Why is this question so deep? I learned a ton that cannot be encapsulated in one little blog post. So how about we do like most people when confronted with deep or challenging thought-bearing questions – we avert them with humor! Deal? Deal! 😉
So, what did I learn while traveling abroad? Here are a few:
1) Riding bikes isn’t so fun when you have to go at top speeds and there is “rush hour cycle traffic.” And yes, I’m looking at you Amsterdam. When I visited Amsterdam last year, I was really excited about getting to rent a bike for the week and travel like the locals do. That excitement lasted for all of about 17 pushes of the pedal. It’s one thing to ride a bike for leisure (fun!), it’s another altogether when you are caught in front of the masses on their way home from work (opposite of fun!). Who knew the Tour de France went through Amsterdam? Everyday? No? Me neither. However, outside of rush hour it was such a great way to see the city. And when you leave the bars/clubs at 5 am, hop on your bike, and get to catch the sunrise glistening over the canals all over the serenely quiet city, you’re so wrapped up in that amazing moment you forget where you are anyway! Tour de who? Let’s ride our bikes some more (slowly though)!
2) If you go see an American comedy in a foreign country, hold your laughs for about 1.9 seconds. No, really. It makes it seem less awkward when you’re laughing ahead of everyone else because they have to read the subtitles. Case in point, I went to see Borat in France (talk about an intercultural experience) and that movie had me dying laughing. At first I thought, how prude are these French! Is Borat really this out of line (yes) or do they not understand the humor? Until this one scene when I laughed out loud (again) and then, approximately 1.9 seconds later the entire theater started laughing. Aaahhhh – there we go. And then it started happening pretty regularly. Great, I’m not completely and utterly out of my mind. Lesson learned.
3) Despite their abundance and prevalence in gift shops around the world, magnets and ink pens are the worst souvenirs ever and I’d like to slap the idiot/genius who keeps making money off them. My favorite type of souvenir is one that I can either wear or use over and over again. For example, my pashmina from Italy (which I’ve had for over 5 years!) is an amazing conversation starter. “I love your pashmina, where’d you get it?” And they’re probably expecting me to say “You know that little cart right at 41st and Broadway??” but no, when I say Milan it turns into an opportunity for me to relive Italy and talk them into going. I have earrings from Dominica, a bracelet from Puerto Rico, house shoe clogs from Amsterdam, and probably a lot more but you get the point. These are also the kinds of gifts I get for people in my family. My Mom only wears T-shirts to workout in and my Dad wears them to play basketball so I will not be patronizing your 2 for $20 T-shirt deal Mr. Tourist Hunter. People will appreciate the unique gifts – trust me!
So those are three out of plenty of things I’ve learned while traveling abroad. One of the best parts of traveling is the learning that goes on. I didn’t want to get deep here but you learn so much about yourself, about people, about the world – stuff you won’t find in any textbook (even a textbook about intercultural experiences). So that’s what I’ve learned. What about you? What are some of the things you’ve learned while traveling abroad?