Tomorrow morning, I am embarking on a new journey: Washington, DC! I know… it is kind of odd that I’ve traveled so much abroad without making the obligatory trip to my own country’s capitol. Better late than never, right? As I get ready to partake in adventuring and frolicking around a new city, two of my favorite things, it is only appropriate that today’s #TransformationTuesday be dedicated to traveling.
I cannot put into words how much I love traveling… rambling… seeing the world. What I can articulate, however, is how traveling has been one of the most essential parts of my life and how it has helped mold me into a woman that I am proud of.
- It gave me culture shock.
I will never forget the first time I went to Spain. Not only was it my first time in a European country (and only the second foreign country in general), but it was my first experience with a big city up close. I had never been on a subway as I have been spoiled by parents who have driven hours in traffic on our vacations. Additionally, my Spanish was sub-par at that point, and I knew far less than I initially thought. I had no idea that “tortilla” in Spain was different than “tortilla” in Mexico. Despite how quickly I had to run to catch the metro, how many people I had to speak to in broken Spanish before I got my friends and I un-lost in Madrid, or how surprised I was when I got an omelet instead of a taco, experience is the best teacher, and my initial culture shock from traveling has turned into some of my funniest stories.
- It helped me learn another language.
Following up with point number one, my Spanish has not always been great, but now I am pretty proficient. Being able to speak another language helped me live in Spain like a Spaniard during my second journey there, and it has helped me communicate with so many Spanish-speakers back home in the states (including a waitress in Boston who could not understand my Appalachian accent). I always love to see how appreciative people are when Americans speak their native language, because there is such a stigma about non-English speakers in the United States (which I hate, by the way).
- I’ve left stereotypes in the dust…
People hate Americans. Other countries are dangerous. Foreigners are not friendly. I have heard all of these statements before, and they could not be less true. I might have never learned otherwise or gotten past these misconceptions if I had not gone abroad myself and found out the truth. Again, experience is the best teacher.
- It has given me some of my most treasured friendships.
Not only are most foreign people I have met friendly, but many have even been special enough to me to keep in contact with. There’s Soojin in South Korea, Jessi in Germany, Antonio in Spain… it is so nice to have friends from all over the world, and I hope to visit each of them someday. Colby and I have also decided to try couchsurfing on our trip to DC. If this becomes our new mode of lodging, traveling will probably afford us even more friendships than before.
- It has made me more adventurous.
Because travel has inherently put me out of my comfort zone many times, it has taught me to be more daring in general. Some things that I now partake in—hiking, caving, spending the night in the homes of strangers— I would not have enjoyed had I not developed my sense of adventure through traveling. That being said…
- It made me overcome my fears.
It’s kind of hard to get on a plane while being afraid of heights. Social anxiety fades when you have to ask a local, whose native language is not the same as yours, for directions or nightlife recommendations. When you are outside of your comfort zone, you can succumb to fear or look it in the face. Obviously, I have chosen the latter.
- It has made me more spontaneous.
Not only do I like adventurous things more than I used to, but I also take any chance I can get to do something out of the box. I cannot count the number of times I have been on trips and jumped on the subway with my friends without any kind of plan. Anyone who knows how type A and plan-oriented I can be knows what a positive change this has been in my life.
- It has shown me that America is not perfect.
Until some of the broken social issues of our society are remedied, I will forever envy the healthcare, educational systems, and healthy foods of other countries. While it is easy to let patriotism blind us to our issues at hand, traveling will quickly show a person how many improvements could be made to our great nation. But…
- Traveling has also shown me to whom I belong.
America is not perfect, but it is home. As much as I get restless and like to go go go, I always love to come home. While I may envy certain aspects of other places, my heart will always been where my roots are.
- Traveling taught me how to dress better.
Ok, don’t laugh. I am being completely serious when I say that traveling helped improve my fashion sense. Not only has it helped expose me to posh European trends and Caribbean threads, but it has also taught me how to coordinate clothes to make multiple outfits. After all, baggage overages prevent me from packing my entire closet. Consequently…
- It helped me learn to pack light.
Maybe I should only pack 5 pairs of shoes instead of eight. I’m only taking two pairs to DC, which is a new personal record for me. Applause would be appreciated. 😉
- It taught me to live in the moment.
Reveling in the beauty of La Sagrada Familia was much more important than taking a selfie with it. Being left speechless by Westminister Abbey was more memorable than the gift shop that many people bolted to at first chance. Popular culture in America may encourage us to be “plugged in” 24/7, but trust me when I say that constantly pounding on our phones decreases our quality of life.
- It has given me some of my fondest memories.
Since I didn’t worry about taking selfies at Goudi’s famous church or shopping away at Westminister Abbey, I can actually recall those events in vivid detail. I can revisit the moments whenever I want like I revisit my favorite books, savoring them for different reasons each time.
- I now know the most potent emotion of humanity.
It’s a Catch-22. I love going back to London, Valencia, Boston in my mind, but sometimes I grow incredibly sad that I cannot zap my way back to these remarkable places. I choose to ignore the sadness and focus on the overwhelming amount of satisfaction and thankfulness I feel when I think about how many amazing experiences I have gotten to have in my short 22 years of live.
- It has changed my worldview.
My politics, religious views, and ideas about everything have changed as a result of travel. If you want to know the specifics, just ask! I love to talk about the things that most people think of as impolite dinner conversation. 😉
- It has given me the chance to eat and drink my way through several different countries.
Turkish restaurants in Europe are comparable in popularity to Mexican restaurants in the United States, and I happened to find one of the best ones in Valencia. Leche merringada gave me an even deeper love for ice cream. There might not have been much in Grand Turk, but rum punch was enough to make the trip worthwhile. Can we really understand a culture without eating its food? I think not.
- Traveling has helped me bond with my family.
I’ll be honest, I never thought either of my parents would go to a foreign country, but I’m so glad my gypsy soul rubbed off on them. From walking through Nassau in the rain to splashing in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea in Grand Cayman, our time abroad drew me closer to my parents and my sister, and I will be forever grateful for that.
- It allows me bring an interesting perspective to my classroom.
I’m not sure that anything has been more valuable to my teaching than my travel, because it helps me relate to students I might not otherwise be able to connect to. It also helps me hook them on school, because I can tell them that “education gives you the world.” It has given it to me, after all.
- Traveling has made me less materialistic.
I still love shopping, don’t get me wrong, but I would choose a trip over designer threads any day. As a matter of fact, my husband and I are going to Charleston for Christmas in lieu of gifts. We’re thinking of making this an annual tradition.
- Traveling has shown me that my God is always with me.
While the majority of my memories are all smiles and giggles, I’ve been in a couple of dangerous situations traveling. Whether it be being in a room in Nassau with bars on the windows surrounded by men with guns until I bought a knock-off Coach purse or being terrified that a drunk dude would push me in front of Le Metre in Paris, I have always come home from my adventures unscathed. Experiences like these remind me that God holds the whole universe in His hands and His love knows no boarders.
So there you have it… my attempt to show how seeing the world and leaving my heart in so many different places has transformed me in such colossal ways. Even if I never see all the places I hope to, the places I have seen have given me more worthwhileness (if Audrey Hepburn says it is a word, then it’s a word) than I could have ever hoped to have in my short 22 years of life.