Every time I meet a person who is thinking about making a student exchange but is stuck in doubt for fear of what might happen, I give it the same advice: “close your eyes and go! You do not know how this will change your life. Going abroad or travel is like skydiving. It’s completely terrifying and exciting at the same time, you can’t think too much, you have to jump and enjoy it while flight lasts.
This post will show you the things I learned and maybe you need to know to take courage and do that trip that you are you always wanted to do.
Traveling can change your life and you have to go, even terrified. At the end of the trip, you will see that the balance is always positive and you will have taken the first step in what will be a long walk.
So here is my learning:
1. New habits
Travelling takes you out of the comfort zone. The main reason you have to travel is this one. When you get out of it, you will be exposed to an X number of experiences. When all you see around you is different, you begin to reevaluate what we already know and begin to discard what’s not good for you. Enjoy and let the good influences of the world enhance to your life.
2. Less is more
Airports are teaching quickly this important lesson, because of all of a sudden you have to pack all your life in a suitcase of 23 or 32 kg, depending on the destination. This way you will learn to travel weightless and to invest in life experiences than material things because there will come to a point where you won’t be able to carry them, literally. The only thing I buy on my trips are postcards of the places I visit. With each big trip, they follow me and increase in number. So remember, don’t take anything that you won’t carry in your own body. Simplify your life. Carrying less weight, you’ll go further. Nobody can take away from you the things you have lived.
3. The moment
Taking risks and getting into venture never will be a problem again. When you are traveling you don’t have time to lose or think twice. You learn to take the opportunities the way they come. As they say: it’s better to regret what we did and not be in doubt of what could have happened.
I always ask to myself: what is the worst that could happen? When will I have the opportunity to live an experience like this again? The cost-benefit ratio is favorable?
Answering these questions, you will realize that you have nothing to lose. In return, you will gain self-confidence and life experience. A type of learning that you will hardly find in a classroom.
When you are out there, alone, you’ll be forced to talk to strangers. You’ll have to ask for directions to get to your hotel or to catch a bus. You have to interact with new classmates, professors, roommates, etc. You will learn to communicate even without words. In the end, nobody will bite you. Instead, you can find new friends. As they say: the unknowns are friends we haven’t met. So don’t reject any invitation, you never know what new person is waiting to come into your life at the least expected moment.
When you are in a country where nobody speaks your language, you don’t know anyone and is several miles away from home, it is up to you to solve your problems better and faster. Maybe you won’t turn into MacGyver from one day to another, but is a skill that develops over time and gives you the important sense of independence that we all need to face the world.
At some point in our lives, we believe that everything will remain forever, static. We apply this rule to everything: our best friends, our relationships, our profession, our family, etc. Traveling teaches you, sometimes the hard way, that nothing lasts forever. Neither the journey you embarked nor the new friends you made or the experiences you had lived. Life changes constantly and traveling you will start to change faster (wait until you get back home and you’ll see). Accept this fact and don’t cling to anything, enjoy every moment like it’s the last because it might be.
Travelling will give you much time alone with yourself. You’ll learn the difference between loneliness and solitude. You’ll learn more from yourself on a 20 days trip than in a year of therapy. Things as simple as finding out that you liked the vegetables, you just needed to try it differently, or as important as the principles and the things in which you believe may be wrong. Believe me; they all began to be reassessed. Allow the new information, traditions, customs, beliefs, emotions, etc. to get in. You will be amazed by the things you didn’t know about yourself.
8. Loneliness won’t kill you
Being alone and missing your family and friends, it seems the least of your worries when you actually let the freedom that traveling offers get into your system. You’ll find that there are more moments that will mark your life positively, the new friends and bonds that will create and the new landscapes that will fill your soul than the feeling of being away from home. You can trust me. Also, think that your family and friends will be there, waiting for you when you return. When you understand that, you begin to enjoy even more your trip.
9. The fear
Being afraid of the unknown is a completely normal adaptive survival situation. So if you are afraid to travel, don’t feel bad, you are not the only one. I am terrified every time I go to live in another country. But it cannot be the fear who takes your decisions; it may be present but can’t be bigger than the excitement of being embarking on a new adventure. Travelling teaches you how to control your fear. With time you’ll discover that your fears have no foundation and that situations will always look worse in your head than they are. But you’ll only find it out by going there and seeing with your own eyes. So close your eyes and jump. The world is waiting for you, shaking and everything.
10. Organization and planning
Planning trips, scales, arrivals, bus routes, hours of operation, hours of check-in and check-out, scheduling, etc. Begin to be part of your routine. With this, you will acquire a capacity for organization and planning that any mother of a teenager will love to see in her child. That if you want to. There is also the possibility of you being the clumsy traveler who goes around the world without any planning. It’s not my case, and I’m not saying that one way is better than the other. But surely one day you realize that other aspects of your life organize better after your trip.
Staying away from home can be a way to connect with your own roots. There are always the curious questions of your new friends. What is the population of your country? How big are you hometown? Why your country doesn’t have seasons? But why it is so cold? How do you say that word in Spanish? What does this expression mean and where it came from? What are the typical dances? Who are the most representative singers, writers, poets? , How the public transport works? Politics and the economy? why your country is one way or another? You start to go after information that back home might not have much importance to you. You will rediscover your own country and your own culture while discovering a new one.
12. Life without you
When you return home after a year living abroad, the expectation is huge. You expect all your friends receiving you at the airport and wondering of your trip. But after arriving you find some members of your family and some friends. In that moment, you understand that life goes on even without you. Your friends got new jobs and they don’t have time to have a coffee with you, some of them are married and had children, and others were also traveling the world.
Traveling gives a low punch into your ego, an important wake-up call. Because you understand that you are a tiny part of the universe and you are as important as all the people who belong to it.
13. Changes and adaptation
Every change is positive, even as difficult as it may be. This applies to everything in life. It is also the most difficult thing to understand. When we face situations of drastic, sudden or difficult change, we see our world fall at our feet. It is difficult to see the bright side of the situation and it seems that we won’t get back on our feet.
Traveling is a special situation because it puts you in a state of vulnerability and exposed to sudden changes all the time, but this will teach you to easily adapt. You’ll learn that with time all the bad situation turns out in a new opportunity to be better. Behind every negative moment I’ve passed during my travels always came a good thing after. Of course, at the moment is hard to think that something good will come, but be patient, try to stay calm because hard times will always be present. Put this in your head: all changes are always for good, even if it doesn’t look like.
14. The power
After having traveled over the world, getting out safely from the most bizarre situations, solved problems on your own, talking to unknown people in the street in a strange language, walking days and nights through the streets of a city without getting lost, created a new “family” in every place, learning new languages, traditions, rites and customs, you will feel that nothing can stop you. And is just like that. Travel teaches you that you have the power to make anything you want. You just need to have the determination and a bit of courage, because there is nothing worse than being stuck in a world of four walls. So make a deal with your own fears, close your eyes, open the door and jump! When you do it, write me and tell me how it feels.