As a human being, I have my fair share of flaws.
My thoughts are a whirring stationary bicycle, my moods coordinate directly with my caffeine intake, and Monica Gellar has nothing on my control issues.
If you ask my family about my drawbacks, you’ll end up down a rabbit hole that includes “inappropriate topic choices at dinner” and “frustrating Christmas present opener”, among other delights.
Despite these annoyances I inflict upon those around me, I’m quite proud of my dedication to self-improvement in many aspects of my life and self––which happens to be one of the big reasons why I travel. I feel that when I am on the road or in a new place, I change. I learn. I grow.
I inch closer to becoming the next, better version of myself that I aim to be. Gina 2.whatever.
Blog posts on blog posts could be written about all the skills I’ve gained and lessons I’ve learned while traveling.
But today I’ll focus on 3 of the top life skills that I’ve picked up along with my passport stamps.
I am not a patient individual. When people in front of me in a line take have a complicated order or transaction, I audibly sigh, as if they have chosen to wilfully inflict psychological pain upon me.
Inside my head, I create imaginary scenarios where said person has to unexpectedly leave the line––from “Oh snap, I left the oven on!” to the Rapture taking everyone in the place except myself and the bank teller.
So, when I arrived in Latin America, a place that takes scheduled times as mere suggestions and everyone typically arrives at least 30 minutes to an hour late for any social gathering, I had to learn how not to plot imaginary hardships upon those who were wasting my time.
In this same vein, I also had to learn to adapt to changing plans.
Here in Chile, if any plan is made more than one minute in advance, it is subject to change. Trying to ask a Chilean what they are doing tomorrow is akin to asking a small child what their bedtime should be. They really don’t know and wish you wouldn’t make them so uncomfortable.
In addition to gringos caring far too much about punctuality, we also fly the flag high for one other overrated value: independence. Doing everything alone means being heroic, admirable, and a leader.
Let’s face it –– we gringos f*cking love doing things alone. And to be honest, so do I. If the above examples were any indication, my dream world would include only self-checkouts.
So, I’ve always held fast my independence. I can do pretty much anything I need to do on my own (even if that sometimes includes hiring someone to do it on my behalf). I just assumed everyone else would be proud of me for that quality, too.
But, the more Chileans I met, the more I realized that they view this staunch independence as being frío, or kind of cold. They’re not entirely sure why you wouldn’t call your friend’s cousin's mechanic for help with your bike problem, as he is basically family.
For them, it is perfectly normal to include family in important, intimate life decisions, that those of us cold folks would probably keep to ourselves and shoulder on with alone. Here, it is ok, and even encouraged, to reach out to one another in times of need.
You know, now I think it’s kind of beautiful and something I would like to learn how to do more of sometimes. That is, until 10 people all weigh in on the choice of restaurant for the evening and I wonder if martial law is so bad after all.
Finally, the skill I have honed most of all: failing forward.
I can truly think of no experience more suited for this attitude than constant travel and/or life abroad. Every day, you have the opportunity to completely and utterly f*ck up.
Recovering perfectionist turned fervent learner, failing daily is a tough adjustment for me. I’m used to being in control, putting things in order, and knowing the right answer.
Then, I plopped myself into a country whose language I struggled to comprehend (high school Spanish ≠ Chilean Spanish), and set out to live a daily life there solo.
Every day here, I have the opportunity to fail. For that, I have learned, I am so lucky. Yes, that’s right. Lucky.
Because, as growth mindset pioneer Carol Dweck attests, failure means that you’re learning.
Screw perfection… I want a life of growth. Travel gives me that, even when it’s embarrassing.
As I continue down this twisty road of travel adventures, I see myself evolving, inside and out. With each new place and experience, I uncover and examine aspects of myself I never knew about, want to change, or hope to celebrate.
When I look at a map, I can’t help but think about all the places I haven’t been yet, and all the things I’ll learn about myself when I get there.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.