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3-5 minutes.

You have to choose a topic, and speak about it for 3-5 minutes. What do you do?

Let me tell you about a topic that fascinates me, travelling. I'm going to link travelling to the understanding of other cultures, which is obvious, but also to the betterment of yourself as a person, which is a little bit less obvious. I don't exactly remember the first time I got on a plane, or how many planes I've been on, but i'll tell you this, I knew since the moment I walked into another city, that this is what I loved doing. I just hadn't figured out why until a few years ago. I knew that travelling was my calling when I looked over the favelas in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia, the worn out look of a camel as I rode the deserts of Egypt, and the perfection of the Sydney Opera House as the thoughts of Architect Jorn Utzon went from paper and pencil, to the majestic piece which we see today.

The process is simple:
2. Check if you need a visa to get into the country.
2.5 Check if you need vaccinations before you go there.
3. Book your flight.

Now sure, you have to pack, and maybe if you are very picky figure out what you want to see, but to me those are little details. The experience for me lies not within the pyramids of Giza in the outskirts of Cairo, but rather in the people who live their lives in this hectic city with a truly intriguing lifestyle.

Back in 1990, researchers in Parma, Italy, were doing a simple study on what I believe was a chimpanzee as he was eating a nut. Curiously, a scientist walked into the room as the monkey was eating the room. They were analyzing the brain waves of the monkey as he ate, but as soon as the human walked into the room and looked at the monkey eating, the same brain cells lit up in the monkey as they did in the human. Now, what happened here was not a mere coincidence of brain activity, but a concept that grew to be known as mirror neurons.

The classic example is a yawn. When someone yawns, we are very likely to yawn, not because they are transferring some sort of yawn bacteria to us, but rather because when we see someone yawn the same activation occurs in our brain, and we then desire to yawn. [I yawned like 10 times when I wrote this].

So, mirror neurons allow our brain to activate exactly like other people, so whats stops it from being reality? If I see someone eating a strawberry, I may salivate, but I don't actually like taste the strawberry. The reason for this is that we have our senses. Our senses stop us from actually believing that we feel what we see other people feeling.

So, how does this relate to travelling? I'll finish it off with a story that happened to me as I ventured on my own to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I had flown in from Barcelona, Spain, which is one of my favorite cities, and I got there extremely excited. I had gotten a cheap ticket, which is often what makes me take my decision to go to a random country. That, and not needing a visa to get into the country.

So after a few days wandering the city of Dubrovnik, I prepared for my great adventure. I took a 16 hour bus ride up right into the center of Croatia, to a national park called Plitvice. The bus stopped and I was quickly taken aback by the fact that we were stopping in the middle of the woods. This can't be my stop, but obviously, it was. I walked off the bus, and in confusion, watched as the bus drove off into nowhere, and I was left in the middle of a street, with no directions, Google maps, or even an actual map. I did what my instinct told me, and walked down the street until I ran into someone who was willing to point me in the right direction. I had one paper, which read San Korana, Ivica Luketic. As it happened to work out, I ran into a humble man who seemed to know exactly where I was going, and offered to drive me there for an insignificant sum of money. Within a few minutes of tiny streets and up and down hills which I would grow to know very fondly, we arrived at the home of Ivica. As I got to know this man and his wife, he told me of his times in the Croatian war, and how he lived through years of torture as the army destroyed his home and took him captive. He survived, picked up the next day, and went back to the very land where he inhabited before. He built his house again, and started up a family. You've gotta give this man all the credit in the world, for his humility and wisdom are things I dream to have in 50 years. I vowed to myself to always remember this story, and remember the privileges I am given in the world I live in. This is what travelling gave me. There are more stories, and I'd love to share them with you, but I am out of time, so, as I leave you, keep in mind one lesson, travelling is more than just seeing wonderful pieces of architecture, travelling is about understanding other cultures, and how they think, an ability we as humans have that is called empathy. The understanding of others will allow us to bring peace instead of war, because we must understand others before we are quick to point out their differences, thank you.



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