Over 20 years ago, Joshua Vise traveled to Columbia’s Sister City of Gedern, Germany, while in high school.
This experience, the Columbia native said, charted the course for decades of travel.
“I can trace a direct causal path from every wonderful thing in my life to that decision to participate in our Sister Cities program,” said Vise, who now teaches English as a second language at Daegu University in South Korea.
The trip to Gedern marked his first time outside of the United States. During the three-week exchange trip, Vise visited Berlin, Munich and Gedern alongside Gedern teacher Andreas Heuser.
To date, Heuser is still leading these exchange trips – this year’s Gedern exchange students left Columbia on Monday.
For Vise, the exchange trip was a way of living out his very own action-adventure story.
“It may sound silly, but I absolutely wanted to be Indiana Jones when I was a kid!” Vise said. “He traveled to amazing places which had fascinating historical significance. Prior to my trip to Gedern, I had never seen anything that was a thousand years old that wasn’t behind museum glass. On our first day in Germany, we visited the Berliner Dom, which had actual crypts in the basement.”
A few years later, Vise set out on another adventure – he spent three semesters studying abroad at Webster University’s Thailand campus.
“My first trip there in 2003 was a completely impulsive decision,” Vise said. “My roommate applied to spend the semester at Webster’s Thailand campus and suggested that I go. If I had not already received my passport, I probably wouldn’t have been able to get it in time to go.”
The chain reaction Vise’s exchange trip to Germany sparked reached even farther. Without travel, Vise would not have met the love of his life, who he now shares a daughter with.
“My wife is Korean. I came to Korea because I studied abroad in Thailand, which I did because I had visited Germany. It’s no stretch to say that my life would be completely different without travel,” he said.
To date, Vise has visited six of seven continents, with Antarctica being the only one left on his bucket list.
His trips now allow him to see life from a global perspective, he said.
“My experiences showed me that all of these far-flung places are actually within reach,” Vise said. “We live in an amazing era where nearly every country is a day’s flight away or less, and if you prioritize travel, you are able to experience and enjoy a wide range of cultures, traditions, foods, architecture and more. If you travel enough, global events in the news feel much closer and much more relevant.”
One trip made Vise the co-subject of a book along with Dave Norman, who is also from Columbia.
“Probably the most adventurous trip I’ve ever taken was in 2007 when fellow Columbian Dave Norman and I rode the Trans-Mongolian/Trans-Siberian Railroad from Beijing to Berlin, which he wrote about in his book ‘Following Josh,’” Vise said.
Vise has now settled down as a visiting professor of English as a second language at Daegu University. He also teaches reading and literature online to elementary and middle school-aged Chinese students.
When reflecting on how his love for travel started with that trip in 2000, Vise said he encourages current high school students to take advantage of the exchange trip.
“As you get older, you naturally gain more responsibilities, such as family and work commitments. It becomes much more difficult to make time for travel,” Vise said. “Take advantage of every opportunity you have to explore new places. Not only will you create wonderful memories and learn about the world, but you may even discover new things about yourself that alter the course of your life.”