By Nick Vierra
All it took was one study abroad trip to London for Liana Horovitz to get the travel bug.
In her freshman year of college at Colorado College, Horovitz fell in love with not just traveling, but the cultures within the places she visited too.
The Colorado College was different. Most colleges have a typical 4-5 classes a semester simultaneously; however, at the Colorado College, they used “The Block Plan.” You took one designed class, or block, that lasts for three and a half weeks. One block is equal to one class on the semester plan. This benefited Horovitz because there were no time conflicts and she could travel.
A quote by a French philosopher, Albert Camus, sums up her perspective of life: “Life is not a destination, life is a journey as long as you continue the journey, you will always be a success.” She adds that each and every experience has a learning experience.
Horovitz truly got a full understanding of this quote when she was on a five-hour bus drive to the ocean coast of Thailand. Horovitz and her husband were a part of the World Teach program (very similar to Peace Corps) and were living two hours north of Bangkok in Ayutthaya, Thailand, where she taught at a community college. One weekend, Horovitz and her husband took the opportunity for a weekend getaway to the beach with staff and students. Being from Hawaii, and not seeing the ocean for quite some time, she was all too anxious for the idea rather than enjoying the journey.
The five-hour bus drive turned into a whole day event; every passing town was visited, every temple was prayed upon, and every town had a different style of food. All the students exited the bus, and for half an hour, quietly sat on the ground and meditated. “I don’t know that we would get American kids to sit for half an hour, crossed legged, in silence meditating,” Horovitz said.
All the while, she and her husband were constantly checking the time. They finally reached the beach town, but the sun had set. They figured they would go to the beach the next day, but they were mistaken. Instead, they watched the morning sunrise, ate breakfast and immediately headed back home on the bus. Horovitz said she learned an important aspect of life that day. “It’s about spending time with everybody, sharing food, sharing a good meal, seeing new things, it’s about a weekend spent together,” she said.
Horovitz and her husband made it a trip to remember: They visited Vietnam, where they gained a better respect for the people of Vietnam. “One early morning my husband and I walked to the beach and watched the sunrise,” she said. “The beach was full of people doing daichi and an older gentlemen walked up to us and asked ‘are you American?’ He shook our hands and said ‘welcome back, we’re so glad you’re here.’” Given the history of the United States and Vietnam, Horovitz appreciated the kind gesture that the Vietnamese gentleman gave.
While going on a vacation can be very fun, Horovitz says you may encounter some potholes along the road. A trip to China made the difference. In order to rent bicycles in China, you needed to hand over your passport and put down a hefty down payment. Horovitz and her husband cycled through the city and before returning the bikes, decided to try and find a store that sold English books to read for a 36-hour train ride. They found a store and thought they locked up their bikes in a safe place. The store didn’t have the books—and they found out that their bikes were gone. Horovitz and her husband were in a state of fear and shock. Several Chinese locals gathered and noticed the troubled American couple. None of them spoke English, but a college student came and saved the day: there was a sign that said “No bikes on the sidewalk.” In the end, Horovitz and her husband had to pay a minor ticket and received their passports back. “The unknown can be scary,” she said.
Traveling the world has enabled Horovitz to speak a total of six languages: Spanish, Italian, Thai, Hawaiian Oli, and of course, English.
What is her favorite travel destination? “Everywhere,” Horovitz said.
Traveling around the world has taught her many life lessons. “I hope it makes me a better history teacher,” she said.
In addition, Horovitz said, having an awareness of how people live around the world is priceless. She stressed the importance of not taking things for granted. “In the United States, for the most part, we are simply spoiled but we don’t know it,” she said.
Left on her bucket list are dangerous parts of the world, including Istanbul, North Africa and Egypt. She hopes one day she can visit these places.
This summer, Horovitz plans to spend quality time with her family. They are going to New York City this summer to visit Ellis Island, which was used as a gateway for immigrants entering the country between 1892 and 1954. She would like to bring her children to see where their ancestors came from. She and her family will also take a “getaway” trip—without electricity and modern conveniences—to Bear Island in Maine.
“It’s wonderful to read about a place, but to actually to be in that place. There’s a reason why places are where they are,” Horovitz said. “Until you’re on the soil and feel the land and the energy… I don’t know if you can truly understand it.”