Experience is a teacher. Every breath will show us something we did not know could be possible; every step will take us to a place we did not know existed. I might say I am lucky that my teacher has been so gracious and bestowed upon me things not many other people can lay claim to. People search to the ends of the earth to find meaning, taking solace in any bit or piece that might help, but they are only in search of an end. It would be a lie to say that I have life figured out, but I know that a deep desire for this meaning will not bring me any closer to it, nor will it calm my yearning for it. But I have come to terms with this fact, and realized that my purpose for now is the journey; to learn from others, and give of myself. And perhaps along the way, I will find the answer I seek.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Over summer break, I traveled with three of my peers to Skopje, Macedonia through a foreign exchange program called Tempe Sister Cities, to live like a Macedonian for five incredible weeks. The single most astonishing characteristic of Macedonian society which I learned of relatively fast was friendship, not just towards family and friends, but to fellow human beings; I found myself frequently having to ask my host “brother” whether the man he just shared a laugh with at the bus stop he knew or was in fact a complete stranger; more often than not it was a stranger.
It was only the third day there. I sat outside a street side shop while my “brother” was inside buying a phone card. Without stopping I snapped picture after picture of the area, truly enamored by the city. An elderly man approached me and spoke in Macedonian and gestured at my camera, for certain I hadn’t the slightest idea what he said. Still I shrugged and began to laugh. He paused, and a large smile spread across his face; he pat my head and began to chuckle as well. It did not matter that we did not speak in the same tongue, or come from the same country because laughter and happiness are universal languages.
Soon after I discovered what held their society together. It wasn’t the money; most people had little. It wasn’t where they lived; most had modest homes or apartments. It wasn’t a single material possession on the face of the earth. It was each other.
I cannot boast to be free of imperfections, or to have not once thought that the only happiness I could find was in material wealth. My trip to Macedonia made me realize that this journey we are all on, though it will take each and every person to places as unique as the individual who finds himself there, is a journey we take together. There will be times when people’s paths cross, and so we must always be open to teach and to learn. I realized love for things will get me nowhere, but love for humanity opens doors of endless possibilities. No matter what lies in a man’s past, who he was, or who he is, we all must learn to love and commit to others as strongly as we have committed to ourselves so we can experience the beauty of life; together.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.