As an educator, reflection is a concept I value greatly. After returning from my first solo experience outside of the United States, I took a few minutes to take a look at what I actually learned (or what was reinforced of what I have already learned) while on my trip to Greece:
1. Overall, the world isn’t a scary place despite what you read or what others may say. Yes, I agree that there are safer places than others, and that you need to do your research ahead of time to protect yourself, but if you are diligent and take precautions, the fun will overtake the fear even when you’re by yourself.
2. The vast majority of people in the world are good people. They want to make the right decisions, abide by the law, and are honorable to their word. I gained a great deal of perspective from those I met from Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Germany. Plus, there are people all over that make you feel at home, like the students on spring break I met talking about the Big 12 basketball tournament from Oklahoma State. Just make sure when you do your research about a country, include how to get help in the event you come across someone who is less than honorable.
3. When faced with uncertainty about taking a leap of faith, take the leap. I faced a decision before I left to more than double the entire cost of my trip by upgrading to a one-way business class seat, but that cost was 75% off the normal price for that seat. So, I figured that the tradeoff for the experience was worth the financial cost and took the leap. That decision paid off big time, as I got a free upgrade for the trip back because I’m sure that the airline took note of my previous purchase and honored that loyalty.
4. Usually, I try to learn the language of the country I go to, but I put learning some Greek phrases on the backburner this time. It didn’t get me into a huge amount of trouble, because English is very prevalent, but had I been able to know a little bit, I probably would have saved some time and effort. So, taking the time to learn the language of the country I go to is the least I could do since they are being hospitable to me in many other ways.
5. There’s always a way to get things done. Many people look at the traveling I’ve done over the past few years and ask me how I can afford to go to these places. Well, it takes a lot of planning, trust, and an overall mentality that involves valuing life experiences over physical possessions. I piece together saving money, credit card points, frequent flier miles, and other travel hacking skills to go places for a fraction of the cost. But generally speaking (just like in life), if you can make the puzzle pieces fit together, you can find a way get something accomplished the way you want it accomplished.
“Every man dies, not every man really lives.” – William Wallace from Braveheart