“Once you've tasted flight, you will forever walk with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return.” –Leonardo Da Vinci
What is it about living abroad that makes it so hard to leave behind? Perhaps it's all the new sights and sounds,or the adventure of exploring cities and towns, old and new. Maybe it's learning new languages and the everyday challenges and triumphs. I was recently talking to one of my professors about it, and she put it perfectly, in that living abroad is a kind of "hyper-living" in which you never waste a chance and live each day to its fullest.
As of today, it’s been about nine months since I've had the chance to travel anywhere…and I’m getting restless. I've been trying to remind myself about things like responsibility, and budgeting and that I've already been fortunate enough to study abroad not once, but twice. Despite my best efforts, however, I'm not always convinced. There are just some days when I would love to get online, buy a plane ticket, and go anywhere!
But since I can’t do that, I came up with eight ways to satisfy the travel craving without dropping everything.
- Get involved with international organizations on campus! I know, it sounds like I’m just using this as an opportunity to promote…but seriously! There are plenty of cool options right here in Platteville and chances are you’ll either meet students that are studying abroad here from another country or Platteville students that have also studied abroad. To start with, check out Café International or Global Lunch Hour.
- Reach out to International students on campus. Take a moment to say “hi” if you have an international student in one of your classes. Ask them a few questions about their home country, about how their semester or year abroad is going or about their field of study. And, did you know that there’s a program called Global Amigos at Platteville in which you can apply to be a mentor for an international student? Check it out here.
- Keep in touch with people you met abroad. A disclaimer: I have lots of good tips on this, but only because I've learned from experience what not to do. Do let them know you've got home safely and start scheduling Skype sessions right away. Don’t let too much time go by without checking in! Do send pictures and tell stories about being back home again. Don’t pass up the chance to visit them!
- Get a pen pal! After I got home from Germany last September, I was going through travel withdrawal big time. So one thing I did was get two pen pals, one from Poland and the other from Turkey. And, while I unfortunately haven’t had the opportunity to write a letter in a long time, it was fantastic to learn about these new people and the wider world again! For the record, I used Couchsurfing.org to find pen pals. If you go this route however, please, please remember to use your best internet common sense. :)
- Read travel blogs. Do some Google research and you’ll come up with more blogs than you could read in a year. But there are some really great ones out there and you’ll probably even pick up some tips for your next trip! (I recently stumbled on Matador Network, which describes itself as a "fully interactive online travel magazine" rather than a blog, and I would highly recommend checking it out! I've also been enjoying a blog called Destination Unknown, which has a fantastic post answering the question "Why do we travel?")
- Experience your home as a tourist would. I bet you've lived several years or maybe even your whole life in an area, but haven’t checked out some of those nearby tourist attractions. Well, why not? Have fun and you might even learn something new! (Have you been to the big M in Platteville? What about the local museums? Did you know that about twenty minutes from Platteville is Mineral Point and the main street is full of art galleries and studios? How about a mini road trip down to Dubuque?)
- Actively continue to learn about the world! Find out what music or films are playing around the world right now. Watch T.V. or listen to the radio from other countries by streaming it online. Read the news from international sites, and in a foreign language if you've studied one!
- Start planning your next trip! :P Think about ways you might be able to accomplish your upcoming goals and incorporate travel! Do you have relatives to visit? Could you take a trip with your family this year instead of buying presents for each other for the holidays? Maybe there is an internship or work opportunity for you abroad!