Do it. Just go. Make adventure a priority. Invest your time and money in experiences, rather than material things. You'll have a blast and learn a ton. You'll grow as a person. You'll feed the curious side of yourself. You can brag on Instagram. Or find that it's not even important to do so. I can't recommend travelling enough. Go, do, see, and explore; I urge you to make your best effort to do these things.
And once you've decided to travel abroad, you can use these tips to make the most of your time:
-While there's something attractive about spontaneity and not having a set-in-stone plan, it's still important to Do your research. Use the Internet or talk to people. Learn the places to go and the places to avoid. Find out what the basic etiquette is in the different cultures that you'll be visiting. Being prepared never hurts, and it only improves your ability to make decisions that will make your trip more fun. Have an idea of what to expect and what you want to do beforehand, but make sure to form your own opinions and don't be afraid to change it up on-the-fly.
-If you have the time and your destination is within a reasonable distance, Walk. You'll learn and remember way more about the place you're visiting when you experience it on foot. You'll be able to create a mental map of the place, and understand where you are in relation to other parts of the city. Walking also gives you the freedom to explore whatever you find interesting without any time constraints. Maybe you'll find a secluded place like this in Marseille to sit and watch the Mediterranean Sea:
-Take an interest in the people you come across on your journey. Make friends. It makes travelling easier and more fun. Travelling alone for too long can lend itself to feelings of loneliness and homesickness, but friends - even if you just meet them along the way - can help minimize these feelings. Having friends to share your experiences with can also give said experiences more meaning. It's something you'll always share with another person. Good friends mean laughter and companionship, and those are both undeniably good things. (Plus, not that there's anything wrong with it, but every photo of you won't have to be a selfie.) I've visited a bunch of wonderful places, but I've still found that People > Places.
|A group of us CEA students at the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland|
-Different places means different cultures. Be patient and keep an open mind. This is where learning is done. At first, you'll wish that things were done as they are at home. You'll struggle, and there will be difficult moments.Keep pushing, cherish the small victories along the way, and the reward will be worth it, though. You'll begin to gain an understanding and an appreciation for the nuances that make a culture what it is. You'll start to learn that so much of yourself is a product of your culture, and this revelation will open your eyes. By learning about other cultures, you will then have a reference point that will aid you in examining your culture. In travel, and particularly study abroad, you learn some about other people and other cultures, but more about yourself and your culture.
Riley Duncan is the Fall 2014 MOJO in Paris, France. He is currently a junior at the University of Tennessee.
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