Globetrotters Makers

My Biggest Regret After Living Abroad

Before I left for Spain, my mom gave me valuable advice which I promptly ignored.

Before I left the USA to live in Spain, my mom implored me to keep a journal. I brushed off her request, but still brought a journal along with me, solely to placate her. The journal quickly became an everyday scratchpad, which I inevitably lost somewhere in deep space.

“I’m not a tourist!” I said, camera in hand.

During my Spain trip I was addicted to taking photos. I thought every moment needed to be captured. My pictures ranged from architectural delights to mundane selfies with cats (for some reason Europe has lots of cats). I figured I would remember my experiences through my photo collection. I took countless photos and annoyed everyone around me. I even meticulously captioned my photos on social media as a form of lazy journaling. Photos were my excuse to ignore my mom’s advice and neglect journaling.

Bottom line: I convinced myself that photos alone would help me remember my cherished memories abroad. And I annoyed my friends. A lot.

Strong evidence that constantly taking pictures will irritate your friends.

Years later, the whole Spain experience is a blur. Sure, I remember the big picture: my personal growth. Living in Spain clarified my values and changed how I live my life today. However, I barely remember the intricate details, which ended up being the most precious ones. Now that I’m home and not traveling, all that I want to do is reminisce. Without a travel journal, I can barely recall details from living abroad. I attribute this to information overload from my changed environment.

My attachment to the camera didn’t help- it kept me out of the present moment. By focusing on documenting rather than experiencing, I reduced the quality of my time abroad. Luckily, my friends were much smarter than me and journaled throughout the trip. Two friends were generous enough to reach out to me with memories that we shared together while abroad.

My friend Sarah recalled a funny story that I completely forgot about:

“It would seem like no one lived in this city at all. With no cars or humans in sight, we all came to the sad realization that we were indeed stranded in unknown France. Like a sad caravan, we began to walk home.”

-Sarah Shoen

And Jacob took me back to one of my happiest moments in Paris:

“Then, we found Moulin Rouge and had a drink at a bar across the street. We spent an hour and a half playing Marry/Kill and sipping a bathtub-sized beer that cost 17 euros. We went to the Eiffel Tower for dessert.”

-Jacob Pinter

When Jacob and Sarah shared their memories with me, it was very meaningful. Their stories took me back in time and reminded me of something special that I had forgotten. I felt sad that I didn’t have a story on hand in return. I wish that I had taken the extra 5 minutes each day to reflect on my experiences in my own words while I was abroad.

We all have to return home eventually. When we do return to real life, let’s bring back a journal filled with our travel memories. Then, when our friends share beautiful memories, we’ll have stories to give back in return.

Do you have any stellar journal entries from your trips? Leave a reply below!

2 comments on “My Biggest Regret After Living Abroad

  1. Pingback: Global Competence via Angela Duckworth’s Grit – Lexi Robertson

  2. Pingback: Visiting Nevada desert hot springs – Caminante

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