Posted by: Sarah | July 27, 2006

past the borders, between continents

I am thousands of miles, yet only a matter of hours away from Colombia, and I have no words to describe how surreal the feeling is. All the little moments over the past few years have landed me here, a solo traveler, with a university degree, a passport, and a desire to see the world, at any costs, more than anything else. Life can take unexpected directions…I never would have guessed even a year ago that the destination on my ticket would read Bogotá, Colombia or that the Colombian visa attached to my passport would be my ticket to an entire year in South America.

I think I am still in awe of the past two weeks, and I am certain that they changed my life in more ways than one. The same amount of time that I spent in Colombia a few months ago I have now spent in Argentina. I feel as if I have been here so much longer than I have. Even when we sleep in and may not do much more during the day other than wander around exploring BA, there is so much to take in and the days stretch so much longer than they ever do in Madison where an entire week can blur together in the routine of work and school. While I am excited to be heading to Colombia, it was harder to leave Buenos Aires than I had expected, and Argentina now has a special place in my heart, right alongside France and Colombia.

“Most knowledge is learning from the other across the border”

Taken out of context from a technological perspective on globalization of the 21st century as told by Thomas Freedman, I couldn’t help but realize how true this one sentence was to my life. The limitations of classroom learning are arguably flexible, but are limits nonetheless. The possibilities for learning outside of a classroom are far more infinite and valuable. Had I spent the past 2 weeks pouring over textbooks in a library, I would not have been able to consume the volumes of knowledge that I gained from everyone I have met so far in this journey. And there is no way that I would have had a fraction of the amount of fun in the process.

A city can be beautiful, a vacation can be jam-packed with sightseeing, a culture can be overflowing with museums, cuisine, theatre, history, music, and more, but none of that is going to change perspectives or leave behind the memories of a lifetime. Finding a sense of direction in a new city or recognizing neighborhoods after a few days of being there are still likely to leave you feeling lost and out of place in a new country, awkward, confused, a tourist, an extranjero. It’s not hard to see why I have felt more at HOME in certain places that are thousands of miles from what most would call HOME in a traditional sense. There are people who touch your life and make living abroad comfortable and familiar, even when it should rationally be more uncomfortable and strange than any other sensation. The people who I have traveled with or met while traveling mean so much to me. The conversations flowed as easily as those between people who had been close friends for years, not days. The language barriers provided laughter rather than frustration, the cultural differences provoked intense conversations and learning, rather than judgment and misunderstanding.

How can you feel culture shock when you are spending time with people who can show you the secrets of a city, who make you feel as if you belong rather than stand out, who teach you volumes just be being themselves and laughing with you?

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