Raneem Asad,

The recent trend in the media extolls travel as a primary means of self-discovery. Our conception of identity falsely resonates along the lines of a visit to a foreign land. Through our culture, we develop our values; through our family, we develop our compassion; through our home, we become who we are.

There are no rules of precedence for one’s own life. Yet we continue in search for one, and this generation finds it online. The current online trend is that of extolling travel as the ideal means of self-discovery. The young bird grows by leaving his nest, spreading his wings, and flying far away. Leaving home is praised and glorified. The most important element of the cliche analogy is overlooked: to leave the nest, the bird must have wings to spread. More importantly: the wings must be his or her own. Those wings are sketched and stitched, broken and repaired, at home.

The corollary to travel, a desire that runs deeply through the young adult grapevine, is having a home to leave. One’s identity is found while walking down familiar streets, conversing with loved ones, and engaging in the practices of one’s own culture. Floundering down foreign roads may add perspective, but can never diminish the gratitude associated with one’s own home. Community, culture, and family allow for the first manifestation of identity and the initial route to self-discovery.

The experiences of looking at the Eiffel Tower or staring at a television screen have the same affect on a person whose mind is blind. Physical boundaries do not constrain a person; it is mental boundaries that form the walls of any prison. It is not the constantly familiar setting of the home that is an obstacle to development; it is the stagnant and lazy approach to thought. Rather than wax lyrical about getting on a plane, let us recognize the virtues of opening a book and nurturing an array of ideas.

Self-discovery is a journey of the mind that one may experience in any setting. In one city, the same as in another city, a thought may find unity in an infinite perspective; that there as well as elsewhere one may wear his heart out in pursuit of passion and stretch his mind in the search of a cause.

Such adventures of the heart and the mind may better yet be experienced within one’s own home. We extoll escape of the burdens of responsibility and routine, but are ignorant of the luxury it entails. The emotional difficulty of dealing with a loved one’s suffering is trumped by the privilege of having someone to love. Forge ahead in the direction of kindness, of curiosity, and of passion. On that path, no drawn-up map is necessary.

Rather than share a common disposition that our journey to self-discovery is catapulted by travel to a foreign land, we must first and foremost recognize our hometown as our mounting. It is the seed of which we sprung, the root of which we grew, and the land to which we will – or should – always return.