When Travel Becomes About More

Every year millions of people pack their bags and head towards wherever the sun is shining – Swedish people are among the most devoted sun worshipers of all.

When Travel Becomes About More

When Travel Becomes About More

Because the sun doesn’t shine very often in Sweden, people here want to make the most of it when they have the chance, and often that means leaving Sweden to find the sun somewhere else.

Many people travel abroad for 4 simple reasons; To swim in warm water, relax, party and then arrive back home with a great tan.

When Travel Becomes About More

But often people reach a point where the purpose for traveling changes – often that happens when we finally open our eyes and really see the country we are visiting.

We’re introduced to new fascinating cultures, traditions, new food and smells around us, and once we’ve had a taste of this kind of travel, chasing the sun & partying becomes far less important.

For one of my closest friends Sanna, the spark for travel and getting to know other cultures came when she decided to travel to Africa and volunteer for a year.

It’s a pretty big step for someone who has never really traveled before, but volunteering in Africa changed her life.

She was away for a year in Rwanda, experiencing some crazy culture clashes and situations.

When I met her again after she had returned, something in her had changed. She had a different understanding of people and valued different things.

It was a very obvious change for everyone around her. Some things which used to take up a lot of time, like shopping, wasn’t something she valued at all anymore.

When she had lived with people who were amazed that she had her very own refrigerator in the kitchen, she found a whole new perspective on material things, and how little of it you actually need.

By leaving the certainty of home, volunteering abroad and travel to a country to embrace everything with open arms, she found her purpose.

She wanted to help people in some way, make their future brighter, and help them grow.

Today, a year later, she’s studying to become a teacher.

Some of us don’t find our purpose the first time we travel, but I believe that by traveling and being open to learn from these new cultures, you’re one step closer.

Some people say that you can never return from traveling as the same person you were before you left.

I say it depends on how you travel, and what you learn on the way. Some people never change, they also never learn.

There is a big difference between travel and travel …

Making Friends Abroad

The hardest step is making the risky move of trying out another country – I’ll assume you’ve already done that, why else would you be reading this? The good news is that it only gets easier from here.

Making Friends Abroad

Making Friends Abroad

It’s time to put your social anxiety aside and start making friends. The thought might be exciting for some but frightening for others.

Hopefully though, you’re old enough to not overthink social interactions like you did back in your high school days. So whether this is a study abroad programme or you’re just moving countries, here are a few tips that will help you make friends abroad.

Rule #1 – Just talk!

Your conversation skills improve with age. Depending on how old you are, striking up a random conversation may be easy for you. This may be tougher if you’ve hung out with the same friends your life, though.

It’s really easier than most think. What do you have to lose? You’re a foreigner in a new country; there’s a good chance that the stranger is as interested as you are. Whether you’re trying to pick up a girl, make a friend, or just get comfortable with locals, the easiest start is your name. Yes, it’s as simple as “Hi, my name’s ____”. The conversation should flow from there.

From my experience, they’ll ask you where you’re from because of your accent. It’s smart to have an answer prepared. Trust me when I say that you will get bored of this question, but that’s a part of it all.

Hostels and dorms

This should be in the bag for you study abroad folk. People in dorms and hostels are in the exact same situation as you. They may be travelling solo or on a study course from another country. The younger crowd is usually more friendly and open to conversation, too, so just go for it! Read Rule #1 for more information.

Making Friends While Traveling

Making Friends While Traveling

If you’re on a holiday, then staying in hostels is a full-proof method. When I went to Toscana last year with a couple friends, we were on a tight budget and decided to stay in a hostel.

We immediately made friends with a young couple visiting from Germany right next to us and practically spent the whole trip with them. Remember: they are as open to friendships as you are. There is no need to be afraid.

Social networking – Facebook, Twitter, and Meetups

There are groups dedicated to expat and travellers just like you. Twitter and Facebook communities have sprung up to make the change easier for foreigners delving into an unrecognized country. There’s nothing wrong with building online friendships to get a head start.

You may also get early opinions about what you’re getting yourself into! Start following people on Twitter and be open and friendly. A lot of people stay away from Meetup.com claiming that it isn’t natural to meet people online. But in today’s day everyone spends a lot of time on their handhelds and computers.

Besides the generic ‘expat’ or ‘new in town’ Meetups, you could find one about hobbies. Reading, working out, movies are all common hobbies amongst people, no matter where you’re from. Ask people with similar interests to join you for a drink on Saturday night. If it’s a local, ask them to show you around.

Don’t let your work control you

Take a break every now and then. If you’re being sent abroad from a company, make use of the weekends and days off. Get to know your co-workers and go out for drinks after work. The worst thing you can do is keep your work and personal lives separate—you’ll end up diving into depression. There just aren’t enough hours in a day for everything.

Make friends from day one. Talk to clients and get to know them. You may even get bonus assignments that will help your work. It’s a win-win situation, really. When the working day is over, don’t run home. Presentations and work-related events aren’t as bad as they sound. You get to meet people from the industry just like yourself.

So as you see, making friends abroad isn’t rocket science. It will start to flow naturally after a few conversations. Reading this should just be a guide. The worst thing you can do is overthink the situation. Rule #1 should be all that you need—just talk!

7 Responses to When Travel Becomes About More

  1. Guyorsmond August 17, 2011 at 7:17 am #

    I could not agree more with this article. If I don’t return home from a trip with a different perspective on people and a culture and I have not learnt something about myself I feel the trip was a waste.

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 17, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts and what you expect from your travels Guyorsmond, learning something about yourself is one of the most rewarding things that travel brings.

  2. Adam August 17, 2011 at 9:30 am #

    Sometimes a vacation just needs to be a vacation So I wouldn’t be too bothered if all someone is looking for while they’re traveling is a break. In America, when you only get two weeks vacation, you may not have the time to volunteer or do other more cultural events. Sometimes you just need a recharge.

    That being said, I absolutely believe learning about the place you travel to is a vital part of traveling. But I can see why it also might not be that important.

    • Sofia - As We Travel August 17, 2011 at 11:18 am #

      I see what you mean, and I can definitely understand people looking to relax on their holidays rather than volunteer. But I think that even on a two week break people are still able to take a day off the beach and do something different.

      And when ordering food at a restaurant, try something different than what you can find at home.

      Often, experiencing a new culture and place comes down to the little things :)

  3. Anonymous August 17, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Im still doing too much sunbathing and drinking. 4 months in, and I am looking for an experience to help me “change”.

  4. Danielmcelroy1 August 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

    great post here. thats why I think it’s a good idea to have one party vacation and one cultural learning trip every year to keep things balanced

  5. Katie July 24, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    I totally agree with the saying that “You can never return from traveling as the same person you were before you left.” But one needs a different kind of mindset for that. When we explore different cultures, cuisines and lifestyles, we only see them rather than experience them. Not everybody gets the opportunity to leave their family and country to go and volunteer in an area that needs help and support. However, I believe that at least we can become more sensitive to and acceptable of how people are forced to live (and happily at that) in circumstances that we cannot even imagine ourselves.