My motives for travelling abroad were familial and career motivated (I wanted to learn more about my mother’s background and gain knowledge to assist with my route of becoming an international lawyer) but regardless of whether you have motive or not, travelling abroad is a life experience everyone should undertake.
1.New things about yourself & how to have favourites
You will meet a whole range of new people from a wide variety of backgrounds and they’ll ask you some obvious questions as well as some random questions. Equally you will be curious and ask new acquaintances about their life and gain new inspiration. Such questions will evoke parts of your mind which have perhaps been dormant for a while because your friends and relatives do not regularly ask you about your life, family and interests as it is a given that they know enough. When you talk about these topics you will reveal unconscious thoughts and they will pleasantly surprise you; it will further be stimulated by the fact you are not in your normal environment anymore.
You almost have to brag about yourself if you want to learn more about yourself because people will naturally speak of that topic from their life experiences, which will give you another point of view and/or new a set of facts. For example, I’m always so excited to tell people my mother is Chinese and that her ancestors come from Fujian. I haven’t ventured to Fujian but I have already gathered some interesting facts and stories about its culture, sightseeing and cuisine; it gives me ideas as to what to do when I go there.
Not only will you meet an abundance of people but you will have exposure to a wide range of experiences which will also help you discover new things about yourself. For instance, I adore food and am a bit of a savage; I will eat whatever dish you put in front of me and there is a 99% chance I will like it. I envied people who were picky because I could only dream of what it felt like to enjoy something which was particularly amazing. That was until I went to Malaysia and had exposure to many flavours and textures. Since such time I have learned how to have favourites, and although I enjoy all foods, I particularly enjoy bitter foods and drinks (ginger, matcha, black pepper, dark coffee & red wine).
2.How to appreciate and loathe your society’s personal norms, values & beliefs
The spectrum is wide, from simple everyday etiquette to a country’s legal system. And until you can compare, you cannot see both sides of a place, person or event. I learned to see, and feel for myself, the benefits and consequences of different countries based on their animal welfare, weather, public hygiene standards, work ethics, family values and so much more.
Furthermore, during my time in China I socialised with expats from America, Spain, Australia and New Zealand, so I felt as though I got a little insight into quite a few countries’ politics and society structures. It makes you rethink about what morals and rules you want to live your life by rather than the ones your country forces upon you, instead you may cherry pick.
3.How to appreciate the past, present and future
An older peer warned me there would be times where I will wish I was back in England and he advised me no matter what happens, no matter how hard it gets, to not come back to England. He said “do not come back to England until your trip is finished because everything comes to an end. No matter how upsetting something is, or how fun it is, it will eventually end so hang in there.”
There have been times where I have experienced pure bliss and never wanted the moment to end. Equally there have been times on the opposite end of the spectrum where I have felt so utterly empty and lost I desperately wanted to board the next flight home. Furthermore, I did not quite realise how much I would fall in love with another country and became torn on where to call home. To overcome such dilemma, I made a pro and con list for England, Malaysia and China; choosing somewhere to buy and settle down is a big commitment so I wanted to ensure I had considered my options thoroughly.
From my documentation, I found the sweet spot where I was grateful for all of my memories to date, so that I wasn’t living in the past constantly thinking about throwbacks and wishing I was reliving a previous memory. I was not counting down the days until I was doing something else in the future nor was I dreading the future. I enjoy every day, every moment as they naturally occur and this is the best understanding of how the mind operates that I have ever come to comprehend.
4.How to let toxic thoughts go
We all know the world is huge yet I do not believe we can fully grasp the size of it until we have visual stimuli, and even then, we cannot truly appreciate the actual number of people on Earth as it is not possible to see everyone in one go. A good visual trigger is boarding a plane, looking out of the window and watching the number of houses come into vision as the plane gets higher and higher, then comprehending that that is just a small city in a state, in a country, in a continent, in the world. Suddenly, something back home which felt so big and consuming will become futile.
Prior to departing from the UK, I left a toxic work environment and spoke my mind to some friends, which led to the end of a few friendships. At the time, such events felt heavy and I constantly replayed some negative memories in my mind. The finer details of whether such bridges could be mended is irrelevant in this context, what is relevant is the fact that the world is so big that if one person does not like you or does you wrong, it is a minor blip in your very long and exciting life journey. This is also very true for negative people you meet whilst travelling.
Your mind should be completely occupied with a new environment; new smells, sights and noises. All of your senses will be on fire and you should indulge in it! Allow your mind to destroy unnecessary negativity and let it have room for better memories and more beneficial connections with different people. The more places you travel to, the more you realise the ease of relocating so the process of being open minded increases rapidly.
5.How replaceable material things are
First of all, do not take anything of significant personal value. You are quite mobile so the risk of you losing/misplacing things is increased. I left a bracelet my father gave me at home, despite wanting to take it with me so I could feel his presence, because the risk did not outweigh the benefit. You are bound to misplace or break at least one thing; I left my favourite sports bra at a condo and it was destroyed before I could retrieve it. I also lost about an hour of GoPro footage before I had the opportunity to back it up.
Aside from being temporarily frustrated that I no longer possessed such items, it did not ruin my trip nor stop me from appreciating everything else that I had. It would have been convenient to have them but it wasn’t a matter of life or death. The same applies to the fact you can only travel with X amount of luggage; you take what is critical and learn to live without the other home luxuries.
To conclude, travelling is a massive learning experience and will truly be a trip of a lifetime. As much as you learn internally, you will too externally. It will change you as a person; it will develop you into a better person.