Pssst…It’s my 10-year travel journey Anniversary. It’s exactly 10 years ago today that I began one of the hardest trips I ever encountered. See why below.
Just think of going on your first, second or twentieth trip abroad as coming into your superpowers. You can’t see the habits you pick up, but you feel differently once you have gone through your experience.
Habits aren’t easy to see or grasp. They are intangible superpowers you gain as you live life. And, being abroad will help you gain more than you know, even in a short period of time.
My first trip abroad to Madrid, Spain was my very first time out of the US. On an airplane and a step into unknown territory. I had never experienced a different culture in its own homeland. But I was eager to see what life in a new country was all about.
I went to Madrid. MADRID, SPAIN! That’s over 3000 miles away from Miami, Florida. Yet, two days into my trip, I had gotten lost and was ready to return home. Initially, I had placed a big burden on myself by comparing Madrid to Miami. Wrong idea!
I allowed the familiarity of home and my comfort zone to dictate how I perceived Spain and its culture.
Soon, I realized that my eyes were blinded by arrogance and driven by American pride.
I settled into my new, temporary home and opened my eyes to a distinct way of life. The superpowers began to emerge and habits started to form. From what I’ve learned, the hardest trips are the ones without these 4 traits. Just take it from me and my first trip abroad.
Like a chameleon, I evolved into a global-minded individual. Getting lost did that.
While traveling abroad, I pushed my boundaries into learning a new and unfamiliar culture. I knew some Spanish basics and could maneuver pretty well, but I wasn’t a native speaker nor fluent. I had to adapt my learning skills to fit my environment.
It wasn’t easy. Yet, I was forced to adapt to the language, people, traditions, lifestyle, food, and overall atmosphere of being abroad.
I had to think of myself as a chameleon. Like them, I had to think beyond myself and be conscious of my surroundings.
Case in point, technology in the US is ever-changing and becoming more and more advanced. At the time of studying abroad, I owned a Samsung Blackjack. It was definitely not equipped with FaceTime or Wifi.
The lack of access to my phone crippled me because I couldn’t take or make a phone call. And if I did, roaming charges (you can avoid that) would increase the bill through the roof. No Wifi access, no Skype, no messaging service, nothing. Nothing!
I didn’t even own a watch to tell the time. My phone did that. Sadly, I couldn’t leave my phone on while in Spain. Those roaming charges would have kept piling on to an already high bill.
The result? Do what I was there to do: immerse, adapt, and learn. I learned how to ride public transportation in Spain, how to read signs in another language, speak to strangers, make a purchase, and bond with my host family.
That’s what a chameleon does, he or she sees an environment and settles into it and flourishes.
Challenge accepted: Perseverance
Like I mentioned, I was ready to return home the second day into my study abroad trip. I wasn’t prepared to face any social challenges. Especially, faced them without friends and family to support me.
But, as fast as the feeling of packing up to leave came, the sensation to stay came as quick. While standing on the unfamiliar sidewalk of Madrid, it came to me that I was going to ruin my opportunity and experience by being naïve and fearful.
Really, I had no choice but to stay. I was a college student, who didn’t have the financial means to buy another flight. It already cost me $1,000 for my round trip ticket. Luckily I was using my scholarship to finance my trip.
So, I chalked it up and return to the hotel. I
No matter the difficulty of adapting to the culture, language, and lifestyle, I remained humble, focused, and open to opportunities that arose.
If I hadn’t, I would not have experienced many of my firsts: seeing snow, hiking a mountain, or tasting blood sausages.
What or who would you know if you didn’t step outside of your own city, state, or country? Not much!
Yes, I learned mathematics, language arts, science, social studies, and other academic courses in my own city, state, and country. But, I’m referring to the social and interpersonal skills to interact with human beings.
This is how we can learn about the world. Through interaction between others who not only share a similar background to us but also who don’t.
I learned about the effects of the Franco dictatorships from my host mother. Also, the educational system in Spain, the distinctions between the Spanish spoken in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Caribbean.
I no longer think of Miami as the center of the world. Instead, the world as the center of human existence.
Technology, in addition, has helped us connect with others in different parts of the world.
Virtually, I’ve met individuals who have impacted my personal and/or professional life. And, have granted me insight into their culture and background.
How beneficial is it to be immersed in a town different than your own.
May 13, 2009 could have been the beginning and end of my travel journey.
If I had allowed the negative experience of getting lost to overwhelm me, I would not have traveled anywhere afterward. See where I’ve been.
The negative experience didn’t deter me. But if I had allowed it, I would not be this
How sad would it be if I still thought that Miami was the center of the world?
And, if we are speaking of traits and habits then this quote by Tom Hopkins holds true: “Being miserable is a habit; being happy is a habit
I chose to see my international experiences in a positive light, and it definitely resulted in positive vibes and opportunities.