This story isn’t one of those “I fell in love while traveling abroad” kind of stories. It’s more about how traveling changed me to meet the person I can call my better half and soulmate. It’s a story about “fate” and trying new things to grow as a person and understanding what you like and where you want to be, literally and as a person. I fell in love with a man from Korea and moved across the world for him – all of which would have been impossible if I hadn’t been a traveler when we met.
And here’s how it all fell into place and I found my soulmate by traveling the world:
Growing up in Europe
I often wonder how much life would have been different if I grew up in a different country. Even though I was born in Germany, I sometimes asked myself if I would have become the same person if I grew up in the country my father is from: America. I truly believe that the place you call home affects whether you become a “traveler” or not.
Having grown up in Europe, it was always easy for me to find opportunities to cross borders and see new places. When I was little, we took trips down to Italy during summer and I went on French exchange programs in France and Belgium with school. It was easy to get around and see stuff. Now, I’m not saying that people from America don’t travel but it is harder for them to travel due to the country’s size and being bordered by only 2 neighboring countries opposed to 9 neighbor states for Germany. Therefore, I truly believe that growing up in Germany gave me more chances on traveling and becoming a traveler.
When I was in high school, I made if my goal to travel somewhere each time I had a longer holiday break. I went to London with my mom once and even got mistaken for a local. In Italy, I had pizza with a lovely senior Neapolitan couple at their favorite pizzeria. In France, I stayed with a lovely family in the Normandy for a language exchange.
Being able to travel easily has also increased my interest in learning new languages. As I already mentioned, I studied French early on and was able to go on exchange programs in France and Belgium with my school. Later on, I also studied Spanish and went to Madrid on a trip to use those language skills. Seeking a new challenge, I decided to study Mandarin in university which led to a university trip to Beijing. You could say I had already been hooked on traveling but learning Mandarin actually took it all to a new level.
Being able to speak the language of the country you travel in also gives you a completely different experience. I got to talk to locals, read menus, and find hidden gems. I got to experience things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to try out. Before I traveled, I was a picky eater and wasn’t completely comfortable trying new things. Traveling changed that.
I was fascinated by the experience of traveling somewhere so far away, where people looked different and acted so differently than they did back home so that I decided to move to China. I learned that traveling is so much more than just going places and seeing things. It’s about understanding where you are and who you interact with. I learned how to dress modestly while visiting temples in Thailand when I was on vacation there. I wasn’t offended when people in China asked me how much money I made.
The hardest part when being abroad, traveling or living, is to adjust to the local culture. Since I studied Mandarin in university, I was aware of all the possible culture traps and obstacles that might come my way. I learned to overcome them and grow as a person. I learned that my way isn’t necessarily the best one and accepted others’ suggestions. Making local friends was key to understanding the culture and learning about the country and its people.
I highly doubt that without these three factors I would have met Jeongsu let alone started dating someone from a different country and culture. I’m sure that if I hadn’t been a traveler when Jeongsu and I met, we never would have develop a relationship – maybe to even a friendship. But because of my exposure to different cultures and languages and because I learned to be open-minded after my travels over the years, this love was able to grow and blossom.
Think about the people who have met while traveling or simply because how traveling made you become the person you are today. Every action can have an affect on your future and the people you meet. Don’t you agree?
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