Whenever “the travel bug” comes into discussion the conversation normally goes like this;
The Travel Bug-ee: Oh my god, you have to travel! You don’t truly discover who you really are until you’ve seen the world!!! I’ve travelled everywhere so I know it’s true!!!
Me: *the part where I stop listening to said person on account of their bragging disguised as life advice*
Previously, whenever someone were to talk about “the travel bug” I would have rolled my eyes. However, now I know there is some merit in what “the travel bug-ee” might be trying to say.
First, this year has really shown me that there are countless opportunities that you could take if you really want to get out there and travel the world (and without breaking the bank)! Although travelling isn’t necessarily cheap, there are undoubtedly cheaper ways to do so. Maybe hostels, 15-hour bus rides and eating one-euro baguettes as a “meal” don’t necessarily sound like an ideal vacation, but what you take out of these experiences is much more valuable than lying on the beach while drinking Pina Coladas at a 5-star resort.
What you really gain from travelling shouldn’t be a darker skin tone or 10 pounds from all the food you’ve eaten, but rather a better understanding of the world and of yourself. This year, I’ve learned so much about the history, culture and the traditions of so many different countries from travelling and meeting new people. Did you know Iceland has an incest prevention app???
I’ve also learned to always keep an open mind and that there is no right and wrong when it comes cultural norms. It ultimately comes down to appreciating the differences between the norms of one country and another. So maybe I’ve had to stop wearing pyjama pants to class or stop publicly stuffing my face with pizza on my commute to school (unless I wanted to be stared at). But this doesn’t necessarily mean that these changes are bad changes. At the same time, I won’t start viewing pyjama-wearing, pizza-eaters as “lazy slobs” either. This is simple example, but what I’m really trying to convey is that learning about new cultural norms and adapting to these norms is really what makes travelling interesting. You’ll really open your mind to new things.
In addition to this, what you gain is a better understanding of who you are and how strong you truly are. Dropping everything and everyone you know to move to a new continent, and doing it alone at that, is undoubtedly a test of mental and emotional strength for many people. Living, or even thriving, for a year in a completely new environment without your friends and family can be a challenge and you really get a gauge on how strong you really are. Those things that you previously found to be a bit frightening may not seem so scary anymore.
For me, it was doing things alone. Although I have always seen myself as an independent person, and coming to Paris was not at all frightening for me, it was the part about finding comfort in my own company that I found rather daunting. Last year you would have never found me alone at the cafeteria, at the library or at the mall. I was uncomfortable with being alone a lot of the time, or was scared of what people may think of me doing those things without a friend by my side. I knew coming to Paris that there would be times where I may not have the luxury of a huge friend selection, and that there would be many times where I would have to conquer a new challenge or even just entertain myself, by myself.
This was the biggest challenge for me this year, and this is also the biggest change that I saw in myself. This year I went from hibernating in my room watching Whose Line in fear of adventuring all alone to choosing reading alone in the Luxembourg Gardens over going out with a friend. I’ve really learned to appreciate my own company, and maybe even a little too much!
Overall, I’ve learned how strong I really am, and I’ve learned to never let fear or insecurities hold me back from adventuring and achieving. And with that, I found myself looking into more international internship and studying opportunities.
Now, after catching, dare I say; “the travel bug,” I began a 6-week internship in Split, Croatia. I’m currently interning on behalf of AIESEC Carleton, AIESEC Split and the various Dalmatia region tourist boards in hopes of promoting tourism within Croatia. Applying for this internship was probably one of my best decisions and I’ve really gained a solid understanding of Croatian culture – something that I knew nothing about – over the last month. If you want to see and learn more about our project I encourage you to like our Facebook page, Discover Split.
Overall, the moral of this blog post is that maybe the next time someone you know starts talking about “the travel bug” wait a few minutes before you decide to roll your eyes, because someday, you might become that person!
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