Safe Travels

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An experience I had one night in Granada, Spain was the kind that changes someone, it changed me. It changed the way that I perceived other countries in relation to America. Here’s how it went- The tours for the day had ended and some of us girls decided to hangout, grab a bite to eat for a bit afterwards. When the impending exhaustion set in (us all knowing that we had an early wakeup time the next morning) we decided to head off in our separate directions. The two girls in each homestay usually walk home together, but tonight, my roommate wanted to stop at a store with some girls and I was keen on just starting my journey back to the homestay.

As I walked alone down the busy sidewalks, lightly lit by tall street lamps, I felt safe. Not the kind of safe where I know I’ll be okay if something happens, but really safe. It was a weird feeling not having to look straight at the ground to avoid eye contact with men around me who could be dangerous as I so often find myself having to do back in America. I strolled along, no “cat-calls”, just smiles. No speed-walking to get home fast, just a nice nighttime stroll with time to process and think about my day. It was nice, something I had never experienced before quite in that way.  Even though I was alone in a foreign environment, I felt safe.

image Before this trip, everyone would tell me to be careful, watch my surroundings constantly and not to trust strangers. I even reminded myself of that on many occasions. My parents told me, “don’t go anywhere alone”, my friends, “stay inside at night, it can be dangerous”. Now I’m not saying that everywhere in Spain is safe, because that would just be an assumption. All I know is that night, that long walk home through the traffic and swarms of people out in Granada, I had no worries. In Seattle, where I spend most of my days and love with all of my heart, I would never feel like that, and I never have. I know to not go downtown at night, because I have felt the horror that the experience can be. Here, I just assumed I would feel unsafe, I didn’t really “know”.

We cross to foreign places with timid perceptions of the careful actions we will have to carry with us everywhere. But, how much does that hinder our experiences and learning? How much do we lose when we are scared of the “other” place, population and or culture? Crossing borders requires courage, the courage to try new things and meet new people. It also requires optimism, knowing that what you think you “know”, you probably don’t really know. That is the case with me, I thought I would be securing my belongings and constantly having to be aware of my surroundings. But, this walk, alone in the dark through the streets of Granada, Spain that are unknown to me shattered the ideas that I previously held.

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Yes, going to a new place is scary, but we learn more than we ever thought we would. It just requires optimism and following how your heart feels, not the misperceptions that our home culture may engrain in us before we go. We are transnational, we learn everywhere we go and what we “know” is constantly changed in a beautiful, heart-wrenching process called traveling.

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