Give More Than You Take

Elizabeth Atwood is a student at University of Denver. She is an ISA Featured Blogger and is studied abroad with ISA in Cape Town, South Africa.

As I type this, I am on a fourteen-hour plane ride back to the United States. I will be home and with my family in less than 24 hours.

It is a precarious and somewhat indescribable feeling to go be going back home—back to my old life. I am dreading the “how was Cape Town” questions I will undoubtedly be faced with in the upcoming weeks from family and friends. How do I summarize the last four and a half months of my life in just a few sentences? How can I rightfully represent such a diverse and lively society that is undergirded with the repercussions of apartheid, which includes the remaining widespread tension and inequality?

The reality is that I cannot accurately express my experiences abroad to anyone at home. But that is okay. Rather than attempting to summarize, my energy will be more productively spent encouraging others to travel and experience for themselves.

Traveling has allowed me to see that issues in societies across borders and seas are created when there are false perceptions and a lack of understanding.

To travel is to come as close as possible to living in another’s shoes and to face the very issues that create conflict. To travel is to confront our generalizations and deepest fears. To travel is to embrace vulnerability and encourage open-mindedness in its place.

I am not an expert on apartheid, Cape Town, or South Africa; I am not an expert on the country’s issues or its people. I have promised myself not go home and pretend that I am.

Travelling will not create complete transparency and understanding, but it can serve as a tool to break down harmful stereotypes and misconceptions. Experiencing life in another context generates knowledge and adds to our understanding of issues that affect every community, such as violence, inequality, and injustice. How can we expect to begin to solve issues when we have never observed them in another context?

I encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone and travel in order to begin to break down misconceptions and to build a sense of global morality.

I am extremely grateful for my experiences in Cape Town that have allowed me to question and challenge my thoughts. My weekend homestay in a local township and weekly visits to the townships to teach English have been some of the most valuable takeaways from my time abroad. The conversations I have had with these people have been immeasurably impactful.

Travelling is a beautiful and powerful tool that can connect us to what it means to be human. Travelling has allowed me to second-guess my own thoughts and thirst for deeper understanding.

In a world where giving more than we take is the only way towards meaningful progress, travelling is not only integral but imperative.

I encourage anyone reading this to travel, challenge yourself, surprise yourself, and give more than you take.

Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.

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