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One of my favorite jokes to repeat while I’m traveling is, “I really like this ceiling. It’s not my favorite, but it’s definitely up there.” I loved it because the joke is cheesy and awkward, but mostly because it served as a reminder to actually look up and look around. Traveling to 12+ countries provides me the unique opportunity to not only experience art and history that I never thought I would have the chance to, but to understand and study people that I have never encountered. Far too often I would see tourists surrounded by the works of Michelangelo or van Eych, encompassed by some of the most astonishingly beautiful nature, architecture, or music, and they would be looking at their phones or seeing things through the lens of a camera. Now, I’m not saying that documenting what you see is wrong, but I am saying that often people get caught up in excitement and forget to truly experience things. That is where my joke comes from.

After seeing the Louvre, Versailles, countless cathedrals and basilicas, the Sistine Chapel, and so much more, I have discovered the importance of looking up. We often made it a point to look at the ceiling every time we entered a new room while we were exploring different cities – often we would find frescos or ornate molding, beautiful works of art that would otherwise be missed. This mantra wasn’t just for when we were inside of buildings. Looking up while walking the streets proved to give us some of the most amazing views. Be it an adorable elderly couple, graffiti by a famous street artist, strange animals, or beautiful views, paying attention never failed to give us something truly extraordinary. Of all the life lessons I’ve learned while traveling, I think that this one is the most important. It teaches us not to get distracted or too focused, rather, to appreciate and experience everything to its fullest. We are living life to its fullest when we are able to see the beauty in everything, and seeing this starts by looking up.

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