Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to Spain on a class trip. I was so nervous for the trip – I had only been out of the country once before – but decided that the opportunity was too good to pass up. Forty-two of my classmates, some being my closest friends, a group of teachers to chaperone and I traveled by plane, bus and foot around five cities in Spain. Each city held something unique, whether it was a building in plain site or a story told by the cities' natives.
I was able to see the beautiful city of Madrid and experience an outdoor concert late at night. I was able to drive past a field of thousands of olive trees backlit by a beautiful sunrise. I was able to overlook the city of Toledo with my best friends by my side. I was able to take a late night hike and overlook the city of Granada.
Each day, we walked miles and with each step, something took my breath away. No, it wasn’t just from the long walks. It was from the change in scenery and the experience I was having. I was able to learn about a whole new culture and how another part of the world lives. I learned about the Spanish lifestyle and how it has ideas better than the American lifestyle. Learning about these ideas motivated me to change my own lifestyle.
1. I learned how to slow down and enjoy what's in front of me.
The most beautiful aspect of Spanish culture is the routine. Spaniards follow a routine much different than Americans do. Their day starts much later and ends much later. Typically, you see no one awake walking the streets any earlier than 11 a.m. The expectation is that you sit down and enjoy your morning coffee, not take it to go. Their lifestyle is much more relaxed. Experiencing the quiet streets of Toledo at nine in the morning gave me peace and showed me a relaxing environment. I took this idea back to the states with me, where I focused more on slowing down and enjoying my morning coffee, rather than focusing on the idea of just having it with me.
2. I learned how to be spontaneous successfully.
Another fascinating aspect of Spain is its livelihood. At night, the streets are busy with shops, people and music. On our second to last night in Madrid, my friend and I were heading back to our hotel room, and as we walked, we got a call from one of our roommates. She told us there was a free concert downtown and that we should come meet her, so we threw our bags on the bed and ran back downstairs and out to the streets of Madrid. I loved how spontaneous and exciting it was so much that I also took this idea home with me. I decided that the time means nothing, and if there is something going on, you should take advantage of it. I was only in Madrid once, so I went back out to the concert — you only live this crazy thing called life once, so take all the opportunities you get.
3. I learned how to appreciate another culture.
I was taken out of my normal culture and introduced to a whole new one. I was able to go on tours and learn about buildings, nature, lifestyle and traditions. I learned the values of Spanish culture and it was amazing. The trip opened my eyes to a culture that I only read about in history class and gave it a whole new perspective.
4. I learned the value of friendship.
I had some of my best friends on this trip and that's what made this trip even more memorable. I have great memories and some great friendships because we took the chance to travel together. We have so many pictures and videos to look back on from Spain. They remind me of the great trip I had and how grateful I am to have such adventurous and kind friends.
As beautiful and as interesting as Spain was, there is no way I could tell you every detail about everything I learned and saw. I encourage you to travel to someplace new and unique. Maybe skip that vacation to the beach and go somewhere where you can take a few tours or hike to a view that people claim to be the best view in the world. Go and explore the beautiful places that surround us. I promise that you'll get something good out of it, and it'll be more than a good Instagram picture.
Most people think that a life-changing trip has to be somewhere extreme and cost a lot of money, but it doesn't. Take a trip to somewhere that interests you and make it worthwhile. Learn about the roots and talk to the locals. Throw yourself into their culture and their lifestyle. Maybe you'll find that it's not that different from yours, or maybe it will be and you will change your lifestyle. But no matter what, explore and take that chance.
Lead Image Credit: Toa Heftiba via Unsplash