Do you really want to venture off into the wild and unknown???
“Where’ve I Been ?- written March 26th 2001
From New York to Amsterdam. Brown's Town to Barquisimeto. Kingston to Caracas.From Berlin to Prague.
These are some of the major places that I've been to that have shaped, and continue to re-shape my vision of the world. I don't want this to be the first chapter of my autobiography, but I do want to help explain the ups and downs, pains and joys, and the overall invaluable learning experience of being an exchange student. For those younger ones in the family that are growing up and thinking of becoming exchange students, there are a couple of things that you should take into account before you make the decision to pack your bags and venture off into the wild and unknown. I'll try to steer clear of cliche laden material, but one thing that has to be understood is that the physical journey of going to a mysterious and exotic place only serves as a metaphor for the true journey that takes place inside.
I once heard the statement "The people with whom you surround yourself become the lens with which you view the world". Sticking to this quote it has to be understood that for your whole life, up until the time that you get onto that plane to leave, this has been the lens that you've been looking through since your birth. Your view of the world, your values, your beliefs, and your thoughts, for the most part have not only been given to you by those around you, but you, as well, have learned to accept these values and norms that go unquestioned. You don't question them, nor do those around you.
By leaving "home" what you are doing is not only exchanging that old lens for a new one, and trying to adapt to this new vision provided by this new lens; but you are also asked to explain, not necessarily defend, but explain the previous vision you had provided to you by your previous lens. Sticking to the vision metaphor, trying to explain your beliefs, in words, is like trying to explain why you see the color red, or the color blue while someone else is saying that they see the color green. You don't know why you see red, you just do. And if they see green, then why do they see green? And then for the first time you truly realize that something is different. And then the journey begins. A journey that can't be characterized or represented by ticket stubs and pictures.
Your abilities are challenged day in and day out, not just your beliefs. There's nothing more frustrating than waking up in the morning to the sound of a foreign language that you just can't seem to understand. I won't lie, there were some mornings where it was down- right nauseating to hear this language because it serves as a constant reminder that there is something that exists that you just can't seem to grasp. Ego Check!
And every sound of that language makes it more and more frustrating. There were mornings where, honestly, my stomach turned to the sound of Spanish. Mornings where when I went downstairs I didn't want to hear the question "Que quieres comer?" (or for now I don't want to hear "Was mochtest du essen?"), but rather I just wanted to come downstairs and see bacon and eggs on the table, and talk about football in English for a while. But at the same time there is nothing, and I mean nothing, more gratifying than being able to understand that language that was so hard to figure out. Understanding that first joke in another language is funnier than any other joke that you've ever heard. It is at that point that you know, not think but know that you are capable of doing anything, but at the same time appreciating the amount of hard work and frustration that has to be put into achieving that which you truly want.
There's a point where the friends you've grown up with can no longer teach you about yourself because, through time, they've built up an immunity to your idiosyncracies. They no longer ask you "why" it is you do what you do, but instead they take it for granted because they know that "that's the way you are". They become blinded to your peculiarities, and in doing so blind you to them as well (by "them" I mean your peculiarities).
It's different once you're away. The friendships are unlike those that you've ever had because through your differences in culture, yet similarities in character and personality you teach each other about life, and they teach you about yourself. And vice-versa. Their questions to you about you really serve as questions that you have to pose to yourself, but for some reason or other you never did. It may be something "trivial" like "Why do you wear your hat backwards?" and saying "It's the style" is an unacceptable answer to them. In time it's just as unacceptable an answer for you as well. When they ask you "Why do you do this?" you then have to really ask yourself "Why do I do this?", and it may be something that you never thought about before. Now, you think about it all the time.
You learn to respect the hour-glass knowing that there is a time table placed on your friendship, and each word heard from those people serves as a lesson that you'll never forget. You truly learn to respect the moment, the present moment I mean, while holding a true, attainable vision of the future (which in many cases is represented by the hope that you'll see these people again, some day. And you honestly believe that you will see them again. No matter where they are, or where they're from. So if that's possible...)
While learning to love these friendships and all the benefits they bring to strengthening your character, you also truly learn to respect the people back home. The people that understand you without asking questions. The people that just have to see the twitch of an eye-brow, or hear the sudden intonation in your voice to know what it is you’re thinking without having to ask "What's wrong?".That's where the paradox lies. The joys and pains of teaching and being taught, and the joys and pains of not teaching and not being taught. And in the end, you realize that this is what life is: A paradox, where finding balance occurs within difficult yet joyful experiences that you not only learn to accept, but then begin to seek.
In short, once you leave home you never truly return to that home you once knew (for those that understand the "paradox of time travel" this is the closest possible feeling to it that I can imagine.)But at the same time, you gain the tools and the patience to be able to build a new home, anywhere. Good luck to those that want to leave, and to those that have left. To those that don't want to leave, and those that didn't.
As for me? Let's just say I'll keep the post-cards coming.
(Denis Logan, Amsterdam 2001.)”
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Where does the love for travel come from?
I'm sure that everyone has a different story and a different reason.
I can't say for certain that I became an exchange student because I wanted to travel or if the incessant desire to travel is because of those experiences. What I do know is that being an exchange student is unique. Whatever the pull, it is an experience (and luckily for me I did it twice!) that will forever change you.
During my second trip away (to Amsterdam as a Junior in College) I was told that some of the younger members of the family were thinking of also becoming exchange students. On a rainy afternoon in the University of Amsterdam's computer lab I wrote an "open letter" to my family about what my experience and lessons were. That letter is below. I hope you enjoy it.
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Do you really want to venture off into the wild and unknown???
During my second trip as an exchange I wrote an "open letter" to younger members of the family that were thinking of becoming exchange students as well. This is what I had learned after leaving home twice...
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