Alana and I grew up insperable and we still are...inserperable. I talk to her multiple times a day and we definitely have some shared quirks (we are cousins). On MMIH I often talk about married life & life in DC. But Alana is doing her 20's differently. While I have become a DCER, she is a citizen of the world. I am so proud of her!
And here are her reasons for becoming an expert wanderer.
1. Broaden my worldview.
When we travel and immerse ourselves in unfamiliar places we come into contact with people that teach us something new about life based on their personal experiences. This exchange of life experiences makes us more open as humans and reminds us to always be humble and open. These people that we meet were meant to come into contact with us and teach us great lessons. Learning from complete strangers gets us out of "our way" of living and thinking and shapes us to think much more broadly about how the world works instead of "narrow minded thinking". While taking in a gorgeous sunset along the rice terrace in Bali I met a a lovely french woman who shared the sunset with me and told me how she deeply believes that miracles are going to happen in my life, I just need to be patient. Strangely enough I had been missing my precious dog along my walk before meeting this stranger. The french woman had the same name as my dog! I don't think that was coincidence, I was truly meant to meet her.
Couchsurfing has been so good to me. I surfed with a local host in Macau and Taiwan and undeniably had a life changing experience. God willing I had hosts that sincerely wanted to share with me their "hometowns" by taking me out to local eateries that a traveler would never discover on their own. These hosts had my best intentions at heart by giving me the best travel tips of places to soak in at my own pace. In Macau, my host (Intan) took me to an outstanding Portuguese restaurant where we had the best Portuguese red wine, fish, and bread then she gave me a list of the places to soak in in "old town" Macau. While spending almost two months "looking around" Taiwan (for a third time) I had hosts meet in Taipei to check out local art galleries then exchange travel experiences over a cup of tea, eating the local delicacies at night markets, and hiking Yangminshan National Park near Taipei. My most memorable host from Nantao, Taiwan hosted me for two nights and introduced me to Chinese hot pot along with his outgoing friends then drove me around to experience the real "black tea" of Taiwan and then made sure I didnt leave his town without trying the famous pineapple cakes. I would lost to host international couchsurfers one day in the future and return the favor!
3. To develop internal peace
Nature is something that I cannot get enough of. I cannot think clearly and feel at peace when I am constantly sightseeing in busy cities. When I travel to different countries one of the first things I google is "Best parks in ______). When I immerse myself in places where nature is abounding I feel so calm and at peace. Last summer I visitied the Kansai region of Japan and rented a bike for two days. I biked to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens and onward to the famous bamboo forest while staying in Kyoto. It was so lovely. When I find myself in places where nature is all around me my heart fills up with so much peace and love for the world around me. For some reason I always meet a really interesting person who teaches me something about the best way to live life when I am taking in a park, botanical garden, or national park.
4. Be more independent
I know that I already am pretty independent, but it's really important to be able to figure out how to access public transportation, read a map, build interpersonal skills, and network with people while traveling. Especially while traveling alone it is extremely important to have a sense of direction and rough plan as to accomodation, transport, and where you are going to eat while "exploring abroad". Every time we travel we continue to build or skills and sense of direction. It's so important to know how to communicate and get your point across while traveling abroad! Each time we travel we learn lessons as to what we can differently next time. I love to travel (mostly solo) because I am constantly "on my toes" trying to figure out where I will find my next meal (vegetarian) and how the bus/train routes works. An important lesson I learned while traveling around Taiwan and Japan was to find the translation from English to Mandarian/Japanese "I am a vegetarian. Can you prepare a meal for me without meat please? Thankyou" and take a screen shot of the direction translation by showing this to shop owners while I was searching for my next meal. I'm telling you, it came in handy big time and saved me from feeling stressed.
5. Discover new foods!
I don't know about you, but I happen to love food. I love to try new cuisines so much that I can't even begin to name off my favorites because there are just too many! Dim sum from Hong Kong? Hawker stalls fillied with Indian, Malay, and Chinese fare in China Town,Singapore? Spicy tteokbokki in Korea? Udon noodles from Japan? I just cant name off a favorite but I listed a few that came to mind first. I love the experience of trying a combination of flavors that I never had before. I loved walking through the hawker stalls in Singapore taking in the gorgeous sights and aromas of spices, fresh ingredients, and ever abounding colors. I give Anthony Bourdain credit for helping me fill my desires of exploring foods around the world and savoring every bite.