(Or a boat, or a train, or a car)
Traveling with my family has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. And I don’t just mean any traveling- I mean traveling to Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia.
The suburbs are often considered a “bubble” that shelter one from viewing poverty, violence, and visibly struggling families. Fortunate enough to be a suburb resident for all of my life, I can attest to the above. I’ve never really been exposed to harsh conditions or individuals in deep economic struggle… until I started understanding and opening my eyes more to our yearly travels.
One particular scene I can’t get out of my head is an area in Hong Kong called Kowloon, which we visited on our trip to Asia last summer. Areas of it are terribly ridden with poverty and overcrowding. It is so bad that some citizens live in metal cages attached to apartments, overflowing with sheets and clothing.
Walking from our hotel to the famous “Temple Street Night Market” was horrifying and heartbreaking. We had to walk along the bridges and paths created, lined with hundreds of people camping out or asking for spare change, leaving hardly any room to squeeze through the already narrow path. Hong Kong is commonly known as a bustling and wealthy city, so that only made this harsh reality that much more difficult to witness.
I don’t share this heartbreaking anecdote just to put you in a sour mood; I do it for two reasons.
One- This was the first time I had seen such intense poverty in person. Of course I knew that some areas of this world that we live in were deep in poverty, but it is an entirely different ballgame once you see these areas and these people up close. There is something about direct human contact that makes the struggle and pain that much more emotional, understandable, and painful.
Two- Bringing it full circle, this was the first time I remember that traveling struck another dimension with me. It made me realize how important it is to expose yourself to new places, new people, and new struggles. How can we build a better world if we don’t even know what the struggles are in all of it?
So, this summer, I encourage you all to travel. You don’t have to go all around the world to get a better understanding of the world around you. You can start in your own town, your own state, your own country.
One thing traveling has instilled in me is how we all have the power to change the world around us. If we commit ourselves to getting out of our comfort zones, taking the plunge, and diving into an entire new culture, our future can only be brighter.
Neha Lund is a rising senior who is passionate about politics, feminism, education, and leadership. She plans to double major in Economics and Political Science, with an intent to go to Law School or work for a non-profit. She is very involved in Junior States of America, loves trying new food, and spends her time calling congressional offices to support youth leadership campaigns.