German Word of the Day:
n., masc., return trip, way back
I’m home. After 11 months on the other side of the wide, wide world I am finally back home. It’s a happy but strange feeling to come back to a place that you haven’t seen in a year. It’s as if I’m stepping into a time capsule from the “me” who left home last August…she seems to be a very different person than who I am now.
I would never say that a foreign exchange year is the thing for every person, but I know that I have learned an amazing amount over the last eleven months. Here are my top 4 tips for being a kick*ss world traveler.
1. Opinions aren’t necessary.
At the beginning of my year, I spent a lot of time trying to form opinions about everything I encountered. I believed that I had to agree or disagree with everything I saw or heard, and was constantly asking myself, “is this thing better in my home country or in this country?” Of course, we all form opinions about things, eventually. But I learned that it’s okay to let that part wait. First, just experience. There’ll be time later for having opinions. If you learn to let go of wanting to decide about things, you can open up to all sorts of out-of-the-box experiences that come your way.
2. Talk to people.
I know this doesn’t come naturally for a lot of people. Trust me, I’m a first-class introvert myself. But when you’re traveling, you don’t have to act like “yourself”. You can throw your normal habits to the wind, because, really, you’ll never meet any of these people again. So go ask weird questions and give people compliments and start up conversations with complete strangers. I’ve had a few awkward exchanges result from this, but I’ve never regretted making connections with people I met – even if they only lasted a moment.
3. Take pictures, but not too many.
There’s no doubt – photos are some of the best souvenirs you can collect from any trip. They last forever, can be reproduced and shared, and are 100% individual. While traveling, I learned that it’s important to keep your eyes out for unexpected photo opportunities, and to be bold enough to take interesting photos even if it attracts a bit of attention. But I also learned that there are times to put the camera away. When I spend all my time staring through the lens of a camera, my memories of an event are not as clear. My experience of a place is limited to the visual, and even that is reduced to a 2-dimensional rectangle. So, take some pictures, and then put the camera away and live in the physical world.
4. Ask for what you need.
Travelers are in a position of taking. We arrive at our destination to see what other people have done, to accept others’ hospitality, to peek into their worlds. It can feel really uncomfortable to be in this position – but I’ve discovered that world is much more willing to help me than I expect. In fact, most people are truly happy to let you into their worlds, and to help you achieve your traveler’s dreams. So, ask for what you need. Let people know where you want to go. Ask if you can come visit; don’t wait to be invited. Request help, get information, and let people show you what they have to offer. All most people ask in return is that you are interested in what they can give.
And with that, Mia Goes AWOL is wrapping up for a little while. This adventure is over me, but don’t worry, the site will be staying around for all the adventures that I know are yet to come. Thank you to everyone who clicked, read, liked, commented and subscribed – I hope this blog was able to open your eyes a bit like my experience in Europe opened mine. Until I hit the road again!