As a young girl, I would make a list of all the countries that I longed to visit, and daydream about the trips on which I would embark. Being Bahraini born, but of Egyptian heritage, travelling was in my genes. A couple of years ago, I made the important life decision of travelling to the other side of the world. Far away from everything that I know. To, of all places, Australia. I was seeking an education, not only for my career, but for my soul.
Here are 10 things that I discovered during my journey:
1. Travelling is, in part, an exploration of your inner-self
You simply become your own best friend. You are there for yourself when there is no one else. You learn strength, and when to give yourself a break. You learn new tactics to control your fears and worries. In sum, you learn how to support yourself emotionally. This emotional independence is the best form of freedom that you’ll discover when alone.
In addition to deep self-analysis, I also discovered how much I love hiking. My love for hiking began in high school when my class went on a trip to Kritou Terra, Cyprus. One of our assignments required us to hike in the lush mountains, and bush walk in the golden wheat fields. During my stay in Victoria, Australia, my goal was to mountain climb. I would deliberately go on tours that required bush walking or hiking. One of those trips was to Wilson’s Promontory, which is the oldest national park in the world, to climb Mt. Bishop. Coming from Bahrain, a country that has no mountains, and the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria, Mt. Bishop was one tough walk. Walking to the peak of the mountain was an achievement for me. Once I reached the summit, the burning of my legs’ muscles followed by the fresh air and beautiful scenery was the best reward.
2. Travelling leads to a clarification of your life goals
Your vision of what you truly want in life becomes clearer as you meet new people and experience life in a new country. You become pragmatic and come to the realisation that life should actually be be lived to its fullest. Your goals from your career to your dream partner become realistic and to the point. You become more grateful for every blessing God has bestowed upon you, and thankful for the life lessons He has given you.
3. Travelling allows you to meet people of different backgrounds
Some of the best life lessons you’ll learn will be from the people you meet whilst travelling. Talking to people from different countries is, no doubt, eye-opening. You get to hear about their culture, the festivals they celebrate and how they perceive life.
The communal kitchen in my student accommodation was the best way to meet people from different backgrounds. I learnt about the Mooncake festival and the Chinese New Year through discussions that occurred in that kitchen. My Chinese-Malaysian friends would tell me about the competitions families have during the Chinese New Year, such as who had the biggest feasts or who wore more red. They also taught me that the cake should be cut into an odd number of slices for good luck, and that this ritual is followed by looking at the bright moon. The most important lesson was, however, that we are all alike despite our differences.We all want to be loved, and we all fear failure and loneliness.
4. Travelling means new food!
Knowing people from different backgrounds means discovering different cuisines. I was lucky enough to have stayed in Australia for two years. With its diverse population, I fell in love with food. Before traveling to Australia, food was just a necessity of life, but once I set foot in Australia, I discovered how beautiful food is! Who knew you can eat seaweed?! The first time I saw sushi was when I caught a person eating it from a small paper bag. I always thought that sushi is served in high class restaurants, and you had to eat them with chopsticks. And then there were rice paper rolls, Thai food, veggie burgers, gozleme, boreks, taro cakes, and my one true love: avocado with feta.
5. Travelling lets you be OK with getting lost
Traveling alone means you’ll explore a lot on your own with a great probability of getting lost. Coming from a country that drives on the right side of the road, and then moving to a country that uses the left side caused me a lot of dilemmas in my first few weeks in Australia. During my first few weeks I used the old fashion way of navigation, the paper map. Regardless of the map, I always lost my way, by confusing left from right. I remember once taking the wrong tram home, thinking it was going to the city. After noticing the differences in the scenery, I knew I took the wrong direction.
Bottom line, if you find yourself lost in a new city, just search for its landmarks.
6. Travelling exposes you to different accents
I was taught in an American school, for my primary and secondary schooling. The American accent was easy to talk in, while Australian English amazed me once I heard it. With its interesting mix of American and British accents, in addition to a twist of tongue, it seems like Australians had a few letters gone or to be more precise, “swallowed”, whenever they talked. When you travel to a multinational country, you discover new languages you never before heard, for instance Dhivehi (spoken in the Maldives). You learn to pinpoint from where a person originates by hearing them talk.
7. Travelling teaches you the value of family
You get a better understanding of the importance of family. Nothing can replace the care of your parents and their hugs. Your siblings become your best friends, even though you’ve been far away for so long, and you have grown a lot since the last time you’ve been together. You understand that time is no joke, and life does have its twists and turns. You reach a conclusion during your travels that you don’t want to ever regret time wasted away from your family. Home is where the people you love and love you back are located; and no one will love you as much as your family.
8. Travelling makes you appreciate the shatafa (bidet; yes, I had to bring it up)
The shatafaa is a hose that releases water for your personal hygiene, and no, it’s not the shower. It’s one of those great inventions we have in the Middle East that the Western world really needs to implement.
After living in many countries, you discover that your heart doesn’t belong in only one place. Every country you visit has an impact on you, in some way or the other.
Don’t you wish there was such a thing as a global passport for travel enthusiasts?
10. Travelling means you instantly become a travel addict
And all you want is to save money in order to travel more. Traveling is an educational gateway. Traveling will become an intrinsic part of your life of which you can’t let go.The best way to be a good apprentice in life’s school is to simply be ready. Be ready to receive all of the lessons, and accordingly change for the better.
Sara is a Bahraini-born Alexandrian Egyptian, global citizen and travel enthusiast. Attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences from Egypt and a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Australia hasn’t stopped her from fulfilling her other passions. She has a strong interest in her city of origin, Alexandria, and in writing, drawing, traveling, meeting people from different countries, adventures and environmental health issues. Her life motto is to enjoy and live every moment in life to the fullest, regardless of the challenges you face; even though it might not be possible in certain cases.