When I was 14, I went on my first international trip…alone.
I flew from Newark, NJ to Athens, Greece. When I landed, there was no one to meet me because the friend I was going to visit was on the Saronic island of Hydra, an hour away by ferry.
On my own and with no knowledge of Greek, I had to locate a taxi from the airport to the harbor, buy a ticket for the Flying Dolphin hyrdrofoil to the islands and then travel out to Hydra, where my friend and her family were waiting for me.
I remember being nervous but also confident that I was capable of handling this on my own. Indeed, I made it to Hydra, where I stayed for three weeks with my French friend, Galaad, and her cosmopolitan parents. It was the trip that launched my love of travel: the adventure, the nuance, the challenge and the excitement.
Now that I am a parent, I marvel at the incredible faith and independence my father placed in me. As a parent in today’s world of heightened-security, helicopter-parenting and the Big-Brother atmosphere brought on by social media, I suspect the authorities would probably bring me in for questioning if I allotted my own 14 year old the same freedom.
Instead, many of today’s youth surf the web, connecting with “friends” in other parts of the world, learning about cultures through YouTube and becoming armchair tourists. No longer interacting face-to-face but rather screen-to-screen.
Gone are the days when global awareness required getting out into the world and exploring it. Nowadays, you can span the globe from the comfort of a desktop, laptop, iPad or even smartphone. The internet simultaneously has made our world smaller and created more distance between us. (more…)