Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lessons learned while traveling

Best of Asia 2015
Here are photos from my recent trip to China and Vietnam
As I get to learn a bit about a new group of students in their introductions to me, it was pretty exciting to see that so many of you mentioned that you want to be able to travel. You want to see other parts of the United States and the world.

And we all have to start somewhere. I had never traveled out of the country until I was 20. Traveling is not something my family did. But once I was in college and I had the opportunity to travel I took advantage of it! The first country I went to was Switzerland. (People in Switzerland speak French, German/Swiss-German, and some speak Italian).  I went to Switzerland because it is in the center of Europe and I could easily travel to Paris, London, and Rome for the weekend. It is amazing to get to sit in a plaza (similar to Market Square) and absorb a different culture and language. 

The biggest advice I have for students who want to travel is to seek out opportunities that will help you travel. Learning the language is great, but it is not necessary.

This past winter break I was able to travel to China and Vietnam. I was reminded of three big ideas during this trip

1. You don't have to know the language of the place you are going. China uses characters, not an alphabet, and the language is tonal (which means different ways of saying the same thing have different meanings). The most I could say is hello, thank you, count 1 to 5, and some food words. Even after being in Vietnam for two weeks, I was no where near able to have a conversation. Don't let not knowing the language keep you from going to a place you want to explore.

2. The more you learn (language/history/culture) the more you get out of the trip. Reading general info on a travel website about a place you are going is a good start. For this trip I read some articles about current and ancient Chinese culture and a brief book about the history of Vietnam. I also found some podcast of a professor of Chinese culture and listened to a few that I thought might be interesting topics. I watched famous movies that took place in the countries as well. All of this was obviously done in English. It is so neat to be able to see something in person that you have learned about. You can also seek out tour guides to get specific information, 

3. Being scared and/or uncomfortable is part of the adventure.Those are going to be the more meaningful experiences. There were many times I was tired, cold, and hungry. Food is going to mess up your stomach. You are going to have to walk! We walked about 10 miles a day in China & Vietnam but I didn't mind it because it was exciting, and we were walking around all these amazing places! If you know ahead of time you are going to be out of your comfort zone then when plans go awry you can just go with the flow and be open to a new adventure. Things will not go as planned. You will not get to see and do everything that you might have wanted, but that does not mean that what you do get to see and do is any less of an amazing experience.

To close, here are a few opportunities open to area youth to travel that are severely discounted/ free!
If you want any help or advice or just want to talk about travel dreams, I'd love to continue the conversation with you!