This past year I’ve chronicled my travels through multiples modes such as Facebook, Instagram, blogging, Twitter, etc. Through so many modes in fact that everyone that has seen it all is probably tired of hearing about the places i’ve been, things i’ve seen, blah blah blah. I realize i have been rather obnoxiously abusing my social media sites and sorry to all of those that really weren’t interested in seeing it all. I promise, it’s almost over!
That being said I realized recently that even though I’ve been writing about and taking pictures of places I’ve been, I haven’t properly reflected on how these places and experiences have changed me and my view of my everyday surroundings. I’ve tried to figure out what it is about travel that I find so addicting and invigorating. No matter how many annoying Ryan Air flights, long bus journeys or series of misfortunate events that happen I still keep coming back for more.
This article is just a way for me to reflect out loud how travelling and living in a different country has changed me (hopefully for the better)
1. The first step is the hardest.
Whether its deciding to go abroad in the first place or booking your flights and locking it all in, its scary. For me, the nerves weren’t deciding to come to Amsterdam or even booking my flight here. I first got nervous when I was here and just settled into the Dutchie lifestyle and I had to figure out where to travel first. I didn’t really have any travel companions at the time that were as willing to go somewhere on a whim, so I decided to book a flight to wherever was the cheapest. This led me to Edinburgh Scotland. I booked the flights, arranged travel to the highlands, and even was able to find a host to Couchsurf with for the first time. It may sound dumb for a twenty something girl to stay with a random guy in a random city she’s never been to before, but lets face it I’m a little naive. I tend to have too much faith in humanity sometimes and was determined to prove that a girl can travel alone without having to worry about being taken advantage of some point along the way. Unfortunately I was a little too optimistic trying to bike to the airport, so I missed my flight. I was able to get a new one though and the rest of my trip was absolutely incredible. I was able to meet lovely people, hike the tallest point in the UK, and come back to Amsterdam in one piece. From then on, booking travel was just a matter of logistics. If you are not out of your comfort zone at least a little while traveling, your not doing something right.
2. Sometimes all it takes is a smile
Often when I was in a place that I didn’t know the language or customary way to greet/approach someone, I would just give them a nice smile before even saying anything. Seems really cheesy, I know, but it really did change the way people responded to me when I needed help or couldn’t communicate with them very well verbally. If you go up to someone that doesn’t speak a lick of the language you speak, theres no way for them to tell what your saying. The only thing they have to go by is your demeanor, so smiling or laughing when there is a miscommunication can lighten the mood and in many cases if the person I’m asking can’t help, they will find someone for me that can. Plus, everyone knows your cuter when you smile.
3. Ask Questions
In a classroom setting asking questions helps you better understand what your being taught. In a real world setting, asking questions is even more important. I have a strange obsession with meeting new people and immediately wanting to know everything about them. Sometimes its hard for me to balance being curious and just being really intrusive and annoying with all my questions. It’s especially interesting finding out social boundaries between cultures. By asking questions you can draw parallels to other experiences and to your own culture, find similarities and differences. I’ve developed some pretty strong friendships with people over the course of a couple of days because once you stop being shy and skip the small talk shenanigans it can be fairly easy to open up to someone and have them open up to you in return.
4. You Find Out Who Your Friends Are
Leaving your friends at home can be hard. Time differences, different schedules, meeting new people. Studying abroad is the ultimate strain on relationships and you’ll find out who you actually want to keep into contact with and who cares about staying in contact with you. You’ll find that certain people you were only friends with out of convenience and some you truly do miss.
The same goes for when you return from being abroad and keeping into contact with the people you met. Haven’t had to cross this bridge just yet…
5. You Realize Just How Much You Need Your Parents
Even though I moved thousands of miles away, I feel much more open and closer with my parents and family than ever before. In reality, your family are the only people that will be there for you 100% of the time. Unfortunately, friends come and go and can’t always be the ones to help you with your issues. I haven’t necessarily been the easiest child to raise. I’m incredibly stubborn and independent, trying to do everything myself even if i have no idea what I’m doing. Parent’s hate seeing their children fail, but I’m a strong believer in finding out the hard way is sometimes the best way. Needless to say parents/family are the ones that usually instill these life long principles in you in the first place. My parents have given me both the financial and emotional support to explore this past year and figure my shit out, for lack of better expression. Its hard to express just in words how grateful I truly am.
6. Take the Scenic Route
This I mean literally… I’m pretty in love with train travel and think it is the greatest mode of transportation, like ever. Needless to say it isn’t the fastest or always the most convenient, but I would take an 8 hour train ride over any Ryan Air flight EVER. Maybe not the night train though, that can be a little sketch sometimes. Really though, travelling by train you can see all of the in betweens of a country and relax without having to worry about whether your bag weighs too much, getting to the station hours ahead of time, or wearing your seatbelt/turning off all electronic devices. You can move around in a train, get a beer and relax in the bar, and enjoy the view from your big, comfortable seat. Not everyone is going to agree with this…. but you should. 🙂
Other than trains though, sometimes choosing the more unconventional route can be an adventure on its own. Try a boat instead of a plane or rent a car instead of taking a bus. Traveling is exhausting so sometimes switching it up can make the travel time seem less tedious.
7. The World Is Better on a Bike
Biking isn’t a form of exercise in the Netherlands, it’s a lifestyle and I am absolutely obsessed with it. Every road is usually equipped with a bike lane right next to it, even most highways have bike paths underneath running through the forests. You can even easily go to different cities. It’s wonderful. Not to mention is it better environmentally, but also health wise. It makes me seriously depressed to think that when I go home I will no longer be able to ride my bike to work, to the bars, or to the grocery store on the reg. If I did I would honestly fear for my life every time I was on the road. NC drivers are cray.
8. Traveling Alone is a Must…at least once.
I’ve never really thought of traveling alone being a weird thing to do. When I first got to Amsterdam, all I wanted to do was plug my headphones in and ride around on the city on my bike getting lost. It’s probably my favorite thing to do when i first get to a new place. Just walking around and getting my bearings. I’m a pretty aimless wanderer so I feel bad for anyone that has to stick with me as I make random turns down side streets and go in circles. Even though i’ve found myself in very bizarre/ uncomfortable situations I have learned so much just by having to do it all myself. I have mastered meeting & greeting random strangers and by embracing just how far outside of my comfort zone I am I learn quite a few things about myself along the way.
9. Say “Yes”
This is pretty self explanatory.
“Wanna go out tonight” … YES
“Wanna try (undecipherable food)”… HECK YES
” Wanna go to (random country here)”…. YES
“Another beer?”… YES
everyone has their limits, but don’t be afraid to push them a little. I’ve have intense FOMO and believe if I don’t say yes than I could possibly miss out on something epic. Yes you might gain 15 pounds by the end of it all, but I wouldn’t trade one beer, late night kebab, or gelato for anything.
10. You Only Miss It When Its Gone
I’m as guilty of this as anyone. It can be exhausting to live everyday like it’s your last, and its not wise to go hard and all out every day and night. However, if you are going to do it there is no better time than now. Last time I checked no one gets younger from day to day. Later isn’t going to be as good as right now. I missed home when I first got here and I still do from time to time. Of course I know that as soon as I leave Amsterdam i’m going to miss it along with all the people I have met here. My goal was to leave Amsterdam feeling like I have done everything I wanted and not having any “what ifs” or “I wish I would’ve…”. I can honestly say I have enjoyed mytself above and beyond my planning for this whirlwind of a year and the best moments were the ones I didn’t plan for at all.
There are probably hundreds of things I could say, but these are the big ones. And no one really wants to hear more of what I have to say about traveling. I have about 7 or 8 more days left in Amsterdam until I travel with my Mom and sister for two weeks. And I’m trying to get the most out of every day and night here. Thanks for tuning in y’all.