by Cate Dapena
Luke, my nephew, is currently spending six months traveling through South America. He took a few moments to answer five things he would have done differently before beginning his adventure abroad. In 2013, when he was a junior in college, Luke did a semester abroad in Spain. After graduating, he went to Thailand for six months with the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). He stayed in Thailand an additional six months working freelance jobs.
I asked Luke what five things he would do differently if he were just beginning his adventure abroad now. His answers follow:
1. Ask Questions
At the time, I feel like I was curious enough in Thailand to learn their “cultural curiosities” but not as much about the life of an everyday Thai person. Ask questions and learn. I’m not sure the same applies as much to my time in Spain, but in Thailand, I was just, like, “This is exotic! Crazy!” without actually getting to the bottom of things or the reasons behind the traditions.
2. Spending More Time in Spain
With regard to my time in Spain, I would have spent more time in Spain itself. I was hopping on Ryan Air flights every other weekend. Not only did this kill my savings, but it took away from my actual Spanish experience. There’s plenty to take in from one country. No place is so shallow as to warrant bimonthly getaways — you just have to look for it.
3. Be Social
I would have been more social, even if it meant befriending other Americans or westerners. For me, my first six months in Thailand were a bit of a blur because I so thoroughly isolated myself. It’s good to have a sounding board to bounce things off of too, so when you notice crazy shit you don’t just say to yourself, “there’s no way that could have just happened the way I thought it did.”
4. Learn to Cook Local
I would have taken cooking classes and tried cooking local food with local ingredients. Going home after living abroad and perusing your local grocery store is quintessential reverse culture shock, rock bottom. It’s pathetic and will make you ask your ‘pre-travel self’ “how were you okay with this?” There’s so much shit that pervades foreign supermarkets that you will NEVER find in US stores.
5. Consuming Myself More in Spanish Culture
I would have read more Spanish books and watched more Spanish movies. I feel like consuming Spanish art while living in Spain is the way it’s meant to be. It’s like being drunk at a bar versus being drunk in a DMV. It also really helps with language skills, immersion, etc.
Begin Your Adventure Abroad Now
Luke worked in kitchens in Australia for six months to finance his latest adventure abroad. This trip is taking him way off the grid. He just landed in the hospital with e-Coli! Nonetheless, Luke is determined to continue exploring. Keep on pursuing your dreams abroad. Thanks, Luke, for taking the time to answer these questions and safe travels!
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