The last four months I spent my time traveling all parts of the world with Semester at Sea from the Fjords of Norway, the schools in Ghana, and the buddhist temples of Myanmar. For starters I learned that we can learn something from every country or person on the earth especially if they do not meet our standards as “elite”. For the thirteen amazing countries I went to these are my favorite lessons they taught me.
- Norway – The world is beautiful and full of infinite experiences. Norway was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is definitely underrated and if your looking for a cheap flight Norwegian airlines are there for $100 and $204 roundtrip.
- Sweden – Make generalizations, not stereotypes. While I was here I caught myself and my parents saying oh Swedish people are mean and as soon as we met our airbnb host we concluded Swedish people are hospitable. These statements are not true because large groups of people can not all be a certain way. It is much more accurate to make generalizations like some swedish people like their place more.
- Denmark – The price of food, things, and transport varies a lot between different countries. An excuse people have a lot of the time is they do not travel because of expenses. The U.S. is decently expensive for traveling, but planes in Europe and many other countries are not as expensive. Denmark was a place I would say does cost a lot of money for souvenirs and food. A lot of places like Myanmar or Vietnam for example you can get away with a dollar dinner, three dollar massage, and a tailored suit for $50 if you really wanted to feel like a baller.
- Germany – There are a lot of easy ways to lower our carbon footprint. I was impressed and inspired by their eco-friendly efforts. The hotel I stayed in the lights in hallways were motion censored so they were only on when people walked through. The escalators turned on when you stepped on it, and a lot of cars were hybrid cars. They created a lot less waste, and it would be very easy to adopt a lot of their ways.
- Spain – Traveling > Tourism. Tourism can be annoying and hard on locals because it creates an image of their culture that tourist are not always respectful to. It also can make living for expensive for locals. Look for ways to not feed into tourism because most of the time you do not learn about what the country is truly like and gain a new perspective from the locals. Traveling is more of putting yourself in a locals shoes which is when you really learn something new that your own culture might neglect. This can be achieved by interacting with locals in local venues like bars and parks or doing a homestay. If you left Spain only seeing it for cheap Sangria and large beaches you did it wrong there is so much more to their way of life.
- Ghana- Some did not worry about the things that cause me stress. Ghana showed me that grades, money, and achievement is not what life is all about. I could stress about these daily but it does no one any good especially myself if I do. Because they did not stress about these things, they were living better than me. – The United States is individualist to a fault sometime. It causes lack of community. Ghanaians for the most part had very high knit communities and support systems. They worked for the group instead of themselves. Since the U.S. is not like this as much suicide rates are much higher.
- South Africa – Adventure is out there. Seize the day. South Africa was full of amazing wildlife you could interact with. Whether is was swimming with seals or riding ostriches there was always something amazing. One of my favorite days of the entire trip was in South Africa when I signed up for a program where within 24 hours drove to Mossel bay, skydived, went on a safari, bungee jumped, and shark cage dived. Day seized.
- India- Most people in the world live in shacks it is not bad by any means it just shows us what normal is. Throughout many countries I visited I saw many shacks. Most of these shacks were hand made and housed a full family. Some people in the US get caught up in wanting a large house, but these people showed me how happiness has nothing to do with luxury, and a shack is all you really need.
- Myanmar – Just because the government is corrupt doesn’t mean the people are. Before I went to Myanmar I was worried for my safety because of the mass genocide that was occurring in the north. At first I closed myself off until I realized I was meeting some of the most kind people I have ever met. It turned out of all the countries I went to I felt safest there and they had the lowest crime rates. – Prioritizing religion. I will always be inspired by the commitment people had to their religion here. Buddhism is very prevalent in their lives. Next to villages of shacks you could find a large golden pagoda in the center because they gave what they had to their religion.
- Vietnam – Sit down with a stranger. One of my favorite nights was one when while waiting for my friends to come up the stairs to a bar I sat next to a stranger. I began talking to him and learning about his time Vietnam. He ended up showing us all the good spots in Ho Chi Minh City and telling us how to best use our time in Vietnam.
- China – Putting Chinese letters next to anything makes every situation more confusing. I was surprised how international the English language was, but once we got to China it seemed the language barrier was a little deeper, and even when Chinese would be next to something familiar I found it hard do anything.
- Japan – There are so many ways to have fun and there are a lot of new inventions that the US has not picked up on. Whether its maid restaurants, Mario kart racing, hedgehog cafes, etc. Japan had it all and it was so different and fun.
- Hawaii, U.S.A. – Have respect for the earth and each other. Before Hawaii became the US Hawaii had a very respectful and peaceful culture. They believe that since the earth takes care of us we should take care of the earth. Aloha is more than just hello: it is the joyful sharing of energy and can tell us a lot more about their culture.
I hope you were able to learn from this post, but I know it does not do enough justice for how absolutely amazing these countries are and the thousands of lessons we can learn from them.