This piece has been written for Enchanted Serendipity’s Expat Series by Nikoleta from Bonfire Dream Blog.
Expat life has changed me.
I have gained so much confidence and stopped fearing the future.
I’ve learnt to be patient. I became stronger, more open-minded. I no more look at people who come from different cultures and families with confusion, thinking about why they are jumping naked in the snow in Finland or why they do not eat certain types of meat in India.
I’ve learnt to be more understanding and accepting. What is even more; learning history of all places I’ve visited, I learned the best way to interact with people that have different surroundings. All of this is important. All of this is life-changing. That’s why I am an expat.
When Patience Is The Key
One thing that I have always struggled with is being patient.
I want to do this or that and I want to do it now. I am almost constantly up to something. Normally I have so much work to do in a short time that I became enormously efficient and believe it or not, I learned how to attend multiple meetings at once! When should have I learnt to be patient then? Exactly: while traveling.
The “problem” with travelling is that I have to sit in that car or plane no matter what if I want to get to my destination. And although I normally use the time efficiently, there are some things which I simply enough cannot do.
Or waiting in lines. I get frustrated if I have to wait 5 minutes, not even mentioning the hour and a half of waiting in front of the Louvre or to get up the Eiffel Tower. Lines are so annoying, but incredibly useful for practicing patience. I did not used to be capable of just lying on the sun and tanning, but last summer I actually managed to stay doing nothing for about two hours. I was so impressed with myself that I had to celebrate it with some swimming and volleyball!
It seems like a small thing, but patience is the key to so many problems and through traveling, one does a great job practicing it!
The Value Of Travel
Although I personally have never traveled solo, I did take many smaller trips to city while visiting someone or in my own city. And even this gave me strength.
For me its almost like a meditation – getting to know myself.
When I am with others, being the chatty socializer I am, I don’t think about whether I like this or the other place, what I want to do or what is not exactly my cup of tea. I just go with the flow.
But being alone, I get to know myself better, I accept all of the thoughts occupying my mind, bad or good and reflect why I feel that way. It feels wonderful!
When I was around 13, I became a good friend with a Finnish girl back in Vienna. We used to talk a lot about our cultures and teach each other our languages – Moi!! (Hello!!) She would explain me that it’s strange for her to do “small talk” because Finnish people simply enough don’t do it. Every word they say is used with a purpose.
Three years later, when I firstly visited Helsinki, I understood why that could be the case. There are so many beautiful forests, the sea, small islands – so people often live a very separated life. I feel like Finnish people who stay in the country are almost necessarily introverts who are polite; but don’t enjoy too much communication. This can be clearly shown with one of their jokes:
“An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes.”
I learnt about the Sauna and other traditions. But I did not understand the culture fully until I visited it.
Because some things, she, as a local, would not notice. For example (for me), the strange obsession with black colours and emo style. Or how she failed to mention the rather unusual drinking habits Finnish people have. I came across three drunk men when I was looking for help in a seemingly abandoned place outside Helsinki one day and believe me, it was not a nice experience. So, watch out!!
Above all, travel makes me happy.
So why would I even think of giving it up??
No, no, I am going to travel for the rest of my life even for the price of a comfortable and settled life. It’s so damn worth it!!
Nikoleta is a young and eager traveler who left her homeland at the age of 12 and hasn’t returned since. She takes frequent trips around Europe and comes back with amazing stories that you can read at her blog The Bonfire Dream. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
If you enjoyed this, check out Lauren’s expat story, about USA, Canada and Australia; it is wonderful!