One year ago, I was preparing for my first solo international trip. I remember how joyful I was to finally step out of my country and fly. Meticulously, I packed my stuff in my suitcase taking care to wrap my favorite local snacks in a towel and putting them in a secure spot to protect them from getting crush, as I folded my clothes, I already imagined myself wearing them in a particular destination. On my way to the airport, my dream plans played like a movie in my head. I was elated, the happiest girl on the planet, until I boarded my plane. From the moment the plane took off, all my joy and excitement vanished. I realized I was leaving the comfort of my country to an unfamiliar land. I was anxious, scared and I wanted to go back home but I’m glad I conquered these feelings.
1.I was forced to get out of my comfort zone.
Before this trip, I was this shy and unconfident girl, who did not dare to even say Hi let alone ask a stranger for directions. I could not even cross the street on my own. And above all, I was not comfortable with the English Language even though, I’ve studied the language since Kindergarten, because in this country where I live, We speak French despite English being our official language(Only on paper I guess Haha). But upon, my arrival in Hong Kong, I had to push beyond my comfort zone to ask unknown people for directions in a language which is not my mother-tongue to get to a taxi stand and in Vietnam, I wanted to cry when I had to cross to the other side but eventually learned to cross a busy and dangerous road like a real Vietnamese. Now, I no longer stutter when I have to converse in English, I’m no longer afraid to speak to strangers and I also miss crossing busy and dangerous roads, the ones with traffic rules seem to easy to cross
2.My Taste Bud Changed and I learned to enjoy Food.
In my family, they always said that Asian cuisine is dirty and disgusting, but as a person working in the food industry I could not accept this statement, because doing so, would mean disrespecting a particular cuisine. That’s why I decided to have an authentic Asian seaweed beef soup in Hong Kong, the dish was heavenly and after that, I introduced Beef again in My diet plan(after dismissing it for nearly a decade). I also discovered and loved the taste of street foods and roadside snacks, Food tastes better when it is simple and cooked with love. I found the combination of sweet&tangy taste delicious and my french fries are never fried without Oregano(thanks to Thai and Greek Cuisine).
Additionally, I learned new ways of eating such as with Chopsticks and with my hands(The curry tastes more delicious when you eat with your hands, so ditch the spoon). But most importantly, I learned to appreciate food without caring what will people say about my weight or my eating habits(I now have a tiny potbelly and love handles haha)
3.Coffee Culture,Floral Teas and Savoury Milkshake.
For the whole 20 years of my life, I thought that Coffee has the same taste around the world, well..until I ordered a coffee in Vietnam, it was love at first sight and first sip. The coffee came dripping from a device called a ”Phin” and was accompanied by Condensed milk. I did not know that condensed milk could be used to sweeten coffee, for me it was an unusual combination but incredibly delicious. There’s one more unusual combination of coffee in Vietnam that I found Weird ”The egg coffee”.Raw egg sabayon like texture and hot coffee, I thought I was gonna get sick from it but it was heavenly delicious. Vietnam has a vibrant coffee culture, There’s no time for coffee in Vietnam, and every time I had coffee there, I thought God made it himself.
Still Talking about coffee, I’ve always hated the taste of an un-milked coffee that was before I visited Greece, The greek Coffee has such an Indisinct granule texture and I don’t how but I fell in love with bitter the taste and the texture. I came home with a big packet.
Moving on to Tea, I discovered that some flowers can be infused like tea, it was a surprise for me, I did not know that flowers were edible, since then, my day is incomplete without my Jasmine Green tea.
Lastly, I also discovered that refreshing beverages can be salty thanks to a Syrian restaurant in Muscat, Oman. The drink that I was served is Called Aryan, it is made with Yoghurt, Ginger and salt. It was so flavorful, one day I’ll go back to Muscat just to drink this again. I felt so stupid for thinking all drinks are sweet haha.
4.Enhanced Social Skills, Improved Social Circle, and A wider Knowledge of the World’s Culture.
Before traveling, I did not have good Social skills, I did not know how to start and maintain a conversation with having a sudden awkward silence. But through my traveling journey, I learned through observations, my mistakes, and sometimes by jumping into the deep end. I don’t regret it. Because I met people who taught me and offered me their friendship. I had 2 close friends before leaving for my trip but now I have Twenty-something friends around the world.
Additionally, through my Spanish friends, I learned that they kiss-greet on only on one side compared to the French Way, where you kiss both cheeks. Through my French Friends, I also learned that Some Regions in France, People kiss-greet thrice.
5. Racism is still an issue in the 21st Century.
In the peaceful country that I live in, Skin Color or Religion is not an issue, no one cares actually, everybody is friendly. However, this was not the case in Europe, I’ve been to countries where people looked at me with disgust in their eye(as I was the only black person around) or made mean comments about my skin color. Some of the people I met throughout my journey, labeled me as ”antichrist” because I come from a Muslim family. It saddens me that people still think this way even today.
6. I started investing in My Self-Care.
Traveling, with changes in time zones and climate, takes a great toll on our body. I always thought I was superwoman because I could get around with only 3-4 hours of sleep every night, well, that was before I started traveling. At some point during my travel, I was extremely fatigued and my speech became seriously slurred, I had to come up with a sleep schedule and stick to it. Nowadays, I sleep 8 hours every night. Also, I started investing in my skincare for I started breaking out badly, before, I thought skincare and sunscreen were useless. Now I can’t live without my face masks and Sun Protection.
7.News Channels and Media
The content that news channels broadcast to us are not objective. For example, the media portrays the middle east as a Patriarchal Society where women have no respect and rights, however, what I experienced is quite the opposite, from the 22 countries that I traveled to, The middle east countries were the only ones that I felt safer. I remember, in Abu Dhabi, I went to the cinema alone for the midnight session and the movie ended at around 3 am. I asked a security agent for the direction to a taxi stand, he accompanied there and hailed a taxi for me.
8. Traveling made a spiritual Person.
Five Years ago, If You asked me to visit a temple and participate in a meditation session, I would have made a sarcastic atheist joke at you. But every time, I visited a Buddhist temple, A mosque, a Hindu Temple, or a church, I found a sense of inner peace, I felt my thoughts quiet down and it was liberating. Nowadays, I meditate twice per day and I have a gratitude journal. Sometimes I listen to Buddhist Prayer Chants and Gospel Songs.
When I returned home after 6 months, I felt like a different person. I had more knowledge than before. I became more open-minded, wiser, compassionate, and more humble. Traveling gave me a lot and I’m eager to travel again once this Corona situation is over