For essentially the entirety of my existence, I had been the center of my known universe. And then, I started to travel.
The Spring after I graduated from college my father and I travelled to Italy. I will never forget that first day in Rome. After a 14-hour flight from Charlotte, we stumbled out to our cab and enjoyed a semi-dazed trip to our hotel in the heart of the city.
It may have been the exhaustion, or the jet-lag, but I faintly remember being completely unaware of the actual journey to our hotel. We quickly changed, equipped our sightseeing gear, and wandered into the busy city streets.
One minute I am meandering (a typical tourist), completely oblivious to the beauty around me — only focused on my angrily protesting stomach — and then, it happened. My gaze lifted from the worn cobblestones and focused on the horizon. To my left, and down a long stretch of ancient road, stood the Coliseum. It rose from the street as if it had always and would always belong there. The cars, the mopeds, the tourists — we all looked ridiculously out of place in the majesty of this ancient behemoth.
It was in that moment that my universe morphed and expanded. My personal triumphs and struggles were no longer relevant. I was tiny. I was such a child. It was as if all the history I had heard and read about was echoing around me. I could hear the horses pounding along the Roman roads, smell the pagan fires burn during the rule of Romulus, and imagine the great nothingness that existed before man even set foot in this place. It was all written there — etched in the sculptures that adorned every building, in the cracks that decorated each massive stone pillar.
And then, I burst into tears.
My father had given me the greatest gifts I had yet to receive — humility, perspective, and awe.
Since then, travel has fed my soul in a way nothing else has ever come close to. I hungrily take in the stories reflected in the architecture, the culture, the food. When I travel I feel connected to the universe, to my fellow man and those long since passed. It is no longer about me, but about us, our shared history — the human narrative.