My name is Samantha Keller, I am 23 years old, and I work in the Vienna Zoo, in Austria.
This is usually how I introduce myself. It’s short and to the point, and usually means I’m not forced into stammering through my knowledge of the German language at 4 words a minute to offer a more detailed presentation of myself, unless the other person asks.
For quite awhile, there wasn’t much to describe who I was, other than those three points – my name, age, and what I did or was studying. I’ve certainly always thought of myself as interesting. I like only the best music, only the best movies, and sometimes I think I can be pretty hilarious. But it’s only been in the recent years that I’ve really started discovering the colors of Samantha. How? Through wandering the world.
My parents were wonderful with instilling an appetite of curiosity for culture and learning in my sister and me. When I was 8, my family spent 3 weeks in England and France and my world changed – travel became a craving. When I was blessed with extra finances from my grandparents for education and travel, I used it.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Augustine of Hippo
I toured around Europe (and ended up staying there too, obviously, with an attractive Austrian), hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro and rode through the Serengeti, scuba dove in the Red Sea, camped on the side of a volcano in the Philippines, and fell in love with Honduras. I am hugely grateful that I’ve been able to travel to so many places, and I don’t see this trend ending soon. Travel is a vehicle to learning, providing an invaluable education on food, religion, art, music, humanity, and the self.
I have learned to relax, and to leave the hectic and too-fast pace of life behind. It’s important to not constantly be connected to a screen, but rather to add depth in your life by getting out into the city or into nature and simply explore.
I’ve learned about humans, their home, and about love and cruelty. Travel is, as Mark Twain said, “fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
I have adopted much more balanced views of people, after visiting countries with lifestyles, values, and cultures that are so vastly different from my own. I have more philanthropy and compassion, but I also realize that people adapt and get by. One of the most poignant things I have realized through my travels and meetings is that we cannot put our own standards or judgments on someone else based on where or how we grew up.
Most importantly, travel has brought color to my life through exposing my self. I have challenged myself and changed myself. I’ve felt my fears, and felt how ridiculous they are. I can examine myself and find out what’s truly important to me. Is my focus on what really matters in life? I can consider how I present myself, and what connects me to others.
Travel has plainly exposed what a true blessing it is that I live in one of the safest, cleanest cities in the world, and nevertheless what wonderful opportunities I have to be able to leave it to see astounding landscapes and meet some of the most genuinely kind people.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
My goal used to be to jump on a random train and just go wherever it took me. I didn’t want to ever settle down. Now (though I still have that burning desire to explore) I realize how fortunate I am to have a place to come back to and call home. My goals have changed slightly; my husband and I are planning a future home together (complete with a vegetable garden!) and are working to adopt a healthier lifestyle by changing our eating habits and adjusting our priorities (computer and TV getting lower on the list), and I’m pursuing a career in what I discovered I love most – caring for animals. Though we might slow down in order to get these things accomplished (especially that house part), we will always be thinking of where we can go next. It’s these travels that have shaped my goals, broadened my mind, and made me more than just Samantha Keller, age 23, living in Austria.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Follow Samantha on her adventures.