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1996 Phillips Travelers

To tell someone what traveling in Europe meant to me is almost impossible with words… It meant freedom, self-discovery, teaching, learning, questioning, opening. It meant reaching, hoping, dreaming and grasping. It meant defeat and victory, confusion and clarity. Most of all, it meant growing. I began to see the world as my classroom, willing to teach me as long as I keep my mouth shut, and my eyes and ears open… My travel taught me to look at the world without goggles fogged by my own culture’s belief systems… The journey taught me respect for myself and others. It taught me that just because one is right doesn’t mean the other is wrong… I found courage and humility, pride and shame. Being in other countries taught me a lot about my own… I discovered the difference between a traveler and a tourist. I began to see myself as a traveler on the journey of life.

marrakech, morocco Perhaps the most important thing was that I learned from my mistakes. I learned to always expect the unexpected and to be prepared for anything.… The Frances L. Phillips Scholarship gave me the opportunity to take my time and appreciate things about Mexico and discover things about myself that I never had an opportunity to do.

Needless to say, I was extremely frustrated by these events. In fact, it was still later in the trip when this kind of thing had happened several times that I finally realized that this was one of the things my trip was about. It was often about being alone in a strange place when things are not going quite right and dealing with it. I learned that I was up to all the challenges the trip could throw at me.

My experience in Southeast Asia is one I will always remember and cherish. Prior to this trip, I had never traveled outside the United States. Through visiting so many cultures in a span of only two months, I realized how small and connected the world really is.

At the end of three weeks, I left for Saigon. I left knowing who my family members were, but not what they were. I hadn’t discovered any deep family history… I think they knew even less of me… It took four more weeks of traveling through Vietnam before I found the words to this frustration… (A new friend told me) "In America, you are Vietnamese. In Vietnam, everyone thinks you are an American. You feel frustrated. You have no country." … I feel that my trip back to Vietnam wasn’t a trip back to my past or to my history. It was more a journey forward… I didn’t find many answers. What I did find, however, were bits and pieces to think about. We can’t complete circles to our lives. We add line segments.

…I recognized that the truly empowering knowledge cannot be gleaned from university or books; it comes from encountering people from all nationalities and walks of life and experience… Almost everything about Ireland was wonderful and surprising, but the most precious memories will center on the people that I met in Ireland and the knowledge they saw fit to share with me, a complete stranger. I’ll never forget the 80 year old woman from the Aran Islands who kissed me on the cheek and promised to pray for my safe traveling mercies at Mass, or the elderly gentleman who reminisced to me on the train from Galway to Dublin about Dublin’s "grand auld days" when the likes of James Joyce and Brendan Behan walked the streets and spouted poetry and prose in the pubs; he told me that even though the city has changed, he loves it as much as ever…

I went to Ireland hoping to find a magical fairy world of Irish myth and legend, but I found something better. I discovered an inspiring magic that comes from the land and the people; that magic cast a spell on me and I cannot wait to go back to Ireland.

Ms. Phillips provided me with the opportunity to meet European specialists in my chosen career field and also provided me with a crash course in independence and exposure to a world beyond my own in North Carolina… I know that if I can travel in foreign lands alone, I can do just about anything. The generosity which was shown to me in Europe, from stranger’s advice to being hosted in foreign homes, offered a valuable lesson for the way I wish to live my life every day… I also learned more about the geography of my world in nine weeks than I learned in 16 years of school.

carnivale in venice The impact of what I was taking on never quite sunk in ‘til the night before my flight to Europe. However, I cannot stress enough what a difference that time alone traveling made for me. It was the best decision I have ever made. This statement is coming from a girl who spent most of her life going all the way through college at a school where she at least knew one person there already…

Time alone can be good. There is meaning to be found in the silences that so often accompany being alone. Silence can be uncomfortable many times for people because it is in the silence that we often dig deep and are able to find the truth about ourselves and really know who we are and what we stand for.

The experience of traveling is unlike anything else in this world. By simply placing yourself outside of your comfort zone, you are opening your life up to levels of growth, understanding, compromise and achievement that you would not otherwise have known.

What had begun as a chance to plan my dream vacation had turned into one of the best opportunities I could have imagined. I thought about my childhood and high school friends in my small, rural North Carolina towns and began to wonder how many of them would ever have this privilege. On a deeper note, I also pondered how many would actually take advantage of such an opportunity if it presented itself… for the unseen and unheard of can produce an anxiety so strong as to deter someone from the challenge. I reflect on these things because I once had that mind set…

Traveling in Europe provided a wonderful opportunity for me to sit back and reflect on my life - past, present and future. Without any distractions, no one to please, and no set itinerary, I found that each day was genuinely and masterfully crafted for my own personal needs. My job was to take advantage of this opportunity and be honest with myself.

I do not know exactly what it was or how it happened, but all of a sudden I was having the time of my life. There was so much to do and so many interesting people to meet. The town (San Pedro de Altacama in northern Chile) was magical, almost like the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels, where incidents are both ridiculously absurd and nonchalantly passed over as status quo for the town… I spent the first week there as a typical tourist… staying in a family run hostel … the next day, after we’d had so much fun together, the family asked why didn’t I just stay in town for a while and enjoy it. I said, jokingly, that I would if only I had a job to fund a stay and they said, "You’re hired." The magic pulled me in…

Thinking back on the travels I find that I often can hardly believe that I was able to do it all… And the wonderful thing is finding that you do make it happen alone. On your own you build your trip.

It can be tough to see Ireland through the mist of clichés that still surround it. Yes, there are 40 shades of green, and, yes, it rains more than a lot, and, yes, the Guinness really is beyond delicious. While many inaccurate stereotypes persist, the truth remains that Ireland is a land of almost otherworldly beauty and welcoming people.

Looking home from afar helped me gain more insight into my own place in the world. Moreover, only through first hand experience could I have come to understand that culture itself is an encompassing condition. After nearly four months abroad I still find it difficult to articulate my feelings of personal and cultural kinship with the Irish. What I hope to have communicated instead is that Ireland is far more than the "Emerald Isle" of folklore and legend. Ireland is indeed a state of mind.

The 2 1/2 weeks I spent in Buchan were undoubtedly my best in Australia… Buchan was a town full of people with first names prefixed by their most salient characteristics: Mad Mick, Bush-Walking John, Brumby Mick, Somber Pete… While in Buchan, I made true friends. The people of the town were immensely hospitable and after just two weeks, I felt a part of their community…

fes, morocco Since birth, I have been blessed with many supportive relationships. I have had few occasions to be alone. So aside from a few movies and a sprinkling of meals, I have not had the opportunity to learn what it means to do something completely on my own, alone. But that was before this year. Before my trip…

It was looking at the reef that I stopped questioning what I was seeing. I didn’t need someone else to verify my observations, my thoughts. I trusted that my solitary observation of these small and miraculous creatures was enough; the reef was real, as was my perception and my memory. This confidence to do and see alone is the greatest gift my trip to the antipodes afforded me. Bolstered by my experiences in Buchan, I knew that I could find community when I needed it. I also knew that I could be alone and succeed as well.

I've been doing a lot of thinking though. I know that the solution to my intermittent loneliness is to focus on, accept, and begin to enjoy the fact that I am traveling alone. Already I sense a new feeling within myself - but so much is still a question to me. And I wonder why all this has to be such a big deal. What am I questioning? I feel kinda lost, wandering, or like I'm missing something, I guess. But I've come to realize that this is something I can change -- my current problems are things I can solve/resolve by changing my perceptions and attitudes.

written from Korea:...traveling and volunteering have kept me on the learning curve in ways that I could have only imagined while at UNC. I love academia and may feel the need to return to it in the future, but for now I am happy living abroad and learning about different cultures and the environment. People often ask me when I will return to the States and I always say I do not know. I am not sure where the next five to ten years will take me, but I am very appreciative to the Frances Phillips (scholarship) for helping me to get off to such a wonderful start.

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