It’s almost been a whole year (tomorrow) since I left the country for three months to live in a country I lovingly call my second home. It feels like a lifetime ago that I was boarding a plane to Tanzania, Africa and I have so many thoughts on the subject, still changing everyday.
If you have ever considered traveling to another country, but maybe have been to scared or worried, this article is for you. If you show no interest in traveling outside of your bubble, this article is for you, too. If you love traveling, but keep to your select list of cities and cultures, please, read on!
I first flew to Tanzania when I was 13 years old. I had been out of the country before, but not when I could actually remember it, or form thoughts around it. I was born in Japan, so I thought that somehow gave me a license to travel anywhere – more so than other people, even though I would not have admitted it at the time. I felt like it was in my blood – traveling. I wanted more of it, but I didn’t know what was out there or how convenient/inconvenient it might be. So, I started with my church and went on a mission trip in 2009 and in short: it changed my life forever.
I went (almost) every year after that and by 2019 I can look back and see just how much my perspective on life has changed and molded into something that isn’t solid, but ever-changing and growing. Going to a different culture gives you freedom. It teaches you that not everything is black and white, and the kindest people you never knew existed…well, exist.
There is freedom to choose to accept what’s going on around you, and there is freedom to change it. Traveling can teach you the simpler things like time management, how to pack your life in a carry-on, or the best times and days of the week to purchase flights.
What I prefer – based on my own experiences – is to be taught to endure less than ideal circumstances. I prefer to be taught to respect cultures just as they are without instilling my own ideas, or American experiences. I prefer to be taught to examine and observe before I speak to a local of the community I’m inhabiting for two weeks. I love to be reminded that I get to leave and go home to a plethora of things I don’t need. I prefer to ask questions when I don’t know the answer or what to do.
Traveling teaches you all of these things AND MORE. I don’t think I have enough space to tell you all of the ways my worldview has been challenged, changed, and continues to be molded. If you are on the fence about going to a place you have never been, get on the plane. Buy the ticket, take in the experience.
Through experiences we learn and grow. We take those experiences to heart, and we learn that our assumptions or what we see on television is not always the truth. We learn hardship and joy in one breath, and it is beautiful. Even through the lens of someone who is an optimist, I’ve learned to be realistic. I love to laugh, but there are times when things are serious, out of my control, and I just need to be silent. I carry these things with me back home.
Traveling teaches you that you are not the most adaptable person in the world like you thought. Things go wrong, you change plans, people don’t show up, or your passport is less than six months to expiration. By the end of frustrating journeys, you might wish that you had enjoyed more of your trip, so the next time around you have a change in attitude and you approach problems with grace and patience (not easy, but doable). And that one trip changes your attitude EVERYDAY without you even realizing it.
I’ve learned that a 9-5 is not my style, and that my bubble is so small. I’ve learned I am more than okay with how small I really am, and how big my God is. I’ve accepted the fact that sometimes things are just bad and you cannot fix them. I’ve learned that when things are good, you don’t need to fix them.
Make a list of the places you would never dream of going. Turkey? Great, you should go. Alaska? Go.
Take the chance to be the least bit uncomfortable. Leave your makeup in the car before boarding your flight. Forget your phone or Apple Watch on its charger one morning. Read more books. Write more stories. Take pictures with your mind and enjoy the beauty of being selfish with what you see. Eat the fish you’ve never tried. Try the street corn. Have a coke in another country. Enjoy a beer or a glass of wine by yourself. Keep your thoughts on paper, or don’t.
The point is: learn the concept of uncomfortableness.
Learn to just embrace where you are and go with the flow. Make decisions where they need to be made, but enjoy the ride and try not to fret about schedules and/or time limits.
I will leave you with a quote from my man Aladdin to a questioning Princess Jasmine “When did you last let your heart decide?”