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8 Things I Learned from my Extended Trip Abroad

I was on a two month trip abroad from October to December of 2016 which made it my first time going on a solo trip as well as my first time traveling out of the United States.

Before that, I have only been on vacations (or holidays) to surrounding states and on a couple of cruise ships, so technically, I did visit a couple of countries on those cruises prior to this trip, but it would only be for a couple of hours which did not give me enough time to explore the culture. During my stay in Sydney, Australia, I decided to go on an impromptu trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I was planning on visiting there and stay for a couple of months when 2017 rolled around, but seeing an opportunity including closer vicinity, price, and how I altered my plans for post-trip, I wanted to check off visiting my relatives for the first time, which ended up with me staying there for one month before heading back to Sydney. Throughout my time in these two countries, I absorbed a lavish of insight from these cultures that were somewhat different from the one I grew up in. I witnessed the struggles of civilians who need to make what we would consider spare change in order to feed their families and I saw how the business model globalized across the world. While nothing on this list surprised me too much while I was on this trip, it is a much needed reminder for myself, and I hope that it is noteworthy for those that are looking for personal insight on traveling abroad.

1. The world is big, yet small at the same time

I have been living in the same U.S. state my whole life and I never truly traveled before this trip. The fact that this earth is big and this universe containing endless possibility is an idea that most of us have grasped. Though I had that thought in mind, I also saw that the world is small as the similarities between human beings are distinct. In one way or another, we are all connected and that is the idea that is intended to motivate us united and act as one. This view is what makes me believe this planet is perceptually small and it provides an essential balance.
2. Unification from global franchises

It is almost undeniable that businesses have expanded worldwide, but when I was traveling, I was able to observe that phenomenon in person. A lot of American franchises have chains located in various countries around the world, but even if they aren’t, the rest of the world have taken a hint from the franchise business model and have been inputting their ideas in their respective geographical location. With this, I can only see that the businesses would eventually help the country’s economy and lifestyle, and I saw a lot of this particularly during my stay in Vietnam which definitely boasts a lot of potential for economic and social growth.
3. There is a difference between a trip and a vacation

Before I went on my trip, I already envisioned how it would be like including the urban traveling aspect. I was on an extended trip, and although two months didn’t sound like a lot to me at first, it actually was when I was on it. I kept hearing some people ask me how my “vacation” was as if I went on that trip to take a break from reality but the reality is that I went alone, for the first time, to foreign lands, which was also the first time for me, because I felt like it a right time for me to travel solo. That trip indefinitely helped me gain personal insight and allowed me take in what was around me that did not include the comfort zone of the state I have been living in my whole life, and being able to meet my relatives for the first time in person and not just through 1s and 0s, was the cherry on top.
4. You become a wandering soul that yearns for home

I missed home a lot the moment I got on that airplane for my departure. Again, I’d like to emphasize that it was my first trip abroad as well as it was my first time traveling alone. It felt like I threw myself in a lion’s pit and expected myself to spontaneously handle the situation when I got there, but don’t get me wrong, I appreciated every moment I had with the families that I visited and I was grateful to be traveling and seeing how they live their daily lives. Nonetheless, that did not stop me longing to be back home with my family. As I was taking in the surroundings on my trip, I was also gathering inspiration and faith and that made me all the more excited to get back home and start on all the projects I have proposed. Now that I’m back, I am enthused about starting on these projects but I also cannot wait to plan for my next trip.
5. Every small step counts toward going out of your comfort zone

It may have only been an urban-style trip, or that it was only two months, and though I’m definitely not an experienced traveler, every step that I took the moment I got to my city’s airport to the technical difficulties and being delayed in San Francisco, to spontaneously deciding to fly to Vietnam on my own, all of it helped put me out of my comfort zone and that is something that I always expect myself to experience because it helps me to gain a better understanding of my beliefs and of the people and culture surrounding me.
6. You learn to practice the art of minimalism

Though I am someone who do not own many things, I am guilty of being an over packer when I travel. On each vacation I have been on, I would bring stuff that I eventually didn’t use. For my two month trip, I didn’t want to roll around luggage with me and check bags at the airport so I decided to do some research before my departure and I found the Tortuga backpack that was perfect for my needs. It is carry-on size, convenient, and has good quality, so I only brought that backpack and a purse with me. Most were stunned at how I could fit all my essentials for two months in one backpack but in the end, I still over packed. My backpack was heavier than it needed to be so when I flew to Vietnam from Australia, I had to check the bag instead of carrying it with me on the airplane. When you’re traveling solo and especially on an extended trip, you learn to practice the art of minimalism more so than you are at home so that everything would be easier and convenient for you since you are by yourself.
7. You validate being a lifelong learner

I have always considered myself a lifelong learner because no matter what I come to know, I will always be continuously learning about myself, my loved ones, my work, and the world around me and this philosophy is not something that I take lightly. I remember thinking this way ever since I started having thoughts, with my earliest memory being at one year old. It is unfortunate when I see those around me who believe that they are at their best and willing to settle for that, with most of them even having the boldness to believe that they are superior to those around them. When going on a solo trip, it will ground and validate you having the potential of being a lifelong learner, and this could be achieved in the comfort of your own backyard where you sit quietly and meditate on your inner self, but traveling, especially traveling solo, should, and hopefully would, bring you more personal insight because you are abroad out of your main comfort zone.
And last but not least…
8. It’s not about where you are, it’s what you take of it

People find it exciting and adventurous to be able to constantly travel, at least once or twice annually. The idea is that if they are physically at a place they find interesting, their mindset on their lives would change as well. The truth is that it is only as exciting and insightful as much as you make of it since it only depends on each individual’s perspective. I can go on the same trip as someone, but our insight on the places we have visited would be completely different due to each person’s beliefs, principles, and thought process which would prompt some to absorb in external experiences while others would gain intrinsic insight from the external sights. All of which demonstrates that the location is not the main reason for the possibilities of learning. You must be willing to allow yourself to feel wholeheartedly by soaking in the surroundings, people, and culture that you meet along the way.
There you have it — 8 things I learned from my extended trip abroad. Do any of these points resonate with you? Anything you might want to add? What is something you learned from your international or domestic travels? Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave any feedback as I welcome all thoughts for a good community discussion as well as to help me grow as writer and thinker.

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