Have you ever traveled outside of your home country? Do you want to once COVID cases start to fall? If your answers are “No” and then “Yes” in that order, how would you decide where to go for your first destination? Let me tell you about my first experience and why I think it was great.
The first country I visited outside the US was Spain (Barcelona to be exact) at 20 years old. I still remember the first steps I took out of the terminal, and to be honest I really didn’t know much of what to expect outside of…Spanish. I loved every second of it, though. The people, the food, the beaches, my friends–the whole experience almost didn’t seem real to me at the time.
But why was it a good FIRST experience for me? I think the answer has to do with cultural differences.
In a previous article, I talked about how traveling helped me develop tools with which to process the experience of encountering cultural differences. Those tools weren’t quite so developed the first time I went to a country with a dominant culture other than US American. Were those tools and skills lacking entirely? No, but they weren’t where they are, let’s say, now. Life in Spain–socially and culturally–is definitely different than what I was used to in the US, but not so different as to shock or overwhelm me. I was challenged, but I learned. I was intimidated, but I explored. It stretched me a little and forced me to flex new muscles, but I didn’t tear anything, so to speak.
I’m really grateful for that experience. Being in a place where the food, language, history, customs, and etc. were noticeably different was both humbling and exciting. It sort of kickstarted a new chapter in my cultural competence journey. I’m grateful for that experience and privileged to have had it.
Anyway, be safe and enjoy. There’s a lot of beauty out there!