Personal Narratives

Traveling has enriched my life

June 10, 2023

By Caila Barreiros
Staff Writer

Traveling has always been a significant aspect of my identity. Growing up as a first-generation American, I spent many of my summers in Spain where the rest of my family lives. While there was a hiatus in my travels when I was a child, I resumed my annual traveling at 14 years old and have returned to Spain every summer since. Traveling has taught me so much and has enhanced my life by making me the culturally aware and responsible person I am today. Although I have more incentive to travel because of my relatives abroad, I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity. 

PHOTO BY CAILA BARREIROS This is the famous Catedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It is known as the end of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route and the burial site of the apostle St. James. His remains are within the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela.

The most important thing traveling has taught me is responsibility. Especially traveling internationally, there are a lot of papers and essential documents like passports and international identification that one must carry. Making sure I knew where these items were was stressful, but it taught me to be cautious of my surroundings and to store valuables in a safe place.

Traveling has also nurtured my love of architecture, culture and history. I love exploring historical landmarks and doing my research on the sites I visit to strengthen my understanding of what I am seeing. 

Traveling immersed me in the language, which is the reason I feel comfortable, speaking, reading and writing in Spanish.

One of the most fascinating places I’ve visited is the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. The Colosseum is a tall, round building that looks like it has a lot of windows, but those are actually entranceways. It was built between CE 70-72. My favorite part about the experience was seeing where the Romans used to keep the live animals they let out during shows. Usually, emperors or people of high society would attend these shows. Shows ranged from dramas, games, reenactments and even public executions. This is why animals were imported from other countries and kept underground. Gladiators were condemned criminals, Romans and slaves. In cases where the gladiator won many battles, he was able to ask the emperor for freedom. It is a site I heard about in history class, but witnessing it in person is eye-opening. 

PHOTO BY CAILA BARREIROS Playa del Castillo in Muros, Spain is where my family is from and one of my favorite places to spend my afternoons.

Another site I visited that is meaningful to my family and I is the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. It is two towns over from where my mom was born, and it is where she lived before moving to the United States. The patron saint of this cathedral is Saint James the Apostle, who is the patron saint of laborers. There is a pilgrimage throughout Europe called El Camino de Santiago, and people start if from all different places. The original starting point is in France, and the pilgrims walk from that point to this cathedral in Spain. This is also the home of the largest thurible (or The Botafumeiro, which is Galician for “smoke expeller”) in the world. 

Being that both of my parents are from Spain, everyone assumes I grew up speaking Spanish, but that was not the case. I only became fluent in Spanish once I was put in a situation where I had to speak the language every day. Living in Spain for a month each summer helped me with that. Traveling immersed me in the language, which is the reason I feel comfortable, speaking, reading and writing in Spanish. I credit my recent achievement in earning the New Jersey Seal of Biliteracy to my time abroad.

Traveling has exposed me to new cultures, locations and lifestyles that are nothing like what I have experienced in the United States. I like to think I’ve taken a piece of every culture I’ve encountered and incorporated it into my own life. I have traveled to Canada, England, Grand Cayman, Italy, Portugal, Spain and all over the United States. From each of these places, I’ve learned important lessons, and–as an added bonus–they have each enhanced my vast souvenir collection, which I intend to continue building for years to come.

PHOTO BY CAILA BARREIROS This is the view from the inside alter of the Santiago de Compostela Catedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. This alter is made entirely of gold, and behind it is a statue of St. James. It is said to bring good fortune and draw back anyone who touches its hand.
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