Why the Challenge of Travel Keeps Me Wanting More
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.