If you’ve come to know me, you know I love to travel. Internationally, I’ve been to 23 countries. In 2023, I spent more days in a different country than I did in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. And my goal is to visit the number of countries equal to the amount of years I live.

Coincidentally, within the United States, I’ve set foot into 23 states — airports don’t count. But soon, that’ll be 24 when I move to Michigan in July to begin working as an Editorial Associate for my new favorite NFL team, the Detroit Lions.

Studying abroad and sports journalism were my biggest draws to Syracuse University when I decided between SU, Missouri (my legacy school) and Maryland in March 2020. And since coming to Syracuse, sports journalism has taken me as close as the JMA Wireless Dome to as far as Santiago, Chile, at the Parapan American Games and everything in between.

My main point is that college is the best time to travel — both domestically and internationally — and my personal trips and my time at Syracuse, The Daily Orange and sports journalism are a testament to that.

Studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, after my freshman year — just the fourth country I visited — opened my eyes to exploring the world. Covering games at various places — courtside at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke or the 2022 NCAA men’s soccer championship in Cary, North Carolina — confirmed my desire to be in a profession that travels domestically and internationally.

I consider covering Syracuse men’s soccer’s national title win in penalty kicks to be the highlight and pinnacle of my D.O. and student journalism career. Covering Syracuse men’s basketball at Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Boston College and Clemson are up there too, as just some of the many memories I’ve had traveling for The D.O.

Syracuse and The D.O. was the greatest decision I’ve made for myself. Complemented by skills taught by the Newhouse School, my experiences with the D.O. solidified internships with the Omaha World-Herald and The Buffalo News, where I got to cover the College World Series with the former and interview NFL running back Latavius Murray with the latter.

Cole Bambini interviews NFL running back Latavius Murray in June 2023 at a community event held at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. Photograph by Joshua Thermidor | The Buffalo News

Sometimes, it feels surreal and it’s possible I will never have those aforementioned opportunities again. It felt most surreal in November 2023 when I covered the U.S. Paralympic team at the Parapan American Games for a nonprofit, Wheelchair Sports Federation. But above all, I got to go to Chile with my two best friends at Syracuse, Adam McCaffery and Tyler Schiff, both of whom are soon to be my fellow D.O. alumni.

The three of us might tell you that the trip to Santiago was a sh*tshow at times, but the memories we left with — the pork and cheese sandwich situation, the makeshift triple at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel or the arguments over cycling — is the exact reasoning why I travel. For the memories.

I haven’t had a full immediate family vacation since 2016. My parents’ divorce and my siblings’ being in college and starting their professional lives have made that difficult, so why not create the memories myself.

Before enrolling in Syracuse, I had been to just three countries. St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines was a celebration for my brother’s senior year of high school — I was in fifth grade. In the summer following seventh grade, I went with two of my cousins, my sister and my grandparents to Peru.

Back then, I didn’t appreciate everything I was seeing in Peru. Machu Picchu was insanely cool, but I was a picky eater, ignorant to history and architecture and just unaccustomed to how the world varies from country to country.

Reflecting, I consider Peru to be my most favorite place I’ve visited for personal reasons. My grandfather was from Peru, and now that I am fluent in Spanish — I will hold a bachelor’s degree in the language — I can better understand his country and his culture. I look forward to the day I return to his neighborhood on the coast of Lima, but it’ll feel different, since my grandfather passed away back in summer 2021.

Sometimes making memories takes unexpected turns. I was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, when my grandfather passed, and COVID-19 restrictions didn’t allow me to travel back for the funeral, for reasons out of my control.

I forever live the guilt today of not traveling to Kansas City for the funeral but can take some solace in the fact that, at the time, I was learning and embracing a new Spanish culture the same way he wanted me to embrace his Peruvian culture back in 2015.

From then, I realized I’ve got to keep traveling. So, I studied abroad again. In another short-term program called EuroTech in the iSchool, we visited and networked with companies in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, France and Italy.

Cole Bambini (center) poses with two of his best friends, Adam McCaffery (right) and Tyler Schiff, while exploring Santiago, Chile, during an off-day at the 2023 Parapan American Games. Photograph Courtesy of Cole Bambini

But that trip was preceded by spring break trips to Cancún in 2022 — maybe a different kind of memory — and one to Croatia and Slovenia in 2023. In my most recent spring break in 2024, I traveled to London, England; Brussels, Belgium; and Amsterdam, Netherlands. And just a few weeks ago, I returned from my third visit to Canada.

The great thing about traveling is that you can travel with friends or go solo. It’s important to have some alone time. Following a couple days in Zurich, Switzerland, with one of my best friends, I ventured throughout the rest of the country to Bern, Lucerne, and Interlaken on a day trip. It was just me, myself, and I, and that’s my favorite country I have visited for tourist reasons.

And in between covering Syracuse lose by 20 at Duke and 36 at North Carolina, I snuck in a solo trip to Hungary, Austria and Slovakia.

The memories I have from traveling — touring PSG and Chelsea’s stadiums, watching a West Ham United Premier League game or touring the Heineken Brewery — are endless and ones I will cherish.

My college experience has racked up some frequent flier miles, and I’m blessed to have support from friends and family. I recognize traveling isn’t as easy for some compared to my experiences, but memories can be made anywhere.

Travel the world and make new memories, whether the world is as close as the JMA Wireless Dome or if it’s as far as Santiago, Chile, and anywhere in between.

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Cole Bambini was a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange, where his column will no longer appear. He can be reached at [email protected] and on X @ColeBambini.

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