It’s been more than two months now since I arrived in Europe for my semester abroad, and boy, is it different from what I expected.
Even before I left, I considered myself reasonably travel-savvy, which in hindsight was foolishly complacent. Admittedly, I did a lot of traveling around the United States, especially when I was younger, but most of the big trips I have taken were with my family. To say the least, I had not done much traveling where I was in the “driver’s seat.”
What’s more, I always carried an image in my mind of just what Europe would be like. I always thought it would be pretty generic. I wasn’t simplifying the culture, or the people, or the sights I would see. I was making assumptions of what my lifestyle would be while there.
In other words, I came to Europe with a clear image in my mind of what I wanted to get from Europe. And one of the most important things I’ve had to learn is the willingness to compromise.
I’ve traveled to many different places now with many different people — not surprisingly, everyone else is just as excited as I am to see the bountiful sights that Europe offers — and they all want something different from their experience.
Some want to eat. Some want to shop. Some dig the architecture, and some go for the club scene and nightlife.
I am personally the type to just wander through a town for hours on end, even if it means missing all the tourist attractions.
Everyone has different passions and boundaries, and travel in particular brings personality to the forefront. This is inevitable and understandable.
Sometimes, though, the contrast between different personalities is stark and can lead to agitation or conflict. If you are traveling any moderate distance for an extended time, you will be spending a lot of time with your travel partners, and if you plan in advance you’ll be taking all the same flights, trains, and boats.
Understanding and peace do not always come naturally, and personalities will blend differently for better or worse. It takes flexibility, and the willingness to accept people for who they are. Without it, entire trips can be ruined by even a small disagreement.
Even beyond the personality of your travel partners, the ability to compromise your own perfect idea of a day in Europe is crucial. There is a certain necessary medium to uphold, a push and pull of interests that gives everyone what they want.
Suppose, for instance, you have a single day to see an entire city. You really want to visit a famous museum on one side of town, and your friend absolutely must go shopping on the opposite side.
The only proper ways to resolve this problem is to either split up (which a lot of people refuse to do) or compromise.
It happens very commonly, if not in such black and white terms. You must be open with your own wants and needs, while indulging in those of others.
Above all, you must strive for understanding and peace with your travel companions.
Maintaining a fair balance keeps everyone happy and lets you get the most out of your travel.
What’s the worst that could happen? You might step out of your comfort zone and gain an incredible experience as a result.
Tim Freer is a junior journalism major from Asheville studying abroad in England. Contact Tim at email@example.com
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