3 Ways to Find Balance Abroad
In the early weeks of living in Spain I stumbled upon this quote: “Let go of the rope.” I don’t remember if it was in an article I was skimming or scattered in the chaos of my Facebook timeline, but regardless it caught my attention. I didn’t think such a simple phrase could impact the entire four months I spent abroad, yet over and over my mind trickled back to these words as I attempted to find balance in my experiences.
Prior to leaving home, all I heard from family and friends were “send me a million pictures” and “don’t forget to snapchat me everything!” The natural inclination when visiting a new place is just this: take in each moment by getting the perfect shot and then upload it to all social media platforms. Once I began to feel myself getting dragged into that routine, these words jumped out at me and changed my perspective of traveling abroad.
While it’s important to stay in the loop, don’t let “free wifi” signs dictate the route of your trip.
In a society that thrives off of staying connected through digital and social media, how do you find a happy medium between this ingrained habit and living in the moment?
1. Get out of your comfort zone
For many places in Europe, finding good wifi is like finding a gold mine. And once you do, it’s only natural to have the sense of relief that you’re able to get back on the grid. While it’s important to stay in the loop, don’t let “free wifi” signs dictate the route of your trip. Many times, the authenticity of a place is what makes it the best to explore, and rarely do these places come with internet access.
When I was in Valencia, I took a bus an hour west to this tiny town named Requena. The area was known for its ancient underground wine cellars, providing visitors with tours of these caves and then offering us a taste the wines at the local restaurant around the corner. As you can imagine, underground caves typically don’t get the best signal, yet that’s what makes the experience so thrilling. I was able to take the pictures and jot down the notes that I wanted to remember, only to rehash the experience to my friends and family later when back in a wifi zone.
2. Enjoy the company of who you’re with
Not only is it the desolation of these areas that make them part of the experience, but also the company you are with. It has become the norm to sit on your phone while with others, so much so that people can go a whole meal without talking to one another!
Most of what makes traveling is the people you have the pleasure of experiencing the adventure with. How are you supposed to embrace your time together if you’re too busy checking your Instagram feed? The beauty of having no wifi is that you’re actually forced to be in the present moment, making the best of memories with your other travel companions.
3. Make sure to get some alone time in
Just as it’s important to expand your social circle, it’s equally as crucial to find your alone time and fully embrace it. Regardless of your reasoning for being abroad, this is the time to be independent and, ideally, worry-free. It’s the time to truly discover who you are, and no better way to do that than being on your own. Right outside the building from where I was staying was an old riverbed that was remodeled into a park.
About two miles down was the Ciudad de la Artes y las Ciencias, one of the largest and most beautifully constructed aquariums in Europe. Few times a week I would go for a run down to this area, finding a spot in the park to stop at and take in my surroundings. The scenic stop off the beaten path became the perfect place to venture to to collect my thoughts and clear my head.
I was able to take the pictures and jot down the notes that I wanted to remember, only to rehash the experience to my friends and family later when back in a wifi zone.
Being without any type of digital connection to home, I was able to fully feel immersed in the culture while taking these strolls, embracing the feeling of being somewhat of a local. Going here became a pleasant routine for me, and as much as I treasured the moments with those I was traveling with, I looked forward to having a little time to myself during this journey.
Being on your own in a foreign country definitely has its ups and downs, and sometimes there’s a strong comfort found through staying active on social media. Checking in is definitely important, now more than ever for those abroad, yet finding the line between too much and not enough is what can make or break a trip. So take in your surroundings, let loose, and most importantly, let go of the rope.