Flashback to July 2nd – the day before I left on the trip of a lifetime. I had 46 less friends, less knowledge of foreign cultures, and knew far less about myself. Wow, what an experience. Before the trip, I was looking forward to learning history and seeing parts of two beautiful countries, but I was extremely nervous about being with 46 strangers for 2 weeks. Who would have thought that the aspect I was most nervous about would turn out to be the most memorable and rewarding part? Relationships with the people on this trip taught me that as an individual, I’m changing, my outlook has changed. Not for the worse, I’d like to think for the better.
After many bus rides, one of my closest friends, Sunwoo, and I developed a game in which we saw a person on the street, pointed them out, and then made up a full story about their life – this basically turned into me pointing out people and him making up the stories because he was far better at it than I. I now look at people I see on the street and wonder, what’s their story? I could sit and make up a story and assign it to them, but I don’t. Instead, I contemplate the options. I think about the many different things that could have happened in their life, but I also know that I could be completely wrong. I can no longer look at a homeless person and say that it’s their fault. I can no longer look at a person begging for change and say, they’re faking this need or I can’t do anything to help. I can no longer look at a teen mom and say that she made a stupid decision and has to own up to her mistakes. Instead, I look at them and wonder how they got there. I question the world around me and our failure to step in and do something. I know there has to be something that I can do.
Tim was another student on the trip, from Switzerland. His photography struck all of us because he didn’t care about photographing all of the incredible places that we visited, he photographed the people. One thing I’ll never forget was Sunwoo – who was also very into photography – saying, “Tim’s right, people really are more interesting to photograph.” Through Tim’s photography and Sunwoo’s comment, I’ve realized that there’s a reason for this. You look at a photo of a building, and while it can be beautiful, you know that it’s a building and you can guess what’s inside. However, you look at a picture of a person and try to read into their emotion. You wonder why they’re feeling what they are. What’s brought them to this point in their life? An endless amount of questions surface that you can’t answer, and then you realize that you’ve been staring at the same picture for 5 minutes, amazed by it, when you didn’t even think you understood art.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that this trip opened up my eyes to a new way of looking at people and at the world as a whole – with curiosity, contemplation, and awe. It’s safe to say that I will never be able to look at – or even think about – Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Philadelphia, or even Washington D.C. without being reminded of the wonderful memories we made on The United Nations Youth Pilgrimage Bus 4, or without being grateful to it for allowing me to view the world differently.
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