By Aparna Mele MD
Since I was a young child, I have been traveling and globetrotting. It helps that I have family on 3 continents, but I was raised to believe that the world itself is my extended family! I love exploring new worlds, meeting foreign friends, immersing myself in foreign cultures. Travel gives me a very special energy and a sense of incomparable freedom to open my mind and heart to brand new experiences. In fact, when I travel, I can experience more in a single day than I would experience in an entire month back home!
There are so many things to do, places to go, and people to meet. There is somehow an unmistakable thrill associated with the uncertainty and unknown of how each day of travel will go, what will enthrall or disappoint me and is a huge reason why traveling is so much fun. Traveling teaches me about other cultures, other peoples, nature, and a part of the world otherwise completely foreign and abstract to me. When I travel, I begin to appreciate that there is a world with billions of people waiting for me to discover them. My life perspectives change for the better when I can live in ways outside my normal, perhaps with less amenities and less luxury. It helps me become aware of the real differences in the way people live and survive. Furthermore, and according to a European study conducted through the University of Zurich, each time we travel, memories are created that can shape personality, as what we remember can create a new part of ourselves, whether we are picking up a creative new hobby or making new resolutions to adapt positive changes in our lives.
Traveling gives me a glimpse into cultures that are different from my own, seeing new faces, new places, and new knowledge that broaden my horizons, as well as my perspective of the things around me. I get to experience a wide range of emotions that can be exhilarating or disturbing and through these experiences, I learn more about myself: how good I am at making decisions, how well I adapt to changes and my environment, and how brave I am when facing challenges.
Traveling through remote areas or places in the world that may not be as developed as my own home makes me think about my own privileged living conditions. I’ve stayed in regions where the majority lives in some of the poorest conditions with open sewage, where water hydrants serve as showers, and where people walk bare foot wearing loin cloths. Appreciation of what we already have and may be thankful about cannot enter our thinking, until we can experience these sights with our own eyes. These experiences give me gratitude for the luxuries I enjoy at home and patience to live more simply when I am visiting these corners of the world.
My travels have brought new friends into my life who I never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise. Special bonds and human connections are made with shared experiences, as I immerse myself in their cultures and practice their customs. These friendships made while travelling have lasted a lifetime for me and have allowed us to continue to forge bonds and visit each other again and again!
Learning about different cultures helps me grow as a person and become more accepting of others and our differences. Here in the west where people have extreme prejudice toward other cultures, all of us could benefit by visiting a foreign land and expanding our mindset about others. Eating interesting new foods and dishes is so enriching to me and helps me learn about cultures more deeply. Foods from across the planet can be both diverse and delicious, and for this foodie who loves to cook, travelling and eating local cuisine teaches me innovative ways to prepare common and uncommon ingredients, which I can recreate at home and revisit pleasant memories of my trips!
In short, traveling rejuvenates me and helps me to regain a more positive outlook on the world. Freed from the worries and stress of everyday life, I absorb lots of little details when I travel, and this helps me create happy memories in new places. Then suddenly, my daily stress and any negative experiences back at home somehow get smaller and less important and life simply becomes more fulfilling. Traveling reminds me to let bad things go and find satisfaction in the here and now.
Dr. Aparna Mele, MD is a board-certified gastroenterologist with Digestive Disease Associates in Wyomissing since 2007. She was born in Detroit, MI to Indian immigrant parents and was raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. She is an avid traveller and came to the field of medicine with extensive experience in international relief work overseas. Dr. Mele is actively involved in local philanthropic work directed towards patient education and promotion of societal health and founded and runs a nonprofit organization entitled My Gut Instinct, which hosts Berks County’s annual Guts and Glory Digestive and Wellness Expo every September to educate the community about self-empowerment towards health and longevity through improved diet and lifestyle choices and to increase awareness of preventable diseases that impact community health.