What Travel Taught Me That College Didn’t
What you learn outside the classroom is just as important as what you learn inside the classroom.
Earlier this year, I hopped on a plane to Florence, Italy with no idea what to expect. I knew I’d be 4,000 miles from home. I knew I wanted to travel a lot. I knew my whole life would change. As it turns out, experience is the greatest teacher there is. You can sit in a classroom all day every day and try to absorb every last bit of information– about travel, accounting, economics–whatever, but there are some things only experience can teach you.
Day one of being abroad: my roommates and I had just landed in Florence after roughly 12 hours of traveling through the night, a six hour time difference, and endlessly pumping adrenaline. We pull up to our apartment, suitcases falling to the cobblestone around us, and lo and behold, the front door will not open. Equipped with our key that was probably around when Dante lived in Florence, we didn’t know if we had to push, pull, or some combination of the two.
As we stood there, crammed in the tiny hallway, laughing and causing one of many ruckuses to come, we realized this was the first thing travel was going to teach us: thinking on our feet. There was no one around. There was certainly no instruction manual to opening the front door. We had to put our brains together and figure it out. We had heard plenty of abroad horror stories, but not opening the front door? We were better than that. And we were. It took some time (more than I’m proud to admit), but we got the front door open.
Traveling taught me to loosen up on my schedule— something that, today, as I sit staring at my planner full of things to do and not enough time to do them, makes me laugh. For four months, I never really had strict plans. If I woke up and wanted to get coffee or a crepe, or sit along the Arno all day long, that is exactly what I’d do. At first, that took some serious getting used to. I am not one to sit idly by, as my Type A personality craves a neat and tidy to-do list and being busy 24/7. I don’t think I’ll ever have as much freedom to do whatever the hell I want ever again for the rest of my life, and I’m thankful I got to experience that even for a few months.
Giving up a bit of control is hands down something I never would’ve learned had I not gone abroad. Thanks to my travel experience, I learned that you can’t control everyone or everything, and the only thing you can control is how you react to it.
On my second to last day of spring break, my phone was stolen in a Paris metro station. There I was, with my friends, again causing a ruckus, and in a matter of seconds, my phone was gone from my pocket. Not only was it gone, but the lovely human being that took it was really sweet and changed ALL of my passwords to every account I have. Email. Facebook. All of it. Gone. So there I was. In a Paris metro station with no way to get into my email account or my Facebook or contact anyone. It’s in moments like that one where things really come into perspective in a way I never even considered before. Sure, my online presence had been hacked and all of my pictures from the past nine days of spring break were gone. It was going to take an entire week to get a new phone. BUT: I was in Europe for spring break with my best friends. I saw things I had only read about or seen in pictures or movies. They took my phone, but they didn’t take ME. There are positives around every corner if you look hard enough.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of things I know I could not have learned in any classroom. There are some things you only know by running free from your comfort zone and being completely open to whatever craziness might come your way.