Lessons Learned

Last night, I dreamt that I got back on a plane and landed in Amsterdam. I remember being excited about exploring the city I had to forgo during my last trip in Europe. I chattered on excitedly, too, about going back to Madrid because I missed it. At some point, a girl I did not know or recognize smiled at me, and said, “You’re just going to have to keep believing in the impossible.” My 2010 theme made its way into my dreams! I woke up extremely happy, and I cannot wait to plan my next journey.

Going to new places is as intimidating, exciting, and awesome as I had hoped.

I’m thankful I found GeoVisions; without that program, I would have not been able to explore a European city for an extended amount of time, push myself to make new contacts, or learn that I’m actually pretty awesome with kids. I’m thankful for my friends that are having adventures in Europe, too, because they allowed me to tag along and subsequently learn alongside them. I learned new phrases. I tasted new foods. I found the drive to explore areas that typical tourists do not always get to see.

My trip has also given me the chance to renew my intellect. I have been working on broadening my horizons, as my dad would say. Not only did I experience different cultures, I had the chance to start reading again and start writing again. Although my artform, if you could call it that, seems to be blogging instead of poetry or novels, I am happy that I have an outlet to express myself and share with others.

As I’ve said to Super Ninja, I feel like it’s time to break out of my lazy-smart style of work. It’s going to take deliberate effort, but I am capable of developing new questions for myself and doing the necessary work in order to find the answers– or the follow-up questions.

How much has my perception changed? I don’t know if it’s changed, but it has been enhanced, that’s for sure. I have been in the United States just a few days now, and I am becoming more alert to the subtle differences here in the PNW, compared to the places I visited in Europe. For one, U.S. ladies my age tend to look much “sloppier” than their European counterparts. I’m guilty of that, and I’m trying to make an effort to tidy up my appearance by downsizing my wardrobe. If I don’t own “security clothes” or cling to items that I only wear when I’ve run out of clean clothes, I will actually take the time to dress cleanly and accessorize appropriately. Looking sharp hasn’t been a top priority of mine ever, but maybe it’s time to “dress for success.” It could even be a small step in motivating myself to not be lazy. We shall see.

I also noticed the Southern hospitality displayed by the flight attendants on my way home. They were very kind and warm, going out of their way to make us comfortable. I had forgotten about that aspect of Americans, to be honest, since often times, we can get side-tracked with racial implications of actions or similar tangents. For instance, I’ve heard recent stories about how persons of certain skin tones were accommodated versus persons of “other” skin tones. The U.S.A. kind of has a complicated racial past. And present.

What else have I noticed? The American displays of individualism and status. Most notably big trucks. I saw more trucks yesterday than I did in the past two months. In fact, I saw one house that had two trucks and an SUV parked in its driveway. As much as the recession knocked some sense into us as far as fuel economy goes, it did not go as far as transforming the nation into one full of nothing but tiny, compact cars.

Also, small town mentality is not exclusive to American small towns. In both Narni and East Wenatchee, if you happen to be strolling down the street, people will smile and say, “Hi.” In the bigger cities, people will most likely not do that. It’s not a ground-breaking discovery, but regardless, it warms my heart when people say hello to each other.

I have a sincere hope that I did not fit into the “ugly American” stereotype while I was in Europe. I made efforts to converse in local languages. I tried to be as friendly as possible (minus the whole train incident in Paris). And I hope I demonstrated a noticeable interest in others’ cultures.

As I was telling my sister tonight, I never had the chance to pursue my international studies interest as an undergraduate. Now, after this journey, I hope to not only travel more, but to pursue a career in which my passion for higher education and interest in other cultures can work together.

And as my journey has shown me, I am completely capable of making things happen.

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2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned

  1. Cara says:

    it is interesting to come back from a trip and look around and what you normally take for granted. It can be very eye opening. I think it is awesome that you stepped outside your comfort zone and traveled to a new country. Plus your pics were awesome!

  2. Elizabeth Hofeldt says:

    Next Journey = California!! Yay!!

    Also, I’m very happy (and only a little jealous) that you were able to have such an amazing journey across Europe (okay, maybe a lot jealous). I’m also very happy that with modern technology, we were able to hear about your journey as it was happening! It really is amazing when you think about it – being able to transmit a constant stream of messages across such vast land and water masses. To sum up – YAY EXCITING AMAZING WONDERFUL CRAZY-COOL for ARDITH!!

    Of course, the states are glad to have you back 🙂

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