When I last traveled abroad, I was 16 and we took class trip to Spain. It was the first time that I was traveling outside the country (other than Canada) and probably the first time I was going to be on my own and away from home for more than a weekend stay at a friend’s. The trip was for 10 days during winter break and I was traveling with a few classmates and my teacher from my Spanish class. The plan was to spend the weekends in Madrid and the week in between with a family in a suburban city; for me that city was Guadarrama, a quaint little pueblo, 45 minutes northwest of Madrid. We were expected to do as the Spaniards do; go to school, eat, drink, and party! Though the “legal” drinking age was 18, age wasn’t a question that bartenders cared to ask. This was my first introduction to a culture that was more focused on enjoying the finer things in life and less about material or status symbols like what car they drive or arguing with a teacher over a grade on an exam (remember, I was 16 at the time; this was a big deal to me!). Life there was care free!
I found the culture to be rich with love, passion, and happiness. Spending time with friends and family was the epicenter of their society, not social status and material possessions. People you just met were warm and friendly, not cold and distant. Where, in the States, saying, “Hi,” in an elevator would seem forced and awkward; here, if you didn’t say, “Hola, como esta!?” with excitement you would feel out of place. I found people to be warm and accepting.
Travelling is much more than seeing interesting sights and trying new food. Travelling to a new place imposes new perspective on a subconscious level. You begin to see things differently; you think differently and feel differently. By changing your environment, you open yourself up to a new way of being; you alter your paradigm. If you remain in the comforts of the resort campus or the stick to the standard touristy locales, you deprive of yourself of truly embracing the culture. Travelling should be more than taking pictures of landmarks and reading plaques about old churches. You must meet the people and immerse yourself in the culture, “… do as the Romans do.” This is what my trip to Argentina is all about; breaking free of comfort zones, creating new memories, and embracing a new culture.