Self-Discovery and Travel
Many people who travel, end up not only taking a geographical study around the globe, but also one of self-discovery. I will never forget my first international experience where I traveled with about 10 other students and my middle school art teacher to Japan. Of all the experiences, the two that stick out to me the most, despite being quite different from one another, impacting me, my life, and my perspective of the world in huge ways. Below I have included FOUR of the lessons I have learned about myself through travel. Please, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below!
I am but only a small part of this world…
The first memory I recall is, as a 12 year old, looking down from the window of a jet plane and seeing a large mountain range below me (the middle picture below was captured in that moment!). Although I was never sure which range this was, I recall the feeling it gave me to see such a vast and enormous landscape from that high in the air. I recall feeling so small in that moment. I realized how large this Earth really is, and I get to be a part of that whole world. Thinking back on this moment gives me goosebumps! Also, when I am going through rough times in my life, I recall how small I am compared to the world, and that this also means that my problems are small, despite how I may be feeling at the time. This image helps me to center myself and become calm amidst the turbulence in life.
The world I live in in so vast and beautiful…and waiting to be explored!
I remember, at that moment, catching the travel bug! I wasn’t aware of what it was, I just knew that there was an entire, beautiful world waiting to be explored. This was a feeling of exhilaration which will stay with me forever.
Different isn’t necessarily a bad thing…
The second most memorable time from that 10-day trip, was sitting on my knees in a tea garden, being served, and attempting to eat pickled plums. And, yes. To my 12-year-old Americanized palate, they tasted just how they sound. I recall sitting next to my best friend as we looked at each other in pure disgust with what our taste-buds were experiencing (see below!). I recall asking for seconds and thirds and fourths of the hot green tea which we were served in an effort to extinguish the lingering taste of the first bite we had of the pickled plums. We were advised prior to the trip that it was considered disrespectful and rude to leave food uneaten, so we were trying to devise a plan (through eye contact only as we were expected to be quiet and relaxed in the tea garden) to get rid of the rest of the pickled plums so as not to disrespect the Japanese culture. At some point, our art teacher must have noticed that we were struggling with the fare sitting in front of us on the floor (as is custom in Japan, dining experiences typically happen while seated on the floor), because when our hosts looked away, she would take a little piece of the pickled plums from our plates and quickly conceal it in her mouth. At the time, my best friend and I giggled at the sight of our teacher sneaking this food in this way, and wondered how she was able to consume 3 servings! Now, looking back with more travel under my belt and a more culturally mature palate, I wonder if I would enjoy them now. This moment stuck with me because it called me to step outside of my comfort zone, to try new things, to have new and different experiences. I learned to appreciate different customs in different locations. There was another instance with my first sushi experience as well as observing a cracked, raw egg being used as a sort of condiment which also contributed to this experiential knowledge, but for time’s sake, I won’t share in this post. 🙂
I am more confident in my beliefs and philosophies on life and what is important to me!
A few years down the road, during my senior year of my undergraduate studies, I elected to study abroad in Rome, Italy. Possibly the best decision I have ever made! I always say, and truly believe, that half of my heart was left in Italy. No, not a man! With the culture. I recall feeling mesmerized by the amount of culture that is still present and has been preserved around Europe, as compared to what I had experienced in the United States up to that point in my life. Many things touched me during my time spent in Europe, but one thing that comes to mind…and don’t laugh… but is the daily siesta! Many shops there are family owned and operated, and that combined with the heavy religious flavor meant that food stores, little shops and the like were all closed between the hours of 1-4pm. At first, this was a rough adaptation for me to make as I eat every couple of hours (especially while walking an average of 9-10 miles each day exploring!) I learned that if I was going to need to eat during the hours of siesta, I had to purchase a snack or meal ahead of time. While initially this felt like an inconvenience, it allowed for not only the people working to get a break, but also allowed me to take a time out to really enjoy the culture.
Side Note: I have always hated the word “J-O-B.” In fact, for years (I won’t tell you how old I was, haha!) I would cry when my parents spoke to me about that word. I have always despised the idea of trading my time for money. To me, my time is worth more than anything. I particularly have an issue with using my time to develop and carrying out the dreams and goals of another, in lieu of my own. I realize money is a part of this life, no matter how much I hate that. So, when finding a j-o-b, make sure that it is relevant or at the very least, assisting you with your journey to accomplishing your dreams. If your goals don’t match the goals of the company, organization, or person you are working for, it is advisable that you reconsider working there. It isn’t beneficial for either party.
Anyhow, I digress. Like I was saying, Italians are my PEOPLE! Their values and they way they prioritize their time to include…family…spirituality/religion…rest…balance… are similar to mine! They work hard, but also practice self-care! In short, “nap time” in Europe had a deep impact on the way I perceive myself in the world as well as in the workplace. It was okay, and not lazy, to not put work as the top priority, as many Americans do. I may be different than others, but I am not alone. And the workhouse mentality I saw in America (as well as in Japan where my host dad worked between 12-14 hours each day!) was not in actuality a requirement for being a human on Earth! Working at a desk all day doesn’t make you more of an “adult,” more “mature,” or a participant in “the real world” as I had been taught all of my life. AND, working a different schedule, giving yourself time for other things in life, and choosing not to make work the dominate thing in your life doesn’t make you “childish,” ”immature,” or “oblivious to the real world.” This was life altering for me. I have not viewed life and the role of working/having a job, the same ever since. This cultural experience allowed me to have confidence in my views and beliefs about what is truly important in life. (You may now see why I have had such a terrible time with working in such a structured environment!)
Which moment(s) in your travel stand out MOST as having shaped the way you prioritize work in your life? What does “work” mean to you? Leave a reply below!