Living abroad changes you. It shapes you. It teaches you. It does countless things for the soul. It is the best lesson in growing up a girl could ask for.
It’s not all peaches and cream. There have been tons of bumps along my path of living and travel abroad but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I remember when I lived abroad during the Spring of 2004. I was in Grade 11 and I did an exchange to the South of France where I lived with, my now good friend, Caroline and her family. Prior to 2004 I had never traveled outside of North America so the culture shock of France was huge (even though it is a first world country in the Western world!). I was immersed in a difference language, introduced to new foods, saw buildings and monuments that were older than anything I had ever seen. I traveled with Caroline to Switzerland (on our own at 16!) and was a tourist in countless towns. The biggest lesson I learned as a sixteen year old was that the world may be different but it wasn’t weird. When I first arrived in France I would say that things were ”weird” and by the end I just realized that it was different. There it was normal to not shower with the water on all the time, to shop at smaller gorcery stores, to see buildings that were hundreds of years old on a daily basis. I remember coming home and feeling different. Feeling like I was changed but the world around me had not changed. Now, I know that this is the norm and this is how many travelers feel. They have experienced a different world while everyone else they know has not.
Living in France certainly gave me the travel bug, the desire to see every single place I could during my lifetime. And it certainly inspired me to come and live, solo, in Ireland. It gave me the courage to know that I could do it. Living in Ireland has changed me even more so. I am older now, a bit more traveled, with a lot more life experience under my belt.
I thought that by coming to Ireland and traveling Europe, I would rid myself of my travel bug. That after this, I would be good to go home and start up a career and be done. I was wrong. I won’t be done traveling, far from it. The more people the meet, the more I hear about their adventures, the more I want to visit other places. What I am realizing now is that traveling is going to be a part of my life forever (maybe more travel at certain times and less at others) but it will always be there. There will always be another place I want to visit, another culture I want to soak up.
I will be coming home this summer, excited to start a career, to really move out, happy to be back with the people I love but I will already be planning my next adventure because traveling is my thing, my hobby, and one of the great loves of my life and, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
[I created this collage (of all the places I wanted to travel to) during Summer 2009 when traveling abroad was still just a dream]