As soon as I graduated from college, I scrapped my plans to go to medical school and instead interned with a non-profit for one year. The internship was in a place that probably made my mom's stomach drop - southwest China, literally on the other side of the world. It was definitely one of the scariest things I had ever done and it entailed being away, completely away from my family for an entire year. I had never experienced being away from family for that long and never thought that I ever would.
For lack of a better description, the experience was so very full. I was immersed in a completely different culture, ate amazing food, and made many precious friends. I became a student at a university and tried to work through my terrible Mandarin. I traveled to the crystal blue and green beaches and the thick jungles of Thailand, and walked among the busy roads of Hong Kong.* I learned how to barter in Mandarin and experienced the Chinese New Year in China. I just have to say that their firework shows far outshine ours in the U.S. and also, safety is noooot so much a concern. My friends and I once had to literally dive into a restaurant because a huge box of fireworks set off in the middle of the road had fallen over and began shooting fireworks at people. You know, no big deal. -_-
And in the midst of all this adventure and excitement, I also learned to sift through, analyze, and remove some really ugly parts of my heart (issues?? me?!? never! <-- sarcasm). Definitely the most difficult yet beneficial parts of this experience.
Traveling is great, but getting a chance to truly integrate into another culture and what may often feel like another world is an opportunity you should never pass up!
*Little did I know then that I was exploring the land where my future in-laws had once lived and my husband was born.