What I learned After Traveled 11 Countries

What I learned After Traveled 11 Countries

The time has come – I’m currently on a return flight home from Guatemala City. It feels crazy to write that sentence, considering its implications. I started off on this trip over a year ago, unsure of myself, my decision, and what awaited me. I didn’t know how long I’d be gone, if I’d be able to cope for long in lesser-developed countries, how I’d like the constantly-moving pace of travel, and what I would do with all my new free time. By the end of the yearlong journey, I had seen 11 new countries including Kerala India and met countless new people. My Spanish had improved immensely, and my eyes were opened to new foods, customs, and ways of seeing the world. My idealized view of the United States had quickly worn off: I saw how little interest people had in my country, apart from asking me what I thought of Donald Trump’s most recent antics. That’s not to say I felt hostility toward me for being an American. It’s more that my experiences grounded my self-conception of what my citizenship meant in the eyes of others and in the global scheme of things. In the year that I was gone, I didn’t work and I didn’t make any money. I didn’t attend any formal classes or receive any proper schooling. Yet, I was far more productive and grew leaps and bounds more as a person than I have in any other yearlong period. Not only did I reflect far more on myself, my values, and what I want to do with my life, but I also began to develop habits that I hope to sustain in the future. I paid attention to my surroundings and tried to learn from them. I taught myself new skills that have opened doors for how I want to approach the future. I saw firsthand how other people lived their lives, and thought critically about why they did things the way they did. I pondered the kind of life I was living prior to this trip, and what I did and didn’t like about it. In the past, I had focused on the things I didn’t like about school, work, life, whatever, but constantly struggled with figuring out a way to assess why I didn’t like them and what I could do about it. While traveling, I got much more clarity in this regard, which created a framework for me to better understand and act on these emotions. Even if that ended up being all I got out of this trip, it would have been worth it. Of course, I had a lot of fun and saw a lot of cool things along the way. I tried new activities, from paragliding to trekking to scuba diving, and saw beautiful landscapes I hadn’t known existed. I went to regional markets, ate delicious food and talked politics with locals who cared about their cities and countries. I withstood harrowing bus journeys through winding mountain roads and sat on boats I wasn’t sure would make the journey without sinking. I worked on a farm for one month, and lived out of a tent in Patagonia the next one. I got lost in new cities, studying their development patterns and urban planning. On a broader scale, I realized that in the past, I tended to make things more difficult than they needed to be. I was constantly rushing around, trying to get XY and Z done, but in the process, I was not able to appreciate or even think about why I was doing any of it. While traveling, I took the time to ask people about their lives, what their customs meant, and how they came to see the world the way they did. This caused me to slow down and really appreciate the various perspectives that exist out there. I wouldn’t have thought about or realized any of these things had I not been constantly questioning my surroundings and seeking to understand them. All in all, I have very few things I would change about how I spent the last year. It has all been a learning experience, hopefully one I will be able to draw from for the rest of my life. It’s time now to go home, but that doesn’t mean I plan to stop thinking about these things and reflecting on my experiences over this past year. Because of that, I can proudly say that at the end of it all, I have no regrets.