Before I came to London I had never been out of the states or ever really had a true traveling experience before. I had been on trips, travelled around the states with my family, but I had never travelled for days on end as an independent adult. Traveling over weekends in Europe, or when I travelled over my break week for nine days in Italy has taught me a lot about myself. It has taught me a lot about how I react to various situations and how the way I view life can be different to other people’s perception. Traveling (on a budget), day to day, with just a backpack of belongings and hopping on trains across a country is character building and above all has taught me adaptability and patience—skills I think I knew I had but I have never been more thankful for. Anyway, here are the things I learned about myself traveling and why these unforgettable experiences will provide lessons I will remember for life.
Throughout my various trips while studying in London I have traveled with different people, for different amounts of time, to various cultures where frequently English is not spoken. Something I have learned is that every person travels differently and that the key to having successful trips is finding like-minded people who travel similarly to you. I have learned that I travel very flexibly, while I like to have certain things planned ahead of time like the big things like flights, accommodation, and major locations that need to be pre-booked in that city, other than that I usually like to wander, explore and immerse myself in a culture, in a city, in order to understand it. I appreciate moments of peace and wonder when I travel. I do not like to have every moment planned and to constantly be going, I like to appreciate everything around me. This may sound hippie dippie to “soak in the moment” but I have found that though I am traditionally not a sentimental person, travel has made me one. Nothing has made me more sentimental, emotional, and kind of philosophical than sitting on a bench on a terrace in the Amalfi Coast thinking “wow, what makes me so lucky that I of all people get to experience this.” I’ve noticed I think like this a lot when I travel, I am constantly trying to remember every detail and take moments to appreciate them because I truly cant believe how I got so lucky to be able to do this. I have family at home who have never been out of the country either, I have older family members who have never been to Europe and I really don’t understand why I of all people get to partake in this beautiful world and experience things that others cannot, and will not. This is “travel Maria.”
Travel Maria is both joyful and sentimental, but she is also positive in dire circumstances. During my Italy trip we experienced some pretty scary situations, and I couldn’t help but notice how positive I was throughout all of this, constantly seeing the silver lining—this also must be a result of the joyful act of traveling because this is quite out of character.
Another thing I have learned from traveling with people, is to never move so fast throughout a country that you miss the opportunity to interact with the locals and create incredible experiences. In Italy especially, there were many instances and unforgettable stories where we would interact with locals, somehow get into the subject of their life or about Italy and have the most incredible or hilarious conversation. I learned to always remember to talk to people and be interested in them from one of my friends. We met Vito, an old Italian man who we asked for directions to the nearest gelato place (a must) who somehow told us the story of his life as a New York police officer who met JFK. We met a waiter/bartender who had lived in London for a couple years and worked at a hotel bar right down the street from where we live in London, he ended up giving us recommendations for places all over Rome and every location we proceeded afterwards on our trip. The stories of the people we met are some of my favorite memories of travel and especially of Italy.
Travel can be exhausting, brutal on your body quite frankly, but it can be so liberating on your soul and mind. I learned so much about how I adapt to situations, I learned how to navigate and travel in countries I don’t know the language, I have learned my best how to not be an obnoxious tourist, I have learned to be positive in crisis situations because when traveling, things WILL go wrong and they just have to be handled and life will go on.
I love London, actually I am surprised at how much I do. Although I have loved traveling to places like Prague and throughout Italy, I have noticed at the end of every trip, increasingly so, I always yearn to return home to London. I have already cataloged London as my home and it is my favorite place I have been to so far, and to think I will be leaving in just a little over a month is heart-wrenching. While I am looking forward to the future trips I have planned to Edinburgh, Warsaw, and Frankfurt in the coming weeks I know I will always wish to return back to my home of London.