I am not usually one to brag of my achievements, but perhaps the most important experience I have lived to date was one year ago when I studied abroad on the European island Malta for six months. Initially, I didn’t think I could afford it and therefore studying abroad did not interest me. It wasn’t until I realized it is not expensive as it sounds that I found out I could actually find a way to afford it. That’s what sparked the interest for me. What happened when I finally got there and did it is beyond what I can explain. It’s where I realized couch hopping Europe isn’t as intimidating as it sounds!
The experiences I got to live and the friendships I got to make were worth any amount of money. Had I known I would get to live through what I did, I would have blown my whole bank account just to get the opportunity. Hell, I’d do that now if I got another opportunity to study abroad. It is something I can’t recommend enough and I know I am not the only one with this type of experience. However, this is not about studying abroad. It is about making international connections and the factor that they play into being a perpetual traveler.
After that semester, I decided to travel around Europe for two months. I know two months is nowhere near the dramatic length that some people travel a continent, but to me, like studying in Malta for six months, backpacking for two more months was a feat I was proud of. Afraid of what was to come, I left Malta not knowing what to expect. I knew I’d meet up with some friends, but had no clue what to expect. That’s when I realized what a crucial role they played in my travels. Everywhere I went, in TEN different countries, I had friends − there saving me money, giving me advice, fixing my problems, and even giving me a home. It was an incredible thing.
International Couch Hopping
People from halfway across the world, some whom I had not met but a couple days in Malta, showing me around in their city, attending concerts with me, letting me sleep on their sofa. It is hard to explain the type of impact that had on my courage during the entirety of the trip. In unknown countries of which I didn’t speak the same language, I had locals guiding me around, showing me the ropes of a place that I would only be in for a matter of a week.
Sure it made things easier and I didn’t get the full experience of learning things on my own, but I still had plenty of opportunities to explore on my own while still feeling like I wasn’t alone no matter where I went. It was the reassurance that there was someone there to help me out that made me feel comfortable wherever I went. And let me tell you, it’s a beautiful thing to feel comfortable in a city away from home. You feel like you really get close to a place. You learn the culture easier, you fit in more, you even make a ton of new friends through your friends and your international network grows.
It is a beautiful thing to have friends across the world, in dozens of countries, on numerous continents, no matter where you are. It makes roaming Europe just that much easier and may be the push you need to get out of your comfort zone.