This summer my solo travel experience taught me more than I imagined.
Lessons Learned While Traveling Outside My Comfort Zone.
I’m a super introverted person. I like my bubble and my space and the comforts of home. However, there’s a conflicting part of me that craves the unknown… that desires to meet people who aren’t like me and who have different experiences than I do… that desires to see a variety of things created beautifully. And that’s a part of myself I don’t want to ignore
This past summer I traveled by myself for the first time. During previous trips, there was some kind of supervision, some other person responsible for making sure I got where I needed to be on time. This time, I was on my own. Solo and completely responsible. Because of this new responsibility, I learned so much more than I ever could without the discomfort. Here are a few of the things I learned!
People are a lot friendlier than expected, most of the time. There were countless times where I had to rely on the kindness of passers-by to figure out where to go. I expected locals and fellow travelers to be annoyed by my lack of common sense, but they even went to extra lengths to make sure I could get where I wanted to go. In the train station in Paris, a kind French woman walked me to the gate where I needed to be. At the airport near Trieste, a couple helped me figure out how to buy the right bus ticket, and several people riding on that same bus made sure I got off at the right stop. Near the bus station in Udine, a local teenager walked me a couple of blocks away to the transit office so I could make sure that was the right bus station. People went the extra mile (literally) to help a fellow human out.
The most valuable experiences are those that involve meeting other people. My favorite stories to tell are those that involve locals and other travelers instead of walking around and looking at landmarks. For my Type-A personality, it was so easy for me to want to pass by the opportunity to engage with the local culture, but my traveling pal Kelli helped me see the value in this. I’m while glad she did, because the time we spent chatting with a Slovene college student while sitting by the Ljubljana castle was much more memorable than the time we pushed our way through crowds to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
We have so much to learn from different cultures. There is something in each culture that is worthwhile, that is valuable, something we can learn from. During my summer in Europe, life was very slow paced. Time passed by leisurely. I didn’t even realize this had an effect on the way I lived my life until arriving back in the United States. Time sped up when I stepped on American soil. In India, my team was invited into a couple of homes, and all that was expected of us was to enjoy a cup of chai. Because of the language barrier (or more accurately, accent barrier), there wasn’t pressure to tell interesting stories or funny jokes. We were allowed to simply be and enjoy. These are only two examples of things I learned while going abroad.
I hope this article inspires you to reach out to other people, get out of your comfort zone, and do what you can to experience different cultures! This could look like flying across the world or driving to a different part of the city. The options are countless!