10 Nov 5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Experience Life Abroad
Not too long ago, I came across this thoughtful blog post by a couple in the Peace Corps who recently joined my Blog Challenge over at BloggingAbroad.org (a project to help people living abroad promote cross-cultural understanding online). With the recent election results in the U.S., I think it is now more important than ever that Americans experience transformational travel outside their own bubbles. I may have more to say on that later – once I’ve done some more processing. In the meantime, I reached out to Eric and Tina who are blogging from Namibia at Little Backpack Big World, and they agreed to let me share their blog post, “5 Reasons Everyone Should Have An Abroad Experience” (with a few minor updates). It’s a good one, and I know many of you intentional travelers will relate to their insights.
Think about it. If you’re like me, you grew up surrounded by American culture. You instinctively knew what was inappropriate, what was important, what was expected. Society pushed you in a certain direction: go to school, get a job, find a partner, buy a house, have kids, etc. and your mannerisms developed to allow you to fit in (mostly) with that culture.
Imagine being placed in another culture with no concept of those basic expectations. What does it take to get respect here? What is considered offensive?
And then the even bigger question comes into focus: how do I fit into this new culture without losing what makes me, me?
I have battled a lot with this question over the past couple months. How can I, as a vegan, non-christian, fit into a meat-eating, 90% christian culture without changing who I am? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.
2. Forces you to get creative
The things that I used to be able to find in the States are just not available here. Food is a great example of this. Tortillas are a rare find in stores here. But you know what is easily found? Flour. With a little effort and determination, voila, you can make your own flour tortillas!
Money is also a bit tight as a Peace Corps volunteer. Can’t sleep because it is so hot, but also can’t afford an air conditioner? Time to get creative! Wetting (with water) my sheets before bed is a personal favorite.
3. Makes you more grateful for the things you left behind
Statements that are most commonly uttered by Peace Corps Namibia Volunteers: I miss vegetables, cold showers are kind of nice, YAY – a letter from home, and I miss rain. A lot of the little, everyday things that seemed mundane and boring at the time now seem wonderful and nostalgic.
Rainy days, fall foliage, hot showers, and being in the same time zone as family all have a much greater importance now and will not be taken for granted upon returning home.
4. Allows you to accept change more easily
Coming to Namibia, I knew that I would be losing most of what I called home. I gave up my car, my apartment of two years, my job, and I left all of my friends. Instead of focusing on the past and how much I miss my old comforts, I had to accept that some things will never be the same.
Life will go on back at home, and I won’t be there to see it. It is for sure a sacrifice, but it will allow me to be a better person when I return.
5. Forces you to reevaluate your priorities
When you are traveling with only the items that you can carry, you quickly realize what you can and cannot live without.
Choosing which items are essential is really difficult when you are packing for an extended period of time. Should I bring a skateboard even though I may not have paved roads? Will I want to play guitar in the next two years? These were honestly very difficult questions that took a lot of back and forth before making a final decision.
What do I really need? What can I live without? In the end, you bring what you can, you feel like you don’t have enough, and once you get where you are going, you just make it work and realize that, when it comes to material items, none of it really mattered in the first place.
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