Eric Milburn: Study Abroad Introduced Me to My Greatest Passion

“Study Abroad Introduced Me to My Greatest Passion”

by Eric Milburn via “The Northwestern

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“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”

— Christopher McCandless (Alexander Supertramp) 1992

This quote from Christopher McCandless, the famous adventurer whose life sparked the book and movie, “Into the Wild,” can best illustrate our way of life.

One year ago, I sent in an application after some guidance from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Office of International Education to study abroad in Cordoba, Argentina. A few months later, I found myself in the remnants of the most impulsive decision of my life. I was standing on the other side of the world with only one thing in mind; to build an entirely new experience that would follow me forever.

The next few months, I learned Spanish on the streets of Cordoba while traveling to all ends of the country. I made dozens of interesting friends and built long-term connections with people from all over the world. Most importantly, I lived a culture filled with rich history, food, music and people who gave me something that can’t be taught in school; an understanding of what exists outside the boundaries that I build myself.

In May 2014, I set out for a place I’ve always longed to see; Patagonia. I traveled alone on purpose because I knew I’d be forced to form friendships and wander through the unknown. I’ll never forget the moment when I found my own meaning in McCandless’ quote. I stumbled off the 32-hour bus ride in El Calafate, Argentina. It was in the cold heart of Patagonia near the border of Chile. Plants were nonexistent and sand was ubiquitous. I was alone in a new city with only my backpack and a roll of pesos. I walked the streets where travelers could be seen on every corner. When I opened the door into the hostel, America del Sur, I knew immediately, I had wandered into the right place. . . . .

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