International travel is really amazing because it really pushes people out of their comfort zone.
You have to understand that if you’re just content being where you are, hanging out with people you already know, and experiencing things that you’ve already done before, you are basically just rehashing some of the stuff that you already know. In other words, you’re not growing.
When you are confronted with other people and the experience is either negative or positive, there is an opportunity for growth there.
Let’s take the case of an Asian person traveling in Italy. There are a lot of people who would say that Italians are rude. There are a lot of people who would say that sometimes the rudeness can translate to racism.
Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. It all depends on how you interpret it.
You have to understand that if you’re from a different part of the world and you go into another part of the world, you really can’t expect people to respect you the way you expect. In other words, it’s their country.
I know this is kind of a controversial position to take, but hey, let’s face it, all of us have biases. All of us have prejudices. And it’s very easy to expect others to treat you with respect but not expect the same kind of automatic respect from yourself.
Do you see how this works? It has to be a two-way street.
And even if you find yourself in a place where it seems like people are just going off at you, or singling you out, or otherwise making you feel uncomfortable, you don’t necessarily have to say that this is a negative experience.
You do have the option of thinking, “Well, this is a challenge. This pushes me to think and respond based on my highest values instead of my emotions.”
Let’s get one thing clear, nobody likes to feel left out. Nobody likes to feel that they’re the other or they’re somehow, some way, unwelcome or undesirable. I think we could all agree on this.
But just because you’re feeling those things, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give in to those and let it poison your experience.
The truth is, when you are in Rome and you are checking all these arches for Roman emperors, or you go to the Sistine Chapel and check out Michelangelo’s amazing work, or go to Florence to see beautiful artwork from the Renaissance, that stuff will always be beautiful.
It doesn’t matter how seemingly ugly the people are around you and how brutal your experience may be, the stuff that you’re looking for is still beautiful.
The idea with international travel is that it pushes you to just get out of your comfort zone on so many levels.
It’s easy for us to think that we should just get automatic respect or even admiration wherever we go. But unfortunately, life isn’t that way.
You know that you will always come across people that will not treat or respect you the way you expect. There are people out there who just have it in for you for whatever reason. There are just some people who have pronounced personality differences with you.
Instead of running away from that situation or trying to imagine something that is very different from that, try something else. Try looking at the world the way it is, instead of somehow, some way, living in this fantasy land based on the way you think the world should be.
The truth is, we don’t get to pick our world. Seriously. We live in a world the way it is. It is what it is.
You can call it ugly, you can call it chaotic, you can call it random, or you can call it as a place that is full of opportunities for people to get pushed into a higher state of consciousness and self-awareness.
Of course, there are limits. If somebody slaps you and says, “Get out of here!” then you have to call the police or protect yourself.
But if somebody just says something that may seem insensitive or rough, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this experience should poison your trip. In fact, it should be a call to action for you to step up and become a better person.
Remember, you’re not doing this for the other person. You’re not doing this to put on a show. You’re not doing this because you’ve got something to prove. Instead, you’re doing this for yourself.
You become a better person based on the challenges you’ve overcome, not based on how smooth things are. Because let’s face it, if everybody had a smooth ride, then it only takes a fairly minor challenge for people to start to fall apart.
It’s like not going to the gym, and then all of a sudden being asked to carry a 100-pound load. It’s going to be a challenge for you because you haven’t really prepared for it. It’s not part of your daily activities. Lifting something that heavy probably didn’t even enter your mind.
Now, you can look at this as some sort of unfair punishment, you can look at this as a curse or a stumbling block, or you can look at it as a reminder that maybe you should broaden your horizons.
As painful and as irritating as it may be now, it’s actually preparing you to be a better person. Because when you go through that experience, you become stronger. Your muscles get bigger.
Please understand that muscles don’t just take physical form. There are also spiritual, emotional and psychological muscles.
So, do yourself a big favor. The next time you find yourself in an international location surrounded by people you haven’t seen before, look at it as an opportunity. Look at it as a way to learn more about other people.
If you don’t get treated the way you normally get treated, look at it as part of your learning process. Don’t let your emotions get in the way.
Don’t let your anger, resentment or shock get the better of you. You are better than that. You are definitely bigger than that. So, look at this as the real blessing of international travel.
This piece of advice applies across the board. It’s not just about traveling from Point A to Point B. It involves all sorts of social interactions.