As I sit on an overnight bus headed north, I find myself scrolling through my photos and marveling at all of the adventures I’ve experienced over the past few months– not only in the city I temporarily get to call home, Paris, but outside of it too. I reflect on how lucky I am to have traveled to amazing places in France, such as the quaint town of Strasbourg, the port-city of St. Malo, the colorful city of Nice, and the whimsical Loire Valley. I revisit my experiences traveling in London and Paris and Belgium with my family. I remember how amazing it was to spend my spring break in Barcelona and the south of France! With every trip outside of Paris, I learn more about another culture and more about myself.
The interesting thing about Europe (and I’m sure it’s similar with many other continents that I’ve yet to experience) is the fact that so many different cultures are present not only within every country, but within every region and every city. The first lesson that traveling has taught me is that this continent is much more vast and complex than I could’ve imagined. Coming from the United States- where some states can take over 10 hours to drive from border to border- the cultural density and diversity within Europe was something that surprised me.
Additionally, many areas have a blend of cultures due to the proximity of regions and the interconnections made throughout Europe’s history. Strasbourg, France, located in the very eastern Alsatian region, is an example of a town that is both heavily French and German. The blend of cultures is evident in their cuisine, Alsacian hybrid language, and the fairytale-like architecture such as the famous colorful half-timbered houses. It’s amazing to witness places that exemplify Europe as the collection of intertwined yet independent cultures that it is.
Not only has traveling opened my eyes to Europe’s complexities, but it has also provided me with opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Thanks to the two youth hostels we stayed in over our spring break in Spain and France, my roommate and I met so many people. I spoke to French and Spanish locals, but also to people from Scotland, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Colombia, Mexico, Italy, Wales, the United States, Argentina, and Portugal. On our second day in Spain, we took a walking tour of Barcelona and met two guys from Manchester. We spent most of the rest of our time exploring the city with them! It’s amazing how accessible the world and its people can be through something as simple as staying in a youth hostel.
There’s also something about the stress of catching a bus in a foreign country, or learning to exist/sleep in a room with 20 other people, or grabbing an ice cream with people you just met 24 hours ago, that helps one become a little more flexible, confident, and open minded. Traveling has taught me to go with the flow, trust the advice of others, and seize fun opportunities when they come.
Every trip has been incredibly beneficial for me. They have allowed me to continually return to Paris with a fresh perspective and fresh appreciation, with the knowledge that I have gotten to appreciate more than one culture while abroad. Whether you study in a European country or on another continent, try to grab a bus ticket to a bordering city or country! As the great poet Lauren Eden once said, “The world is only as fascinated by you as you are of it.”
Your Discovery. Our People… The World Awaits.