The classroom does not have four walls


     “What was I thinking?”

    This is the thought that kept running through my mind as I sat on a Milan-bound plane on the runway at JFK Airport next to a girl I had only talked to once in the past six months. It was only eight months before this that we decided we were going to go backpacking through Italy on a teen tour and fly across the world without our parents. 

            You should have seen the look on the middle-aged man’s face who was sitting next to us on the plane when we told him this. “Let me get this straight; you’re 15 and leaving the country for the first time ever to go travel around Italy with a group of other teenagers from all over the world, and your parents are okay with this?” He was so concerned for us and definitely thought we had the worst parents in the world for allowing us to go across the world without them. 

            My parents have always encouraged me and my siblings to go out and see the world. Not a day goes by without me hearing, “There’s so much more to the world than Voorhees, New Jersey.” However, it did take a little convincing to allow my parents to let me go across the world without them. So I did what any other Gen Z teenager would do: put together a PowerPoint presentation saying why I should be allowed to go. 

            In the end, the PowerPoint presentation wound up being beyond worth it. It was the best and most educational 16 days of my life. I was finally able to understand why my parents wanted me to see the world so badly: to learn something that school can’t teach me. 

            Traveling at a young age is so important because it opens your eyes to other ways of life and allows you to experience the rich history of the world. In the grand scheme of things, America is a very young country. To stand in a place that the historical figures you learn about in history stood 1,000s and 1,000s of years ago gives you a new appreciation of how times have changed. It puts you right into the history textbook instead of being outside of it taking notes. The only way to truly learn something is to experience it. 

            It teaches you to stop and realize it’s not all about you. The world is huge. 7.7 billion people. That’s a whole lot of people. Americans live a very fast-paced, stressful life, especially in the Northeast. Most foreigners don’t live their life that way. I’m not saying one way of life is better than another, but it’s important to see the different ways people structure their lives as your young adult life begins to take shape. 

            Let’s face it: New Jersey isn’t the prettiest state. There’s so much beauty in the world, whether it be the art of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel or the way the sunlight reflects off the Mediterranean Sea in Capri. It’s humbling to witness such beauty with my own eyes. Travel not only gives you the opportunity to learn about the world around you, it allows you to find yourself. It teaches you what you can’t learn inside a 4 wall classroom.