As I left for my journey to Florence, Italy in August, I had no idea what to expect or how my life would be changed from this adventure. In fact, my mission when I came to Europe was to pretty much be Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love, except I would play myself. That was already over four months ago. Now I am sitting on my couch in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania reminiscing over pictures I took and entries I wrote in my journal. Weirdly enough, Italy feels like a far distant memory/dream, but the change I have undergone from travel will always be with me.
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Before I tell this story, keep in the back of your mind that I did not have an international data plan while traveling Europe, so the only way I could use my phone was on Wi-Fi. This is an important factor to the story of my travel!
One day, my Italian teacher and I were having a deep conversation on a metro in Paris. She was telling me how communication is important to Italian people. When they first meet someone they never ask what you do for a living, they ask you where you are from. The first things that they will bring up in conversation are about their family and friends. It took me a minute to think about what she said and I realized she was right.
When I was over in Italy, my friend and I taught English to Italian students from the ages of fifteen to seventeen. These students never asked what we did for a living. They were thirsty for more knowledge on our American culture. They asked a million questions from issues of race, gun laws, music we listened to, if high schools had cliques like in the movies etc. But when I look back, the first question they always asked was about our mom and dad and if we had any siblings.
Another occurrence I had was with my neighbor. I liked to call him Mo the Leather Guy because he owned multiple leather stores in Florence. I walked past him everyday to get home and he always said “hello, how are you doing” and “how is your family at home”. Then, he would talk to me every single day about his family who lived in San Francisco. We became really great acquaintances and when I go back to Florence one day, he wants me to visit him and catch up. I guarantee I can guess what his first question will be to me as well.
People Will Change Your Life
I think it is truly incredible how it is not the places you go to that change who you are, but the people you meet. All the people you meet on your adventure will make the world seem a bit smaller, almost as if they were put in your life for a reason. Every adventure I experienced, I learned more and more about how people think and why they act they way they do, and yet again everywhere I traveled, I met people who would ask about American culture. Now don’t get me wrong, all the places you see will most definitely open your eyes to the beautiful and sometimes not so beautiful world we live in, and seeing these things is sure to make you a well rounded human being. But, it is my belief that people are the reason that traveling will change your life. We can learn so much by communicating with people in our own culture and others when we leave all judgments at the door.
After coming home from such a huge adventure, I noticed how everything seems to go back to normal, but I did not feel like the same person I was before I left. Now, whenever I talk to people, I find myself really listening to them with my phone completely out of hand. Also, I found new ways to cope with people who get under my skin. Travel taught me that anytime someone annoys me, I know it is my attitude that needs to change. Sometimes, all it takes is one deep breath before speaking and a dramatic fight (wither it be an internal or external struggle) can be averted. Obviously, getting out of your comfort zone will teach you multiple things, but to me, the way I learned to communicate with people and experience other cultures was the most important.
The best way to know what I am talking about is experience it for yourself. We are a world of people who should be helping people. Make an effort everyday to communicate and listen to your loved ones around you. When we listen to one another, we are giving each other an outlet, and the acceptance, to be vulnerable and open up. Ultimately, this builds trust and lets others know they are loved and not alone. If traveling the world can teach me this, than I cannot wait to find out what traveling will teach you. We all bring something unique to the table that needs to be shared. So look no further than a loved one, your favorite barista, neighbor, or heck, even a stranger. Share your stories with everyone you meet because the people I met who shared their stories, have changed my life for the better.