When I began this crazy ride of traveling as much as physically and financially possible at 15, I was impressionable, excited and more than a little clueless. Over the last seven years I have had my share of small tragedies on the road: a pick-pocketing incident when I was stranded with no cash for three weeks, LICE (bleh), several cases of serious illness on holiday (and heartbreak) stand out as the most memorable.
But overall I know that travel, despite its inevitable ups and downs, has changed me for the better. Here are all the ways that travel has permanently changed me.
1. I always try to kiss people.
After spending a lot of time in kiss-heavy countries like France, Spain, Argentina and Chile, it feels really normal to kiss others when I greet them. In fact it actually feels cold not to. So when I'm at, let's say, a dinner party in MICHIGAN, I instinctively rush to kiss people on the cheek- which needless to say, really freaks out most Americans.
2. I'm terrified of elevators.
Due to four months of riding in rickety cage elevators in Buenos Aires, I am extremely scared of elevators. Once I even got my arm stuck in an industrial elevator! So if you ever see me sprinting past the doors of an elevator like I'm running for my life, it's because I am.
3. I'm a huge bread and cheese snob.
4. I actually understand the metric system.
I now know that I am 1.7 meters tall and that my favorite temperature is around 23 degrees Celsius. And despite the fact that the U.S. is one of the countries that officially uses the metric system, most of us are barely familiar. Please America, let us convert to this logical, efficient and universal system of measurement! Immediately!
5. I measure prices in plane tickets.
A $700 handbag? But that's like, half a flight to Sydney.
6. I get really offended when people bad-mouth the U.S.
This is a habit that has unfortunately gotten worse over the years. I've just heard so much negativity at this point that I can barely stop myself from leaving the room when foreigners tell me things like, “I think Americans are really stupid.” Are you or are you not aware of my nationality?
So if you want to talk about how much you hate the U.S., please go talk to someone else.
7. I'm a much more optimistic person.
There's nothing like strangers inviting you into their bike shops to escape the rain, giving you free rides or inviting you to dinner when you're hungry to make you believe in the goodness of humanity.
8. I speak English like a robot.
Due to an English tutor job, a couple of foreign ex-boyfriends and working for a French family, the way I speak English has definitely changed. I now speak slowly and clearly and avoid idioms, slang and phrasal verbs of any kind. It actually really annoys me when I come home and it takes me a few days to stop sounding like an alien.
9. I'm always a tiny bit scared of being robbed.
After a pickpocket stole my wallet on a bus in Buenos Aires, I began taking more precautions. Even still, I am always paranoid about having my belongings stolen.
10. I'm much more open to meeting new people.
Like any traveler worth her salt, I consistently thrust myself into extraordinarily awkward situations when traveling. From Couchsurfing in a German basement to checking into to party hostels by myself, I am willing to try just about anything for the sake of having fun or learning something.
How has travel permanently changed you?
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