When I was growing up my father was in the Air Force. His assignments typically lasted two years before he was re-located and my mother began to pack everything up again. When my father retired we were all relived… until two years later I was itching to live somewhere new again.
We all have our reasons for traveling, and when someone says ‘everyone must see this place!’ I audibly groan. We shouldn’t all see the same places, because we aren’t all searching for the same things. This blog won’t tell you where to travel, and it won’t tell you how to get there. What this blog will do is give you tips on how to travel well, as well as suggestions. Remember your own interests, just because someone on Pintrest says you just have to see this doesn’t mean it’s true for you.
First, I’ll give you my background. As you know, I was an Air Force kid. My father retired when I was eight, and I was excited to stay in the same school… until I had to stay in the same school for the next ten years. I studied German in school and it was the best thing I could have done. A friend of mine had German family, and in my spring of ninth grade we went on a trip to see her family. It was awesome, I wasn’t with my parents so I felt free, but I was with my friend’s family so I also felt safe. The following year I got a German exchange student for a few months, and then I went to stay with her for a few months later in the year. I absolutely fell in love with Germany, and my wonderful friends, most of whom I still hang out with and meet. At the same time I learned invaluable skills, and traveled to Austria, Switzerland, Iceland, France, and Germany.
I went on the same exchange trip a year later to Bavaria and my love continued to grow. At university I studied abroad in Florence, then backpacked my way towards America through Switzerland, Austria, Germany, France, England, Scotland, and Ireland. After I finished university, I jumped on the first plane out on the Peace Corps, which took me to Ukraine. From Ukraine I got to see so many amazing things and places, and it definitely changed my world view. I was fortunate enough to travel to Poland and Moldova at this time, and loved all of it. Overall, I've lived in five different countries including Turkey, and I've loved every second of it.
If you are thinking about doing any sort of study abroad or exchange program, all I can say is DO IT. Sometimes when you’re leaving home to be alone in a foreign country there is the idea that you’ll miss and miss out on everything that is happening at home, and you won’t connect with anyone abroad or maybe the language is intimidating. The thing is the same if you’re from L.A, NYC, or a little country bumpkin town – nothing changes. After six months to a year of you being away, the towns, cities, people, they are the same. This isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it should be your biggest encouragement both to go away and to come home.
Making connections abroad I have found is much easier than making connections in the U.S. Abroad, café life is key and people are used to meeting foreigners and for a lot of people, they have known many Americans either through work or when they visited America themselves. So if you’re only interested in meeting locals, your American accent is likely to spark a conversation. Although it may be embarrassing at first, two things will happen if you keep trying. 1) You’ll make lots of friends who are excited about sharing cultures, and 2) Locals can tell you what exactly you’re saying wrong to make your American accent go away. Finally, a lot of exchange programs that you do in university, go through other programs or universities to get apartments, classes, etc. So this means one big thing: lots of other Americans. If you really can’t master another language, then you’ve got plenty of company.
This blog will cater to many people… whether it is your first time abroad, or if you’ve been living abroad for four years and are just looking for a bit of inspiration and information on where to go next. I welcome comments and suggestions. If you are looking for something specific that I haven’t written about yet feel free to ask, and I’ll do my best to share my relevant experiences. Best of luck!