These past few months, I have learned the importance of both travel and exploration of far and near places. It's truly amazing how much you can learn in just a small amount of time, and how it can help shape and change your life forever. This summer, I migrated to sunny California from the great state of Texas in search of soul and life experience. My expectations were few but quickly exceeded. After a series of unfortunate events, which had led me to believe this venture wasn't meant to be, I landed myself in a house full of culture and liberation.
Picture this: 2 Egyptian boys, 1 Saudi Arabian prince, 2 sweet girls from Hong Kong, a Korean ping pong player, 2 Italian chefs, 1 Nigerian girl, a kid from New York City, and a girl from Austin, Texas (yours truly). Sounds like the makings of a sitcom, right? Well, it's actually real life, and I couldn't be more grateful for this unexpected opportunity that fell straight from the sky.
Considering my travel experience, I always thought of myself as a well-traveled and somewhat culturally educated individual, but after my experience in my hostel of a home, I have learned so much more than I ever imagined. Who would have thought that by traveling a short ways in my own country would teach me so much about the rest of the world? It has also inspired me to better educate myself in other languages, considering each person in my home knows English yet I do not know a single one of their native languages. Some even know 5, which blew me away considering that I only know just enough Spanish to tell someone my name and then say goodbye.
In only 2 short months, I learned how to say "happy birthday, Waleed" in Arabic as well as "let's go". I've learned that in Hong Kong citizens live in homes the size of the average American living room and many people do not have driver's licenses until they are much older. I've also learned that eating dinner after 10pm is the norm in Italy while my daily 6:30pm dinner schedule is considered strange. Among many other things, the most important lesson I have learned is that surrounding yourself with unfamiliar faces can teach you a whole lot about your own values and show you sides of yourself you've never seen before. When you don't feel the need to fit into the mold of certain cultural norms, your actions, thoughts, and words are limitless and it can be a truly pleasant surprise.
One last thing I have learned from this incredibly ambiguous experience is to embrace my own culture and never take for grated where I come from. The same city can get boring after a while, but it's always going to be home. These individuals have taught me to appreciate my country as well as the people who come along with it. Overall, each person has told me that they traveled to America to experience the "American Dream", and it wasn't until now that I fully understood what they intended to do. They all left their homes to come to America in hopes to better their futures. It took a 3-hour flight and 13 unfamiliar faces to to make me appreciate the opportunities I have without traveling half way around the world and to appreciate the things I usually complain about.
Life is too short, appreciate what you have, embrace opportunity, and always let the good times roll!