Four Things I’ve Gained from Traveling Abroad
I knew I was going to be a traveler for the rest of my life
I took my first trip abroad to Costa Rica in July 2012, and from the very first day when we took a walking tour of our neighborhood, I knew I was going to be a traveler for the rest of my life. If I had not taken that leap of faith and embarked on a journey to Central America this time last year, I would be a completely different person today. I learned so many life lessons and have grown so much as a person thanks to time I’ve spent in both Costa Rica and South Africa, and even though words cannot express how valuable these experiences are to me, I will try my best to take you through what I’ve gained from these experiences.
When I approached my high school graduation I realized I had to start being more confident and independent, because when I got to college I was going to be on my own. I found is an international volunteer organization called Cross Cultural Solutions when searching online and after lots of consideration signed up for a three week adventure in Costa Rica. People come from all over the United States to volunteer and all live together in a home base. When I signed up, I knew no one else on the trip and flew down to Costa Rica with two fellow volunteers after our flights connected in Miami. Traveling forced me to do more things on my own and required me to ask strangers for help when I needed it. After returning home from Costa Rica last July, I had much more confidence about heading to school and being on my own.
I’ve met some of my best friends on my trips abroad. Not only did I make friends with the people who were on the trips with me, but also with the locals who most of the time very welcoming to visitors. In Costa Rica, like I mentioned, volunteers came from many different parts of the United States. It was interesting getting to know where everyone came from and why they decided to come on the trip. Even though we all went back to different states and universities after our time in Costa Rica, it is cool knowing that for a short time that we all came together and shared an amazing experience with each other. I actually live not to far from one of the girls that was on my trip, and we are planning to reunite before we head back to college this fall.
My trip to Africa was a little different because I went with a study abroad group through my university. We all took an eight-week class prior to our trip and flew to Africa together. Our group became really close in the three weeks we were there and most of us will be heading back to the University of Illinois again this fall, so our friendship will continue now that we are back in the states.
The Opportunity to Try New Things
From bungee jumping in Costa Rica to petting a cheetah in South Africa, I was able to do things that I’ve only dreamed about when I traveled abroad. Traveling made me crave adventure and take advantage of every opportunity that came my way. Being in another country and out of your comfort zone teaches you to keep an open mind and always be open to trying new things. There are so many places in the world to see so it is important to make the most of your time in a particular country when you have to chance, because there is no guarantee that you will be able to come back. So learn a phrase or two in the country’s native language, try their famous dish, and don’t be afraid to let a little adventure enter your life.
After traveling abroad, I am very thankful for everything I have in my life and realize how fortunate I am to live in the United States. After going on a tour of the townships of South Africa, it made me realize how much we take for granted at home. Things like electricity and running water are considered luxuries for people living there and I know I didn’t think twice about my warm shower or turning the light on at nighttime before I went on my trip there.
During my time in both Costa Rica and South Africa, I spent a good amount of time volunteering in local schools. All the kids and teachers were so welcoming, but you could tell that the schools were faced with poverty. Experiencing this made me grateful for the opportunity to receive a good education, because this isn’t something that is guaranteed in other parts of the world.
Traveling has been such a blessing in my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without going to Costa Rica and South Africa. It has taught me to accept other cultures, to be adventurous, and to be thankful for the little things in life. Traveling has opened doors for me that have been life changing, and I can’t wait to see where my passion for travel takes me next.