I always say the one thing I’ll always be grateful for in my life is travelling. Plane rides were always the gateway to so much change in my life that led me to become the person I am today. I strongly believe there is nothing more insightful than being exposed to a sky that’s different from the one you stand under on a daily basis; you get to experience first-hand all the things you never have – those that are aligned with your beliefs and formed thoughts, but, also those you find ridiculous or appalling.
I don’t see travelling as a mere road trip or a chance to take pretty pictures on a ground your feet might never touch again. It’s a lot more than that. It’s the needle that bursts your bubble and opens all your five sense to the new; new view, new culture, new life.
Going to a new place might be a challenge, in the sense that it could and probably should challenge you to question everything you’ve ever known to be normal or the way things are done. When I moved to Italy as a child, I was pushed by everything around me to question everything I knew about the world, from the little things like relating to a person, to the big questions from race to the reasons for human existence. Three years ago, after moving to the U.K. I found myself experiencing even more things I never thought I would and was faced with so many more hard truths and even more questions.
Of course, it’s important to celebrate one’s culture and history, however, travelling does force you to come face to face with realities you might have never even thought were real before, and whilst it might not change your view on the world around you, it for sure allows you to either reinforce your beliefs or find new ones, henceforth, to grow and mature, and form more informed ideas.
So aside from the fact that pasta is LIFE, here are some of the more, some may say, important lessons I’ve learnt from travelling and living abroad:
It’s actually a humbling experience to be the outsider who just arrived in town and travelling will teach you real quick that you know a lot less than you think you do. From the little things like not knowing your way around or minor cultural differences to the bigger things like understanding absolutely nothing because you don’t speak a foreign language or the feeling of not really belonging, it can be quite daunting to feel like the stupidest person in the room all the time.
One of my earliest memories in elementary school in Italy was one of my Italian teacher yelling at me for not remembering how to conjugate some verbs. I still remember the cold sweats and how hard and loud my heart kept beating, but mostly the embarrassment as soon as I realised that over twenty other pupils had just witnessed that epic fail too. Following that dreadful day, I was determined to never have the same thing repeat itself and spent hours memorising all the rules I had to remember to conjugate those damn awfully complex verbs.
You come to terms quickly with the fact that there are a lot more things that are harder to understand than just verbs. There is always so much history and culture that you may deem strange or abnormal without which you might never fully understand the people you meet and the reasons behind their behaviours or beliefs.
Moving to a new part of town can be enough to shatter the bubble surrounding you and can also make you feel uneasy, so you can only imagine the effect moving to another country could have on you.
Travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone and teaches you to find solace in the uncertain. In every new place, you’ll be forced to create new routines. Starting from your favourite coffee shop to the people you hang out with, every little thing will be different and sometimes even the opposite of everything you like or are used to. The familiar will become a stranger to you and you might find yourself attempting to swim through the most unexpected of situations but coming out on top will be the most satisfying feeling in the world.
The ability to thrive in uncomfortable will show you how resilient you are and transforming and adapting to situations in life will become easier
The hardest part of travelling for me, as I wrote in a previous post, is parting ways with the ones you love knowing full well that your relationship is surely bound to either become worse or better and can hardly be able to stay the same. With that being said, while you struggle to keep your relationships on the other side afloat, you’ll find there are so many other people to mingle with on the new ground you find yourself in. The saying: ‘there are plenty more fish in the sea’ takes on a whole new literal meaning that might have seemed a bit far-fetched from your former reality. You come across so many people you would have never even imagined and because of that, your whole life takes on a whole new colour.
Thanks to that teacher that made me fear verbs forever, I now speak Italian fluently which is a skill I’ll forever be thankful for. Learning to speak the language was not only useful for me to understand certain things, but it was also the portal which enabled me to be able to communicate freely with the people of the community I was initially estranged to. In other words, I was finally able to relate to my peers and make new friends.
Knowing the language was really knowing the culture. It meant understanding inside jokes and slangs and the hidden connotations in conversation. It meant becoming part of the conversation rather than a bystander looking from the outside in. Language was the biggest barrier and once that was removed, it was a lot easier to see clearer, or more like hear clearer.
Once you’re able to break down the walls that come between you and the rest of your new temporary or long-term home, you’ll quickly come to the realisation that really, you’re not all that different. You’ll begin to find that most of the people you meet are just like you; roamers in a crazy world searching for answers to a thousand questions
You’ll find there is no joy or pain the person seated next to you will not be able to comprehend. They’ll laugh out loud with you, cry out loud with you, sing out loud with you and dance all night too. Your shoulder will become the place they lean on and your idea of family will grow beyond what flows through your bloodstreams. You might differ in ideology and in the way you view and perceive the world around you, but in the end, deep down below you’re both playing the same game and hoping it’s worth it in the end.
Your restless romantic roamer