Why the Challenge of Travel Keeps Me Wanting More

challenge of traveling

Ready for my study abroad group’s first day of activities, I hurried down to Hotel Paseo del Arte’s lobby anticipating our visit to one of Madrid’s well-known attractions. As I exited the elevator, my stomach knotted from frustration. Somehow, I had managed to get left behind.

Without a map, phone, watch, or idea where to go, I rushed through the streets scouring for familiar faces. Five minutes turned to 10, 20, and 30 minutes of running along the streets of Calle de Atocha and Paseo del Prado.

I stepped in the path of an elderly gentleman, and I stumbled to ask him questions in Spanish, while vaguely remembering we were visiting the Prado Museum that morning.

As I exited the elevator, my stomach knotted from frustration. Somehow, I had managed to get left behind.

Defeated and unsuccessful, I sulked all the way back to Hotel Paseo. The next guided tour at El Palacio del Real (The Royal Palace) began later that afternoon. So, back at the hotel room, I sunk into the warmth of my blankets and waited.

I woke up feeling well-rested, and was minutes away from missing yet another activity. I bolted out of the hotel room and made my way through the lobby. The map dangling in one hand, I maneuvered through varying sized streets, dodging traffic and relying on passing clocks to calculate my arrival to the site.

I made it! But, I was 10 minutes too late. I had missed the group again.

It was then that I succumbed to the feeling of self-pity. It would be difficult to communicate with others in Spanish and to navigate my temporary home for the summer. I grew homesick and withered into culture shock. Only two days into my six-week stay in Spain, I considered jetting back home.

In hindsight, however, this moment was also when I decided to embrace the challenges that came with travel, and when my desire to travel increased. Here’s why the challenge of travel pushed me to want more:

Shaming the know-it-all syndrome

Upon first arriving in Spain, I instantly compared Madrid to Miami, my hometown. Based on the similarities of the two cities, I proclaimed to know how the European country operated. Getting lost help me see that I should never prejudge a country like that. The US isn’t Spain, and vice versa. There was so much left to learn by traveling. But, first, I required some lessons in humility.

Flexibility and adaptability rules

Benjamin Disraeli states that “travel teaches toleration.” I believe, in addition, it teaches flexibility and adaptability.

Unable to depart Spain five weeks in advance, I sought to drown out the fear of travel, and deal with being far from home.  I realized that I simply needed to let my guard down and accept my life as a student studying abroad.

That summer, some of my life’s “firsts” occurred while in Spain, including: experiencing snow and mountains, hiking a mountain range, Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe), and visiting multiple non-US cities.

Home is everywhere

No matter how temporary or long-term my trips were, I connected to my newfound home. Whether my connection developed through dinners with my host family, excursions to Salamanca or San Sebastian, or conversing in Spanish, I knew that I could find peace being there.

My transformation from a close-minded Floridian to a developing global citizen grew from the challenges that seemed overwhelming and unconquerable. Now, I deem the world my home.

Ironically, I didn’t get suckered into boarding an international flight, and I wasn’t forced to fly over 3,000 miles away from home (all for the very first time). Instead, I had made the decision to trek across the Atlantic to a new country.

Yet, during my second day in Madrid, my sense of exploration halted. I wasn’t sure I would ever become a world-class traveler.

But, the next day came, and I knew this was where I needed to be. However big or small a challenge is, there is always a lesson to be learned. I overcame the obstacles and became a better me.

challenge of traveling

About Adriana Smith

Adriana SmithAdriana desired to speak Spanish while growing up in Miami (FL), a city spilling with bilinguals and diversity. Like a hole needing to be filled, she yearned to continue using Spanish outside of the classroom. And, to get the chance to, she flew across the Atlantic and studied abroad in Spain. Since her time abroad, she’s focused on youth development, community activism, and English language instruction. Her free time consists of crossing things of her list of things to do before turning 30, which include hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, playing the guitar, and surprisingly, learning how to ride a bike.

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