Karl Teel

Freedom: It’s synonymous with our nation’s identity. And during our nation’s birthday, it’s a great time to focus on it. Freedom has several main avenues — freedom of speech, freedom to pursue your own career path, freedom of religion, freedom to live where you please, freedom to marry whom you please and freedom to travel where you desire. Of course, all of these freedoms come with parameters. You can’t harm others in your pursuits, you need to be able to pay for your pursuits, you need to comply with a litany of rules in order to keep an organized society.

While I have married the person I desired, have a career I’ve selected and enjoyed, practice my religion of choice and am certainly known for expressing myself, it’s the freedom of travel that I wish to focus on as we celebrate Independence Day. Being a first generation American and the child of an Estonian that fled his fallen nation through the underground, this one hits home for me in a particularly touching and deeply meaningful way. Estonia fell to Russia in 1942, and of course we know Russia is extremely controlling of mobility among the people they rule over and control. America, on the other hand represents a much higher level of traveling freedom. Sure, those who travel in and out of the country recognize our borders are among the strictest points of entry, especially when compared to the European Union countries, but once inside, we can travel with relative ease wherever we desire.

Our ease of travel is an extraordinary blessing, especially given the wide array of offerings we have as a nation. Think about it. We have cities and rural areas, mountains and plains, rivers and oceans, hot and cold weather, rainy or dry weather — we have at least a little of everything here to see and experience. Literally, the good old U.S.A. has something for everyone. The travel can be for personal interest or to visit family and friends. It may even yield a place to move. Another part of this blessing is what it leaves us with: Those who travel not only find it personally rewarding, they tend have a broader, more accepting view of life and others. Their insights tend to be a bit deeper and better thought out. It literally makes you a better citizen in a democratic society and having more accurate inclinations. It also makes you happier, living a life with fewer frustrations because of your deeper levels of understanding.

God bless America and our freedom to travel! Appreciate this precious gift, and the best way to show appreciation is to use the gift. Sure, celebrate by seeing a parade, watching fireworks or going to a cookout or party. But to be a true patriot, honor your gifts, protect and cherish them and become a better citizen through travel.

Get out there, and enjoy!

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