Traveling holds such a special place in my heart. Immersing oneself in another culture teaches you lessons that cannot be taught in a classroom. Travel teaches you how to live simply, breathe deeply, and love completely. It teaches you acceptance, toleration, and passion. I truly believe that there is nothing more valuable than traveling to a place that pushes you out of your comfort zone, and forces you to really consider what your priorities and values are in life.
This past spring break, I embarked on the trip of a lifetime. Ten days in various parts of a country I had never read or heard about up until the trip location was announced last spring. I did as much research as I could, reading about the history, economy, government, different tribes, and languages. When I returned home, I realized there is nothing more valuable than what I learned from the people I met there. In the village of Sop Won, I accepted everything that was thrown my way, regardless of how I felt. In a home with four other Shaker students, and a host family that knew only how to speak Lao, I was put into a very tough situation. I was hesitant and scared about how I would be able to navigate such a language barrier. Lao has zero similarities to English. No cognates, no similar sounding words, nothing. Little did I know, it did not matter. My group’s relationship with our host family worked out just fine with zero communication, verbally. We learned to communicate more expressively or show our words through motions, and that was reciprocated by our host family. You can learn a lot from others, whether or not you speak the same language.
I am forever grateful for the lessons that travel has taught me thus far as they have taught me to be more reflective, more thoughtful, and more appreciative of all things in life.