GATOR MEMORIES: MAKE THE WORLD YOUR HOME
Updated: Jul 19
With newfound friends at the Brookhouse School, Allegheny College El Seminar (Kenya, 2013)
This time seven years ago, in 2013, I was preparing for a wonderful journey that would take me to East Africa. That journey was the Allegheny Experiential Learning (EL) seminar that took us across Kenya. I had been fortunate enough to travel a fair amount domestically and internationally with my family before that point, but Kenya was different. I was with a wonderful group, but I was also alone. I was exploring, I was learning, I was gaining a better understanding of myself. It may sound cliched, but travel really is about self discovery (if you allow it). I returned restless. A fire that had always been within me was kindled, the desire to travel. To learn and be curious in the way that works best for me, through tangible experiences.
After I graduated in May 2015 it was only natural that I keep up with my travel lust. I had already landed a job at an advertising agency in NYC. They were flexible enough to let me push my start date back, which gave me five glorious weeks during which I hopped from city to city in Europe. I had only scratched at the itch, though, and it intensified over the next few years.
I returned to New York after those five weeks in Europe and settled into four years of work as a Strategist in the advertising industry. Something was missing though. I would stare out the office window, to relax my eyes from the inordinate amount of screen time that was an occupational hazard, but I was looking past the grayish buildings on Broadway and imagining different, unvisited places that I still had to discover.
The travel itch got so bad, so I started doing what I do best, planning. Planning that is not to plan. "Planned spontaneity" I call it. Laying the framework and letting chance fill in the blanks.
I quit my ad job in May 2019 and left New York with a one-way ticket to Stockholm (cheapest destination to fly to in Europe) and a list of countries across Asia. The intention was to travel for a year and I almost made it, until the end of March 2020 when COVID-19 made me decide to return from Australia just two months shy of my one year plan.
However, during those ten months I lived a lifetime. I had time to really slow my racing mind and reconnect with myself. Twenty-two countries later, I have countless stories and personal insights, but what I appreciate and value more than ever, especially now during this time of social distancing, are the people. People make a place and an experience.
Some of the seemingly most mundane experiences were the most memorable because of the people I met and was with, while what should have been some of the most impressive places were ‘whatever’ because of the people.
Each of us has a special impact on the world and those around us just by being ourselves and present. It is not the places that I miss, it is the people. The same is true for Allegheny. What made my time at Allegheny so special were the people, my friends.
When the world reopens, I encourage you to step outside and say hello to a stranger. While I also encourage you to travel, you don’t need to go halfway around the world to meet amazing people and create meaningful memories. We don’t know exactly what the world will look like in the near future, but I hope it is a world where we embrace each other without fear. The unknown is scary but it can also exceed our wildest imaginations.
For more of my travel stories and photos, check out my Instagram @AvivGoesEast
~~ Aviv Lang (Class of '15. Behavioral Economics Major)
WE ARE CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER ACROSS THE WORLD AND WHILE DISTANCES MAY SEEM LARGE, AVIV'S STORY SHOWS US THAT IT'S THE PEOPLE THAT MATTER. PLEASE GIVE A LITTLE IN THE SPIRIT OF UBUNTU: "I AM BECAUSE WE ARE." THANK YOU.