5.1
March 8, 2015

On My Travels, I Found Me.

martinak15/Flickr

After graduating college, I taught English overseas in Asia and Europe.

When people ask me what I learned from my journeys abroad, they typically mean factually or intellectually.

So generally, I will just tell them some interesting cultural facts or snippets of the language. I’ll say a neat phrase I picked up. I’ll tell them about the music, food or share some funny story of miscommunication or culture shock.

But really, what have I learned from my travels?

Well, I know I can get from point A to B in a new country without a deep understanding of the bus routes or language.

I can rely on my creative brain to figure out a workaround, such as miming the act of grocery shopping to a bus driver.

I can communicate almost anything through hand gestures and crazy sound effects. Nobody will ever beat me at charades. I have mastered the art of talking without talking.

I can use my brain to get out of dangerous situations, such as losing a stranger who starts following me in a crowd.

I now have a very close and intimate relationship with my intuition. When I hear my inner voice, I listen.

I can shop smartly even when I am functionally illiterate.

I am relentless.

I tracked down a student taken out of my school by child protective services. I had formed a close relationship with him after finding out he was not being taken care of at home. I advocated for months for an abused/neglected student until he was finally removed from the danger and got the care and psychological services he needed.

All while not speaking the language.

I have learned how capable, intuitive, clever and strong I am.

I have discovered how very little credence I give to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.

And, I know how to laugh. How to truly, and sincerely, laugh.

My luggage is lost? I’ll smile. It’s a challenge. Life is boring without them, and now I get to use my beautiful brain to solve a problem.

I have had many amazing experiences overseas.

I will always remember stepping onto the majestic and exciting Charles Bridge in Prague for the first time. I will never forget meditating in a temple overlooking a Korean valley and clouds below. And, I will always cherish that care-free moment on a train, with my pen and a journal, looking out at the wind farms in Austria.

But, I discovered in the end it wasn’t what happened to me, or what I saw, that mattered.

It was not about any certain story, or experience or place that I visited.

It was my spirit.

There is nothing in the world more powerful than knowing who I am, when nobody else is around, when nobody else is there to catch me.

What I learned from my journeys—what I truly learned—is personal power.

Autonomy.

Knowing who I am.

Being who I am.

Learning, while in the midst of everything changing, I am the one constant.

If you’re able, I recommend traveling somewhere alone.

Take even a small vacation by yourself. Depend on you. I can recommend no single thing more.

Because it is not what you know. It’s who you know.

And I am pleased to know me.

 

Relephant:

Love a Girl Who Travels.

Author: Marie Brown

Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: martinak15/Flickr

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