Lessons from another Land

Authored by:
Adonica M.

Coming home, my house feels a little smaller. I suppose it's because I've realized just how big the world is. Traveling definitely changes your perspective on a lot of things. For instance, I never realized just how exaggerated American culture can seem to other countries. Sitting down to watch "Home Alone" with my host mom, she asked me; "Do Americans really decorate that much for Christmas?" Yes, and sometimes even more! And we intentionally try to wear the ugliest sweaters and sometimes even compete to see who can make themselves the sickest by eating the most.  

These traditions seem a bit over-the-top to me now, especially when holidays are so understated in Spain. But learning another perspective on your own culture is only one thing that traveling abroad will teach you. You will also notice a lot of personal growth.

What Traveling Has Taught Me

  • Trust. Traveling teaches you that not everyone is out to rob, kidnap, or take advantage of you. Most people are perfectly good and even helpful. It can be scary to be lost in a foreign city on your own, but stop and ask a few people for directions or stay in a hostel with fellow travelers and you will realize that you can usually trust in humanity.

 

  • Independence. After studying abroad, this trip helped solidify my independence. My last trip opened my mind to what I could do on my own, and this trip allowed me put that knowledge to practice. I am now proud to say that I can independently plan and carry out trips in a foreign country. I can rely on myself to navigate foreign cities, learn the metro systems, and book safe, reputable hostels and hotels.

 

  • Confidence. Logically, with independence comes heightened confidence. When you learn to depend on yourself and trust the people around you, you automatically feel more secure about life and your decisions in general.

 

  • Resourcefulness. Confidence also comes with a sense of calm. You realize that you don’t need all the answers nor knowledge of where you are going all the time. You become confident that you will figure out the answers little by little. You become more aware of your resources and learn to use them to get from point A to point B one step at a time.

 

  • Values. Being immersed in another culture teaches you exactly what you value about your own culture, because those are the things that you will start to miss. Having another culture with which to compare your own also gives you a much deeper understanding of your country, its values, and how they’ve shaped you.

 

My Travels

Overall, I learned these lessons while walking the streets of Asturias with a fellow American volunteer, traveling through Basque Country on my own, dragging my luggage through the Madrid Metros, and navigating foreign airports. Every stranger I met, street I walked, and map I followed only enriched my experience and helped me weave the tapestry of my adventure with a little more color. In all, it never hurts to be cautious, but you should never be afraid to travel and step outside of your comfort zone. The rewards and knowledge that you will reap are worth it!

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