Why you should leave the country every once in awhile
1) You open your eyes to new ways of seeing the world
In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, “The mind, once stretched by new experiences, can never return to it’s old dimensions.” Simply put, there are millions of ways to experience life on this planet, and getting outside the country is a great way to discover what you’ve been missing. In French, to travel abroad or ‘a l’etranger’ translates loosely to traveling to a strange place. Travel allows you to experience vastly different views, foods, music, climates, languages, cultures, religions, art, historical relics, architecture, fashion, sports and pastimes. You discover that what occurs as a novelty to you is actually a way of life for others, and slowly begin to understand how such rituals and routines make sense given the places these people live. While staying with families in a remote village in the Amazon, we spent our days harvesting plantains and catching river fish to then eat at night, followed by community gatherings and dance performances. I also learned the importance of tucking the mosquito net firmly under the edges of my mattress at night after awakening to golf ball-sized insects clinging to every square foot of fabric. This was quite the shift from teaching skiing by day, eating a microwave pizza for dinner and sleeping with the window open at home in Colorado. You may even begin to find new things that you appreciate and even choose to incorporate into your own life upon returning home. Among my favorite take home souvenirs I had never formerly appreciated are hot wine, salsa dancing, acupuncture and quinoa.
2) You discover your resourcefulness.
The simple fact of leaving the familiar is that you have to draw upon all of your life skills to survive in a foreign environment. This means navigation, communication, time management, problem-solving and critical thinking, just to name a few. Additionally, you will at some point invariably have to utilize others such as patience, stress-management and courage, whether dealing with transportation breakdowns, lost or stolen belongings, or even questionable cuisine. When leading a group of college students on a semester abroad through South America, I learned of a fast approaching transportation strike in which trains in Bolivia were scheduled to shut down and buses were already meeting roadblocks of protesters, boulders and flaming furniture. It took some quick thinking and communication to get the group packed and rolling to our next destination on short notice so we didn’t get holed up in a tiny town for an extra week. When navigating foreign worlds, you are plucked from the comfortable convenience of your life in which you know your way across town, communicate with ease, enjoy your favorite foods in the fridge or at the local grocery store, find free WiFi at every corner, and consult your smart phone for any questions about the universe. Stripped from all of these common comforts, you will likely discover just how resourceful you are.
3) You cultivate empathy for other humans
4) You develop a new appreciation for your hometown