When I come home from being abroad, I’m always a little bit sad. I’m sad because I won’t be wandering around ancient churches and because Pad Thai in America is never as good as the stuff in Thailand. Yep, it’s great to see family again and eat cereal with cold milk but I like who I am when I travel better than I am when I’m at home.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like I hate myself unless I’m wandering the streets in Italy or actually seeing for myself what a day in China is all about (spoiler; it’s way different being a tourist and actually living abroad for a semester as a volunteer) because I’m happy at home and when I’m traveling. But it’s just that I’m not really these seven things until I’m off that plane, my passport’s been stamped and I’m off for a new international adventure:
- More Social
- More Patient
- More Grateful
- More Adventurous
- More Ambitious
I am not the kind of person who would strike up a conversation with a random person in a random coffee shop at home. But abroad? Sure! I can’t tell you how many times the girl next to me asked to practice her English with me while I was riding on the train…and how much I loved chatting with her. Even when I know I am going to pronounce something wrong (or only know 2 words in Russian) it’s so fun to try and talk to the people around you when you travel. I’ve made friends in hostels that I still keep in touch with, all because I’m way more social when I’m away from home.
If I were to hop on a bus at home and find out the ride is going to be 2 hours longer than I had planned (and jammed packed full of people), I’d be pretty furious. That happened sooooooo many times in China. Oh man, those busses would stop in the middle of the road and pick up people and drop them off at their houses. I still have no idea how these people knew the bus would take them to where they needed to go. But I quickly found out through many cancelled flights, getting on the wrong buses, and crazy traffic it’s just better to be patient, especially when traveling. It was somehow easier to laugh it off and think...oh China. You're hilarious. I need to keep that patience even after I fly home.
I was sitting in a train station catching up on my journal — a little backstory: I do a sort of sketchbook/bucket list journal where I draw in my favorite foods I ate when in London, or add little doodles of things I want to remember — anyways, I had a drawing of my house when I was writing about coming home from being abroad. I know about 9 words in Mandarin (mostly about food), but the Chinese family next to me kept pointing to the house and pointing at me, with wide eyes. I hate how easy I forget how blessed my life is when I’m at home. I don’t think twice about not having a hot shower or opening a fridge full of food, only to say “there’s nothing to eat”. Travel makes me want to appreciate more and give back to help others.
Sometimes I don’t recognize myself when I travel. I rent motorbikes and scoot through island towns, hop off of bridges, borrow bicyles and bike through roads still under construction, jump into tuk tuks and whiz through crowded streets, and climb atop rooftops to get the best sunset view. When you know you only have so many days in a certain place, it drives you to make the most of it. Life is not about sitting at home. I hate that I forget that when I’m not traveling.
I dare you to stand in front of a world wonder and not smile. You are actually climbing the Great Wall of China, exploring the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza or eating gelato in front of the actual Roman Coliseum! This isn’t a picture — it’s the actually thing. You are there, in real life. That gives you a lot to smile about. Somehow, I feel happier when I’m exploring a quiet European town or a Thai temple than walking the aisles of Target. Weird, right?
I want to get the most out of everything when I’m abroad. I want to try all the foods, I want to see all the things, and I want to come home just exhausted because I squeezed every possible moment out of my trip. Unlike me at home, there really isn’t room for Netflix when you travel. I love that I’m more ambitious when I’m in a foreign country.
This is going to sound cheesy but here I go: Life is ah-mazing when you think about it. You can hop on a plane and in a few hours be in a completely different country, seeing things that are completely different than your life at home. That’s incredible! Each person you meet while exploring Russia’s Red Square has such a complex life- they have family, have had heartbreaks, and may even have the same little quirks like you — like how much you hate black licorice. That’s incredible!! I feel more alive, more vibrant and more aware of how amazing this little planet of ours really is when I travel.
I guess that's why I've taken breaks from school to travel and did a gap year after graudation...which actually turned into two years; I think I'm my best self when I travel.
Wanna see for yourself how you change while abroad? International Language Programs has opportunites where you can volunteer for an entire semester in 10 different countries. Click that little green button to find out a little bit more about our program: