8 Life-Changing Lessons I’ve Learned From My Time Abroad

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Alexa Suter / Unsplash

1. Close-mindedness is a relative concept.

When you spend enough time in a country where the general mentality is greatly different from yours, you will find yourself struggling to relate to people. The way someone views the world could have been fostered by things that fall way beyond their control. Your mentality can be as much of a shock to someone as theirs is to you. The sooner you realize this, the fewer conflicts—whether internal or external—you will find yourself in.

Never be so quick to judge someone for the way they think, even if it challenges everything you were taught is “right.” How we’re raised, who raises us, and where we’re raised—all shape our core values and morals. The people we surround ourselves with, and the realities we’re exposed to, ultimately mold our overall mindset. I had a habit of labeling a person as close-minded whenever he or she expressed a viewpoint opposite of mine when it came to issues of relevance. Open-mindedness is as simple as being open to different beliefs and ideas, and I’ve found that many fail to understand this—myself included.

2. There’s a huge difference between speaking your mind and being obnoxious.

Know when to speak and when to keep quiet. Know when to share a piece of your mind and when to keep it to yourself. I’m not telling you to be anyone other than you, but be mindful and respectful of where you are. While you may think that you’re empowering and outspoken, you may be making those around you incredibly uncomfortable.

3. Actions have consequences. Who would have known!?

When you don’t plan accordingly and aren’t aware of your budget, you will find yourself penniless in New York City (and asking your little brother to CashApp you 75 cents so you can afford a metro card). When you go clubbing in South America and don’t pay attention to your valuables, they will get stolen. When you’re a woman and don’t respect the unspoken dress code of a North African country, you will get catcalled like there’s no tomorrow.

When you hurt someone, don’t be shocked if they never speak to you again. When you work hard and persevere, expect the world to blossom gracefully at your feet.

4. The core of all faiths is the same.

This is something I wish people acknowledged more easily. The main message delivered by every religion is to be a decent human being. Perhaps the message is delivered differently in each. Perhaps there are different messengers or prophets or books in each. But the core remains intact: don’t be a piece of shit. If we all realized this, perhaps our social global climate would be a bit less turbulent.

5. Sadness isn’t a luggage item you can simply leave behind.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful the Caspian Sea is, or how lively and colorful a Mexican market may be. When there’s something troubling you, it will follow you anywhere you go. Traveling is extremely eye-opening and enriching, but expecting to cure your heartaches with a plane ticket is unrealistic and will greatly disappoint you. There is no such thing as being physically far away from your troubles. They follow you wherever you go until you make peace with them.

6. It’s incredibly difficult, but oddly empowering, to openly own up to your mistakes.

There’s a certain magic to accepting who you are, even if it’s far from who you’re proud of. There’s power in saying “I’m sorry” and meaning it. There’s beauty in lounging solo by the Mediterranean Sea and realizing that the person who you are at the moment needs work. There’s a certain thrill in taking the steps necessary toward becoming the best version of yourself.

7. Your presence on social media is not directly proportional to how present you truly are during your travels.

Get off your phone for a couple hours. The Sahara won’t disintegrate if you can’t find a Geotag on Snapchat for your camel selfie.

Your experience will still count if you don’t check in on Facebook at the Barcelona El Prat airport. Be present. Be truly present, and the experience will take on an entirely different route.

8. Travel cannot be your only source of fulfillment.

What happens when you return home? Live a life you’ll be content with – whether you’re watching a sunset in Istanbul or doing laundry at home on a Sunday night as The Cure blasts through your new Alexa (how awesome are those?!). If traveling is your one and only means of feeling whole, you may have some readjusting to do.

9. If not now, when?

We are fortunate enough to live in an era where crossing the Atlantic is no longer an odyssey or a pain for your pocket. If you want to discover the world, do it before you find yourself stuck in a comfortable routine. You owe it to yourself to experience more than whatever feels comfortable to you. The people you meet, the sights you see, and the unique flavors you taste will nourish your soul in ways you never imagined possible. The moments you share with yourself when unfamiliarity surrounds will show you facets of yourself that you didn’t even know existed.

Get out there—the world truly is your oyster. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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