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Travel and the Mosaic of Memory

A couple years ago, one of my best friends went on her first solo trip to Austin, Texas. She had a great time, coming home with stories of kayaking with complete strangers and drinking at a wine bar on her own, but she concluded the story of her trip by saying, “I had a great time, but it would’ve been better with somebody there with me.”
Seeing the world, even if it’s just a new American city, opens your eyes to different ways of living and forces you to grow and change. I have learned so much about getting out of my comfort zone, fostering my own independence, knowing when to value rest over activity, and being mindful, safe, and aware of myself from the time I’ve spent traveling. Travel is valuable in and of itself, but by far my favorite part of traveling is the deepened connection it fosters with your travel companions.
That same friend and I still talk about our (very white and British) waiter at the Ritz in London who serenaded us with all the Atlanta rap he knew during afternoon tea. We often laugh about how she told people “parlez-vous” instead of “excusez-moi” on the Paris Metro. Even the bad memories we recall with complete fondness: the absolutely brutal 16-hour drive we very foolishly made to Toronto when we were 20 or getting tricked into taking $20 shots on the streets of New Orleans and the subsequent hangover that left us completely incapacitated the next day. All these stories of our time traveling together make up the DNA of our friendship and solidify these trips in my memory as some of the greatest experiences of my life.
I went on my own solo trip to Philadelphia (which you can read more about on page 12) back in September, and it was an incredible experience. I had an amazing time while I was there, but now that it has passed, there is no one who remembers with me how beautiful the Philadelphia Magic Gardens were or how wonderfully bizarre Dynasty Handbag’s performance was at the Bearded Ladies Cabaret. There are no inside jokes, no special stories tying me closer to somebody I love. The trip taught me a lot about spending time on my own and being independent and brave, but like my friend said, it would’ve been better with somebody there with me.
Solo travel is great and it may even be your preferred mode of travel, but for me, the trips I have taken with my friends and family are so much more meaningful to me, filled with laughter and love. While travel has the capacity to open us up to something new, it has an even more powerful capacity to reconnect us with what we already know, what makes life truly special: the mosaic of shared memories that reminds me I’m never alone.