This is my first post in response to your submissions on “Have a culture shock question?” Hope you like it!

One of the things you wanted to know is which place changed me the most and how. I thought about it and realized I needed to make a distinction between the trip and the move that changed me the most. So here’s part 1: the trip.

When I was 24 years old, I went to Peru. I took my backpack, booked two nights at a hostel in Lima and that was the extent of my planning. I ended up staying four months. How did it change me?

  • It made me become very grateful for things like clean or hot water. It helped me understand the value of clean water and uncontaminated food and the consequences of not having it. Having access to clean water and healthy food shouldn’t be taken for granted.
  • It reinforced my TCK-feeling of in-betweenness because once again, I felt immediately at home and at the same time I was clearly an outsider. I connected to the warmth, the chaos, the language and at the same time I felt alienated by that same chaos. I think we can feel both drawn to and alienated by the same thing. Processing those conflicting feelings is an interesting journey.

    what trip changed you the most

    My home for 7 days

  • It taught me that happiness is about moments and connection and that those moments and connections stay with you. Moments of kindness, peacefulness and shared human warmth are treasures no one will ever be able to take away from you. I sometimes use them as a tool: I can trigger those feelings at any time by picturing those moments. So if I’m having a bad day for some reason, I just pick a moment and visualize it and the warmth and peacefulness come rushing right back. Works like a charm!
  • As a TCK, I used to take connecting across cultures for granted. This trip helped me realize that connecting across cultures (having chemistry andengaging in conversations about social, economic, human and other issues) can make us kinder, more compassionate, grateful and understanding. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Instead, we should be aware of its value and of how the effects of connecting across cultures can positively impact the lives of everyone involved. It has a ripple effect.

    what trip changed you the most

    Sunset on Lake Titicaca

  • It made me understand that traveling can help us find stillness. This newfound stillness stays with us as well. I guess motion and stillness only exist because of the other. Discovering where they intersect was a life-changing experience.
  • It showed me how limited and skewed media coverage can be. Stereotypes and warnings often dominate. The emphasis is on our differences, not what we have in common. It sometimes feels like people criticize or point out what they see as flaws in others only to reassure themselves. People are just people…we try to live our lives and do the best with what we’re given. There are kind people and there are jerks, regardless of where you are. The jerks I met while traveling were mostly other travelers being rude, disinterested and inconsiderate of local culture.

    what trip changed you the most

    Women selling food and drinks to bus passengers

  • It taught me that despair is a powerful motivator. It makes people do things they might not otherwise resort to. Being kind (even when it’s difficult!) is everything.
  • It showed me the importance of responsible travel. (More on that in an upcoming post!)

How about you? What trip changed you the most?