research.

“Research has shown that the anticipation or planned approach to a trip like that is almost as positive as the trip itself. And it is more positive than something like ordering an iPhone and waiting for it to come,” Elliott said. “The anticipation of waiting for an experience by itself is a great thing.”

Many of Elliott’s educational experiences have dovetailed with his life experiences. 

If a person can’t swing a trip to a foreign country, travel to another state, he said. Elliott has been to 20 national parks in the United States, and there are many more places and states he wants to visit. It isn’t necessary to stay at a $400 a night hotel. Staying at a camp site for $30 or $40, especially when a person is young, makes many trips quite doable, he said.

Paul Muncy, Northeast history and geography instructor, started the Hawk Talks and has traveled extensively as well.

Muncy asked Elliott if he believed traveling brings happiness, even if it is uncomfortable to get out of one’s comfort zone.

Elliott said traveling will bring new experiences that can’t be taken away. There are budget friendly places at almost all places. Most of the time when traveling, the room is only for sleeping, so it is OK to camp or share rooms. And for safety in some places, it is better to travel with at least one other person or several, he said.

Muncy said traveling helps people with their outlook. The other option, he said, can be to sit on the couch, watch TV and go into depression.

Sometimes it is best to do those things that force people out of their comfort zones.

“It has struck me that traveling is one of the great cures for anxiety and depression,” Muncy said. “Even going to Sioux City on the weekend can get me out of the daily grind.”

Hawk Talk

Tom Elliott, Northeast English instructor, said getting out of one’s comfort zone by traveling is something he has never regretted. If one has a goal to travel to a particular place, it will happen by keeping after it by saving and planning. (Northeast Community College)