Someone recently asked me what I miss about living away from the United States.  I couldn’t come up with much besides being closer to family and friends and certain shops and food items.  (Imagine: no canned pumpkin, and therefore, no pumpkin pie, cookies, soups…  It’s the stuff autumn is made of!)  However, since that conversation I’ve reflected on what I really do love about being abroad, besides the new experiences and the medieval-y atmosphere.  The people I meet when I travel tend to bring out the best in me.

Even in college in Minnesota, the good friends I met there centered me and helped me to figure out what I wanted out of life.  I was less angry and frustrated, probably due to the fact I was no longer boxed into an environment without variety.  Here in Oklahoma (where I am currently spending my spring break), I went to school with mostly white, middle class, conservative, straight Christians.  I never really had to consider the LGBT community or the views of people from different religions and nations.  I was naive, most certainly.  College helped to change that, and the new, exciting people helped me to understand myself.  In addition, this inner revelation let the real me shine through.  I was happy, eager to learn, passionate about my study, more outgoing, and laughed more than I had ever done before.

In England, and even during the brief trips to Italy, the same is true.  Going abroad alone forces me to talk with people and to make “single-serving” friends*, and, as in England, probable lifetime friends.  The most interesting of these “single-serving” friends tend to be very different from me, as in the case of the much older Londoner and his Asian trophy wife or the Brazilian airline worker and American history teacher partner.  I sat next to each couple one night when I was in Florence and had amazing evenings.  When talking with people I know next-to-nothing about, I tend to reflect on my happiest memories, and that brings out the true me, and the best me.  At Durham, the friends I am closest to share my intellectual curiosity and are there for me when I’m homesick, upset, or going through some kind of drama.  I feel free to be me.

My advice to any travelers or potential travelers, whether it be to the next town or to another country, is to meet people and talk about what makes you you.  It’s done wonders for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the insight travel has given me.

* “Single-serving” friends are from the film Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s mind-blowing in the best possible way.

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