13 Girls Talking About The Most Important Lessons They Learnt While Travelling

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Alexandra, 31 years old

“About 5 years ago I went to the Netherlands to meet a guy I’ve only spoken to on the phone and through long and as you may imagine very personal emails. He was, and still is, Dutch and after months of talking and heavy flirting he invited me over so we could finally meet.

It was the first time I was flying alone and every ordinary step of the journey felt like a small victory. The check in, the security check, the overpriced airport coffee, the aisle seat that I still prefer to this day because I can stretch at least one of my legs, waiting for the luggage, walking through Schiphol feeling like I was visiting a large shopping mall, checking my face and hair in one of the many bathrooms of questionable hygiene. And finally the “Arrival” doors opening. You have to admit, no matter how many times you travel, those doors sliding open will give you a rush, especially when there is someone waiting on the other side.

I remember letting go of my bag when I hugged him. And hearing it drop to the floor.

I remember feeling so brave. And so irresponsible. And so swept away.

As it turns out he was not a serial killer, missing a leg or any other worst-case scenario. He was, and still is, a great guy. It was not “happily ever after”, but we did have a lot of fun together the couple of times we saw each other.

So keep loving the airport “boy gets girl” scenes you see in movies, no matter how over the top clichés they may seem. Airports can truly be the most romantic places on earth.”

Alina, 34 years old

“My first ‘serious’ job brought also me the first major vacation.”

“Obviously I started making serious plans: chose the destination (some island in Greece), convinced a friend to go with me (actually some girl I knew from college), applied for a loan and a credit card (the serious job didn’t necessarily mean big bucks), made endless lists (things to see, clothes to bring, stuff to buy)… What I didn’t make were the reservations and I almost applauded myself for that as my friend told me less than a month before the trip that she wasn’t going…

Ok, scratch that, time for new plans. I kept the lists, I already had the money but I changed the destination. I picked Barcelona on a hunch that I will fall in love with the city and confident in my knowledge of the Spanish language. I decided to go alone (although my grandma still is under the impression that I had eleven friends with me. Everybody now: eeeleeeven!).

I arrived at the airport a bit late (my dad secretly decided that he should be a more cautious driver) with a suitcase I could easily fit in only to find out that my flight was cancelled because the pilot felt a little bit under the weather that day…

Four hours later the airline put me on another flight to Barcelona and when I finally got there my gigantic suitcase was the first to appear at the baggage claim (extremely good sign in these situations). I managed somehow to lift it and headed towards the exit. The doors opened and I saw the sunny sky and the tall palm trees. And the little voice inside my head went “Hallelujah!” for about 10 minutes.

I called my mom to tell her that I was all right and wanted to just stay there forever. My grandma freaked out thinking I would be alone among strangers. She cooled down only when I returned.

*Please excuse the pictures. That was the era when the selfie hadn’t been invented yet.”

Anca, 28 years old

“I started travelling out of curiosity. Since I was old enough to realize that my small city was not big enough for me, I decided to go to the end of the world to discover whatever was coming my way. The idea of travelling around the world might scare a lot of people but for me, the thought of not trying seemed harder to digest.

The day I left for the first time to go on a journey and find how big the world is, I never would have thought that in reality I would discover how small it actually seems.

The cultures around the planet may be different from one another and if you are open to understanding them it can help you grow and enrich your mind and soul.

Some important lessons for me were about compassion and awareness about struggling to fit in and to let go in the same time, about not having expectations and live the moment as another one like that would never come again…

But the most important lesson i ‘ve learnt was that no matter where we come from, who we are and what we do, we re just all built in the same way.”

Andreea, 36 years old

“New experiences (for sight, taste, smell, hear and for the overall body) is what I’m looking for when I travel. But at the same time I love to get the feeling of familiarity. It doesn’t occur at all times, but in some places I feel almost like in my hometown. I wonder why is not enough to live that feeling of intimacy only in Bucharest? Maybe because sometimes I feel the urge to escape and I need to have this safety network of beautiful places with which I feel connected. I suppose for me they are like very close friends. There is a connection with them, you share common interests, you like to have a conversation or just to sit next to each other without talking; you have secrets, you have favorite places and favorite routines, they are next to you when you need them, you share and live happy moments with them. You have many memories together and recollect them from time to time.

Amsterdam, The Hague, Athens, Rome, Boston and Stockholm are my friends. And like with my friends, I share more secrets with some of them, I like better to go shopping with others or have a glass of wine and especially have new experiences. But in all cases I feel there are no restraints, we feel at ease one with the other.”

What do I do when I travel?

  1. I like to discover the city by myself: walking on the streets, going in parks, either using a map or just losing myself for a moment. I have a good visual memory and sense of directions, so I cannot stop myself from drawing a mental map, which helps a lot to easily get familiar with surroundings.
  2. I have (traditional) breakfast out. I like to see the locals’ routine in the morning.
  3. I go more than once to the same place if I liked it. I have my favorite terraces for a coffee or for a glass of wine, where I go to chat with friends or just to read or be with my thoughts.
  4. I try to buy food from the local supermarket, bread for breakfast or fruits.
  5. I’m a big fan of shopping and finding nice shops is like a treasure hunt. They are on my mental map too.  I love to return to the ones ‘closest to my heart’ to buy clothes, shoes or home decorations.
  6. Meeting local people makes me feel more familiar to a place. Likewise going to local events, not the traditional attractions.
  7. I get my manicure & pedicure with my best girlfriend in The Hague because she lives there.
  8. I don’t like to be at full speed when visiting. Less is more. If I like a city I know I will come back.

“Actually in any city I visit I do what I also do in Bucharest: I combine the familiar places and habits with the quest of new. I will never get bored by doing this. This is how I take care of my relationship with my cities-friends.”

Andreea, 33 years old

“Blossom in the trees, sun in the sky, birds flying high”… eight good friends without any constrains and money, decided to visit Prague, the historical capital of Bohemia. It is not by chance that I chose to describe Prague as HISTORICAL, because there was nothing historical about that trip, except BEER! All I can say is that: they have plenty of good beer and we manage to taste it all! After many years and experiences abroad, I realized that the city you go to is less important, whether it has a great history or not is less important. When you are with your best friends, any place feels like home. And if there’s beer, even better!”

Chantal, 26 years old

“I have lived and worked in Dubai, where a lot of different kinds of nationalities come together. What impressed me most was the fact that a part of my colleagues were in Dubai for a better life and I was there “just for the experience”. The thought of being privileged enough to be born in The Netherlands really struck me.”

Elina, 32 years old

“Travelling makes you cope with yourself, it leaves you exposed to struggle.

During my travels I learned enjoying the little things makes your experiencecomplete and authentic. I Iearned to let go and flow with the local pace. I learned that happiness – as individual it could be – has nothing to do with materialistic things, and everything you need to be happy you can be found around you. Travelling teaches you about yourself, the way you manage your life and cope with challenges.  It also teaches you to live peacefully with yourself and be more Independent. I learned anyone could fit anywhere if only you can open your mind and your heart.”

Gianina, 35 years old

“I love mornings! Long, late, cozy, sunny and warm mornings. Those mornings when you feel like making plans and everything seems possible, like holiday it’s just about to begin, like it’s your lucky day! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a morning person, still I love especially weekend mornings;-)
I lived 3 months in Madrid and I definitely enjoyed every morning! For me, Spanish mornings are the super-mornings, with sun in the clear blue sky, smiling sleepy people, coffee and orange juice smells at the cozy corner cafeterias, joy and fresh starts. Yet, strangely enough, in Spanish there is no literal translation for “good morning”, Spanish people use to say Buenos Dias (good day) or Buenas (howdy). That’s why I started to say Morningita [mo(r)nin’gita] instead of Buenos Dias as it sounds more playful and cheerful, just like a Spanish morning!”

Luca, 29 years old

These are the 6 most valuable lessons I’ve learnt from my travelling:

  1. People often forget how beautiful their country is. My latest holiday was in Portugal and it doesn’t happen to me very often that I go to a place and I fall in love and say: “I would like to move there tomorrow”. Every time I told locals how lucky they were to live in a place like this, they would be very surprised. They would tell me about the economical crisis, about how difficult is to leave there nowadays, about their problems. The conclusion: every day problems make people forget to enjoy the big (amazing looking) picture and take for granted the beauty of their countries.
  1. No matter how much fun you have on a holiday, you will always miss home. I miss waking up in my own bed and I simply miss the feeling of being home.
  1. Whenever you discover and love a new place, automatically you start imagining how your life would be there.
  1. Having no specific destination will take you to the most interesting places.
  1. People are strange, when you act like a stranger to them. Once you open up, you can have friends for life.  My travels would have meant nothing without the amazing people I’ve met.

Meggy, 35 years old

“First time I went abroad it was in the university years, when I had a scholarship for 3 months in Munich.

I was about 23 years, and I had never been outside my country. I was scared of almost everything. I had thousands of questions in my mind.

How will it be? How will I go from one place to another? What if the people I meet don’t speak English?

And so many others…

I acted as if this was the worst time of my life, even though I should have enjoy it.

But I couldn’t, because of my fears.

You have to understand that my country was under communism for many years, and even if the political situation had changed, the mentality of the people was not. Or .. ok, maybe just a bit.

So it was not that easy to travel outside the country.

Since then, I had the chance to travel in quite a few countries.  I started to love watching people, different cultures, and different kinds of living.

Once I saw that I can manage, all my fears were gone and the excitement became much and much bigger. The excitement of meeting people with different ideas about the life, or seeing places so different than what I was used to see.

Now… now I use all the money I save just to travel. I have the cover photo on my FaceBook profile to prove that.”

“And you know? I already booked a short vacation in Munich in July. It will be very interesting to see Munich again, but with so different eyes.”

Nelly, 25 years old

1. Travelling to Rome.

“When I was a little younger, my dad decided to get married to his new wife in Rome. For a 17 year old this is the ideal opportunity to dress up and feel like you’re in a movie. When packing I imagined a bonanza with beautiful palazzos and Italian princes on Vespa scooters. So, my suitcase ended up being filled with glamorous dresses loads of make-up and open sandals with very high, very spikey heels.

So after a beautiful ceremony, during which I wore some delightful flats (the only pair it took with me) it was time for dinner. But before, of course, I had planned an outfit change (because that’s what they do in the movies). Here I came, a diva (in my own mind) with my brand new, open, golden 5-inch spikey heels. And then we walked. And walked. And walked. All the way to the restaurant over the Italian cobblestones.

Thankful that my ankles where still somewhat intact when we got there, what did I learn? Pack wedges when travelling to unfamiliar places!”

2. Florence: ars longa, vita brevis.

“I remember going on a two-week study trip to Florence when I was studying art history. I studied art history next to my bachelors Business Administration and mainly in the evenings. This led to me knowing my fellow students after two years but not having spent much time with them outside lectures. Somehow it was decided that I was to join a group of them in a house they had arranged in the city center of Florence. Before leaving I wondered if all would end up well. The group I joined knew each other fairly well already. I turned out to be two unforgettable weeks full of art, wine and friendships that, I am sure, will last a lifetime. And why? Because of the joined passion for art that has been connecting people for centuries? I might have helped at least.

Why did I want to share this? Because sometimes we all need a little push, or an event of which we do not know how it might end. Remember that and you’ll be surprised how much luck it will bring.”

Oana, 29 years old

“Through travelling I learnt that in life you can have many paths, you can climb many mountains, enjoy all sorts of exotic food, lay on different beaches, meet new people, get new perspectives and become a more complete person. In Prague, I saw this graffiti quote that really expresses what travelling means for me: “Sometimes you have to travel half-way around the world to come full circle”

You can follow Oana’s pictures on #perceptionsbyoana

Soraya Torrens, 26 years old

“I jumped into the unknown 10 years ago when I left Brazil to see what was out there and now I can tell for sure that it was the best thing I could’ve done in my life.

When I look back I see how much I’ve grown in this time and these 10 years surely worth many more.  When you are no longer in the atmosphere that you are used to be, you understand how many possibilities you have. I understood that I can be whoever I want to be and that opinions and manners can totally vary wherever you move to.

In Germany for example people may be more reserved and polite, however in Israel people just naturally say what they think to your face no matter what.. And from these differences I learn to keep to myself a little a bit of every point of view that will help me build who I am.

I’ve learned that I don’t really need to have a language in common in order to have a nice conversation with a person from any side of the world.

I’ve also learned that changes are good and that I don’t need to be afraid of them because we can only connect the dots when you look back and not the opposite.

Travelling the world is the best school of life.”



XpatGirls Staff

Xpatgirls is the hub of all expat girls around the world.

Because girls are more curious, more sensitive and let’s face it, they talk and share more!

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