On a whim last week, I picked up a new novel at the library without really knowing anything about it.
I do it that way often rather than seeking out bestsellers or even classics-- I love feeling surprised by a new discovery and the randomness of it. Of course, the title had the word travel in it, which is always alluring to me. On top of that the author, Sue Monk Kidd, is the creator of "The Secret Life of Bees", which I fell hard for.
In any case, I inhaled this book in about two days... it was about travel to Greece, Turkey, and France, but also about travel with a loved one, and also the epiphanies we have while we're in a foreign environment.
The book got me thinking about my own life and travel adventures, and how it's certainly true that I've learned things about myself, made life-changing decisions, and been inspired by things I've seen and experienced away from home.
A few major events come to mind-- as a middle school student in Mexico, I first grappled with poverty and what it means to live in a developing country. From that point, I learned to appreciate every material comfort I had, and at the same time to disassociate things with fulfillment.
Later, as a Peace Corps in Namibia, I learned to intuit whether situations were safe or dangerous, and more importantly, when I had no control over outcomes, to simply "trust" other people.
I would say now in Japan as a married person without a career (a scary prospect to me lately), I'm looking for new and fresh ways to carve a niche for myself and feeling excited about that. More about this big change to come...
Finally, I've had the other kinds of epiphanies abroad too- I decided to end a relationship that wasn't right for me, I learned that I really can drive a stick shift up an icy mountain in Poland, and now I know how to barter over the price of a scarf with the best of them.
So, what about you out there? What have you learned about yourself away from home? What big decisions have you made? How has travel shaped or changed you?