One-Way Ticket To Self-discovery By Amel Atie
Every time someone tells me “You live on an airplane,” I proudly respond that I’m getting to know myself. While many travel for business, to see loved ones or for pleasure; I travel to discover who I am while getting lost. In the past five years I had the good fortune of attending a university that allowed me to meet people from all over the world. Many of them opened their doors and welcome me into their countries. What I soon learned was that by walking unknown streets, eating strange foods, and engaging in small conversations with passers-by, I was discovering what my favorite streets where, which flavors felt like heaven and which topics got me into passionate conversations. Moving around is a oneway journey to self-discovery that began five years ago and I can predict will never end. To this date I have visited more than 14 cities and countries, all with different flavors and textures to them. I learned that some cultures require a gratitude gift for your hosts, while others have death penalty for foreigners bringing illegal substances. Personally, I have learned to slow down by admiring the moment, instead of rushing through the experience. A simple “hello” to the person sitting next to you in a ride, can become a job offering, or an invitation to celebrate a special festivity. The greatest fears we have as humans is being perceived as awkward or as an intruder. What I have learned is that most people have a story to tell, and are waiting for the right opportunity to share their experience with others. Professionally, travelling has helped me improve how I interact with others in the work environment. Growing up in a Christian/Middle Eastern household, I was built to manage different personalities and beliefs. Nonetheless, traveling in a group you have to quickly establish unofficial roles; the leader, the guide, the muscle strength, the peacekeeper. At an office environment, management establishes positions and personalities establish roles; just as a group journey. It is one thing to accept others beliefs, personalities or work styles; what’s harder is trying to immerse yourself in who they are, where they come from, and learning from what they have to offer. 2
In my travels, I learned schools are not only meant to teach students through books, they are meant to prepare rounded individuals. In a small town in Tabanan, Bali, children enter the classroom without shoes and have a day where each class cleans the campus. Children are thought to value the environment where they learn and by doing so the school is kept clean yearlong. In Paris a young group of art students started free tours around the city. Exchanging their knowledge in multiple languages with strangers has now become a source of income for them, from the tips they make. A Peruvian man who struggled through the AmericanMexican border to sing in a small bar in the nationâ€™s capital has now begun a small movement for his legal right to work. In Colombia, the government has restricted the use of cars depending on their license plate and day of the week, in an attempt to reduce traffic jams. These are just a few observations that stand out when you are traveling. They make you realize your schools, immigration laws or entrepreneurships ideas have room for improvement. Here in Dominican Republic, public schools are falling apart due to lack of funding for their maintenance. Teaching children to do a small part of it, would not only keep them away from the streets but would teach them discipline as well. A tourist destination such as ours, with enthusiastic people, could implement free tours around the city, where not many are offered at reasonable price. In summary, by traveling I have learned to absorb, and apply the lessons I have learned. Contrary to popular belief the goal is not to always live in a foreign land, the goal is to take each lesson made abroad to bring home the fundaments for a better nation and a rounded individual.
With so many friends scattered around the world, the question is where to go next? _________________________________________________________________
Tips from a young Jetsetter: Research the culture, the true culture. (Table manners, salutations, dress code, religion); Learn a few basic words while in the country by engaging with locals; Order new plates, try street food, and find a nice late dinner; Leave your phone at home; Learn to use maps, and ask for directions; Share a long ride cross-country with a stranger; Feel comfortable ordering a table for one, or sitting at a bar by yourself; Observe, take notes, and evaluate what ideas can be brought home; Wake up early and go to bed late. 4