As we welcome a new year, we welcome new beautiful possibilities for exploration, adventure, and self improvement. Here are 5 resolutions for every world traveler as we jump into 2015.
1. Conquer culture shock
When I took my TEFL certification course I learned about the various stages of culture shock. First, you are enthralled by the culture and everything is amazing! Then, you are slightly disoriented, followed by severe frustration and anger before landing at a phase of acceptance. When spending an extended amount of time in a different society it is hard to not get stuck in the stage of frustration and anger.
A few of my most common complaints over the last 6 months have been as follows: Why is there no customer service? Why do all Ecuadorian’s walk so incredibly slow? Why did our bus take twice as long as it was supposed to? Why did our entire bus stop at 11:30 at night for a family to eat dinner? Why is a man swinging a machete in the middle of a busy sidewalk?
I resolve in 2015 to let it go. These are all huge cultural differences, most of which I will never understand. But that’s okay. Constant frustration by a lack of urgency won’t make anyone work with urgency. I need to sit it back, take it all in, and roll with the punches—judge less, absorb more, and embrace the different. If I can do this, then those constant frustrations will morph into the quirks that make every community unique.
2. Stop Saying “No”
Coming from a society that is very oriented around strict plans and timing, it is often times difficult to throw in the towel in favor or spontaneity. When making plans for a trip I prefer to have back-up plans for my back-up plans, complete with the phone numbers of different hostels. But, how much do you really enjoy the scenery, or the feeling of a new place if you are always thinking about your next move?
Although it is sometimes so hard to leave the planner and the guidebooks at home and just jump on a bus, that is what real experiences are made of. Spontaneity is one of the most beautiful pieces of life, and doing the unexpected often comes with high rewards. If we just could stop saying “no” all the time, we would open our eyes to all of the incredible “yes” opportunities that we were previously blind to.
I resolve in 2015 to say more “yeses” than “nos”. I want to take the jump, book the last minute trip, go out for drinks when I shouldn’t—be spontaneous, spend it all, and try something new, and enjoy the things that we can’t and shouldn’t always plan.
3. Perfect the Communication Game
Communication is the most important part of my job as an ESL teacher. It is the glue that connects my students and I, their Spanish thoughts and my English words; in short, it relates their world to mine. With strong communication skills and an open mind I can relate to them, teach them, and learn from them.
Additionally, communication is also one of the most important pieces of travel. It is so much more than where am I going—it is understanding a culture, a history, and a world view. But none of this happens without opening your heart and mind, and removing that filter that comes with a fear of speaking.
In 2015 I resolve to communicate. This means being a tour guide and advocate for Quito—teaching friends and myself about the city that I live in. It means opening myself to new friendships and making new friends. But it also means finding the time to connect with old friends back in the United States and strengthening that anchor to a place called home.
4. Improve Yourself
I often trick myself into believing that I am on an extended vacation when I live in a new place. In that view, all of the rules go out the window. I can eat the chocolate, because, well, I won’t be here for that much longer and I won’t ever get that chocolate again. I can skip my studies because, well, traveling would be much more exciting. Travel shouldn’t be used as a break from reality, as I sometimes consider it. Instead, it should improve our lives and act as an inspiration.
In 2015 I resolve to become a better “me”. I will use my travel experiences as inspiration, not as an excuse. I will read more, write more, pick up a new hobby. I will strengthen my mind as well as my body and return refreshed and ready to take on my own world at home.
5. Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish
In a conversation club that I have led for the last six months, I did a unit about success. A lot of different ideas came up, including different ideas of success, so I had my students read Steve Job’s commencement address to Stanford in 2005. The theme of the message was to do what you love. While this has some practical problems and can be construed as extremely cheesy, I think that it was one of the most important ideas that we talked about.
In 2015 I resolve to do what I love. I will follow my heart before my mind sometimes, which I am not so good at. Jobs ended his address with the phrase “stay hungry, stay foolish“, and I would like to use this a guide as I plunge into 2015 with all that it has to offer.