I earned my first passport stamps back in 2005 when I left the sunny beaches of California to backpack through Central America. Since then, I’ve stamped nearly every page in my passport and now find myself living in Europe, counting my blessings daily and losing and acquiring like never before.
One can’t possibly forecast all that will be gained and lost when shells of your comfort zone are left behind as you thrust yourself into the unknown of a different country. But, here are some things I’ve found that are lost every time I pass the security check of an airport and land in a new setting.
1. You. As you know you.
Every time you fly out of your home country and into the unknown you reboot yourself and reset the basis from which your actions flow from. In this new form of you, you grow pieces of a human that become softer to the world, more compassionate, more aware and richer in depth and character. Say goodbye to the old you and hello to a more beautiful, aware creature.
2. Your awareness of daily routine.
Nothing rattles you from your routine like seeing another take on how people spend their 24-hour days. If you’re a creature of habit, you’ll lose the formula that once built your decision making code. Those quick take away coffees from your coffee chain soon become a sit-down-and-enjoy-your-moment-and-life coffees. You’ll no longer rush your dinner with friends, instead you’ll see the importance of a meal lasting 3 hours. Your sense of cultural routines suddenly becomes a mixture of worldly actions.
3. The invisible fences that you live within.
You suddenly become hyper aware that the world is HUGE and you reflect on that coffee farmer you met in El Salvador or the nun you cooked dinner with in the Himalayan mountains. The world is more than the distance between your shopping mall, the post office and your best friend’s house. It’s huge and you want to explore it. Crash go those fences.
4. Ideals, ideas and ID.
Any ideas you have of humans before you travel are lost the moment you see the way another culture lives. And, that’s a good thing. Whether your findings are good or bad, it’s an incredible gift to know there are a lot more beautiful things about the human race and a lot more commonalities between us all.
5. Ego. Or, at least some of it.
I read an awful lot of travel related stuff, expat stuff and I’m always surprised by the almighty stance some adopt once they’ve hit soils of another country. How can the ego of “If you don’t travel, you’re not as ____ as I am” exist when someone has truly tasted a sampling of how big the beautiful planet is.
I won’t focus there. I’ll focus on what I know to be true. Ego – or at least large slices of it – are lost forever once you begin the trek across borders. When you start seeing firsthand the struggles that others face day to day, yours become beautifully downsized in importance, thus by nature making you much smaller on the importance scale. The pedestal that is so easy to climb on board of and look down on others from suddenly starts collecting dust as you gather stories and experiences about people you’ve met along the way whose lives, while not smattered across social networks with 80 likes or glorified by their connections/who they know/what kind of awesome job they have, etc. You truly are humbled by how beautiful people are and you realize that what makes them beauty is WHO they are. Not WHAT they are. That’s worth all of those air miles and all that jet lag. Say goodbye to your ego and say hello to welcoming the greatness of everyone else while simply loving the you who acknowledges everyone else’s beauty.
When you live in another country as an American, you’re often the butt of a lot of jokes. While we certainly think we’re the best (go Team America!) and we know more than anyone else (Errrrrybody is a terrorist! ‘mericans are number 1!), the rest of the world definitely has their own opinion. And, when you can start pinpointing the Americans out of 100 tourists (tip: the loudest, drunkest, most obnoxious ones are generally US of A stars), then you start losing the joy of placing judgements on others. This ties in with losing your ego.
And, damn, doesn’t it feel great to not size up another individual and take note of all the things that aren’t up to your standards? People are just absolutely beautiful, even in their difficult-to-love qualities. Just pure beauty.
7. Tunnel Vision.
Home. Work. After-work stuff. Home. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
If tunnel vision is driving your life, step out of your country. I can honestly say that one thing that’ll help you as an entrepreneur, lover, friend, child, sibling, leader is to see how people all over the world do things differently. When you wake up and make your coffee like the Turkish, eat lunch at the time the Spaniards do (and always with a bottle of wine) and end the day on a chair outside your front door like the Nicaraguans, you realize you’ve become a citizen of the world and this effects the way you tackle your career, the way you relate to your lover, the things you want to teach your child. Long gone are the days you were focused on that American dream and what replaces it is an energetic zest for experience.
I wish for everyone some stamps in your passport. Some uncomfortable nights in an uncomfortable bed in some uncomfortable city where you aren’t recognized for anything other than how you treat that exact person in that exact moment.