“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain
I see that look in people’s eyes when I tell them what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s a look that says, “You’re nuts” while others give a look resembling fear and concern for my safety, and there are many (like the UPS guy the other day) who are so excited for me, seemingly more excited than I feel, but quickly say they could never do anything like what I’m doing. Very rarely do I see the look that says, “I get it.” That’s okay. I embrace all of these responses because they remind me to be adventurous, to be cautious, to be brave, to be prepared. For the last eight months, I have been meeting and reading about people who make what I’m doing look like a completely normal and expected event. The reactions I get from family, friends and strangers here in the US remind me that it may not be such a normal thing and perhaps merits further explanation.
Early on, I learned that many around the world refer to this type of trip as a career break, a term I have come to use, though it does not fully capture what it’s really all about. One of the first pieces of advice I received from others who have done this before was to write down my purpose and goals for this trip. It did not take me long to come up with the following:
I want to learn about other cultures by stepping outside my comfort zone and living, working and volunteering in diverse places in order to see new perspectives, make meaningful connections with others, and to gain experience that will lead to personal and professional growth.
Eventually, I came up with a list of what this trip is and what it is not. Writing this down has helped, and will continue to help me decide what I will do throughout the year. For anyone reading, this is not what I think your year abroad should be, it’s what I want out of my adventure and nothing more. Also, this list is neither complete nor is it set in stone. I’m sure I will change my mind about some of these things.
|What this trip is||What it isn’t|
It has been six months since I returned from my year abroad. I had hoped to continue writing several posts a month on this blog as I continue to reflect on my past travels, current teaching, and future goals. While I haven’t been able to write and photograph as much as I had hoped, I will continue to write and reflect on this blog about teaching, traveling and learning.