Grace Lower | Sep 6, 2017
The trouble with travel is that it’s terribly addicting!No matter where you visit or how frequently you go, there will always be an endless supply of sights to see, foods to try, and people to meet. And the more you explore the world, the more you’ll realize how little of it you’ve actually seen.
If you’re like me, limited vacation time and a tight budget can make lofty travel goals feel even harder to attain. And while it’s easy to become discouraged by expensive plane tickets and packed schedules, there’s hope out there for every traveler-to-be. Here are a few ideas that can help you feed your sense of wanderlust between trips.
No matter where you live, there are countless ways to connect with globally focused nonprofits. From teaching citizenship classes to volunteering at international food festivals, there are opportunities available for anyone with an open mind and a desire to help.
Over the past few years, I’ve had the privilege of teaching English as a Second Language to adult learners. By regularly engaging with students from a variety of backgrounds, I’ve learned about diverse cultures and values, all the while thinking critically about my own. Throughout my time as a volunteer, the students I’ve worked with have challenged me to become a stronger writer, a better teacher, and a more compassionate community member.
No matter what skills you have to offer, there are plenty of ways to serve the international community near you. Some of my favorite places to find volunteer opportunities are Idealist and VolunteerMatch.org.
As a recent college grad, I'm fairly new to the culinary scene (and to be honest, beans and rice is still my go-to dinner staple). But when it comes to cooking, what I lack in experience, I try to make up for in enthusiasm. One of my favorite activities on any given weeknight is trying my hand at recipes from around the world.
Of course, there’s far more to international cooking than the meal itself. A quick Google search for a new recipe can reveal a variety of unexpected ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavor combinations. Once you’ve found the dish that you’d like to prepare, it’s especially fun to visit international markets in search of ingredients like daikon, garam masala, fish sauce, and soba noodles. Along the way, you’ll learn how easy it is to fall in love with a culture once you’ve fallen in love with its food.
Admittedly, this one might come off as a bit pretentious, but bear with me. Foreign films can be a great way to pick up a new language and get a feel for different cultural narratives. While these movies are often portrayed as being high-brow and somber, some of my favorite foreign films are the most light-hearted ones: "Amélie," "Good Bye, Lenin!" and "Ocho Apellidos Vascos." That said, they’re much better (and much more comprehensible) with the English subtitles on.
If you live near a city, there’s a good chance that you’ll find neighborhoods with vibrant international communities nearby. These areas are often home to a variety of local businesses that offer traditional food and goods at modest prices. While these establishments might not be as glamorous as the boutiques and fusion restaurants you’d find downtown, they often come with rich histories and loyal clienteles.
If you aren’t familiar with the surrounding culture, it can be easy to feel out of place in international restaurants and markets. But as long as you’re respectful, open-minded, and eager to learn, you can come away from your experience with a more nuanced understanding of the community around you.
When you travel to a new country, it helps to know a bit of the language — even a few conversational phrases can get you far. But while mastering a foreign language can take years of study and practice, it doesn’t take much to learn a few common words and sayings. Not only will you feel more confident as a traveler, but you’ll have new ways to connect with locals and show your appreciation for their culture.
One of the most exciting parts of any journey is the planning process itself. No matter when your next great adventure may be, it’s always wise to research your destinations beforehand. Travel blogs (like this one) and social media can provide plenty of inspiration, but the rest is up to you!
Grace Lower is a recent college graduate with a love for writing and an incurable case of wanderlust. When she's not exploring new places, Grace enjoys teaching English as a Second Language, making terrible puns, and running incredibly long distances at incredibly slow speeds.