Being a traveler requires—rather, instills—a sense of capability and independence few other experiences can provide. The ebb and flow of a stable travel situation is the norm rather than the deviation. Quick decision-making skills come first: do we stay on the train or take a cab? Do I turn here or go straight? Do I touch the wares shoved in my face by aggressive vendors or no? (The answer is ALWAYS no here.)
Problem-solving skills are also part of the puzzle: learning to use all resources at one’s disposal is key. For example: recently, my dear friend Amy had to get from Athens to a remote town near Tripolis in the middle of the Peloponnese. She happened to be traveling on the first day of a two-day general strike. Her resources for transport were extremely limited, so she had to take a taxi all the way to the main town. Her colleagues still didn’t know her arrival time, and cell communication wasn’t working with them. Instead of freaking out, Amy texted me for another friend’s number who was also on the dig. She managed to get to her site safe and sound. Perhaps this sort of situation doesn’t sound so stressful from the outside; let me assure you, though, that when telecommunications are cut short, or (especially) public transportation isn’t running, and you’ve been traveling all morning/day/night in places where the language is foreign and all you want to do is put your stuff down and breathe, life seems a lot more scary. To overcome these kinds of obstacles successfully has certainly developed a sense of confidence and independence in me. Even an action as simple as getting from one place to another without getting lost, or getting lost but then finding the way again, I have found instructional.
Both of these skills, as well as the multitude of others, have proven to be invaluable in my life at home. The ability to think on my feet, the ability to read a map, the ability to trust my instincts are all useful! Most useful, however, is that I know I can do it. After my first trip abroad alone, I felt so much more confident in my choices. The art of letting things go, like specific travel plans, is not the most fun art to master, but the mentality that “I can deal with this,” is a nice one to have gained. I trust myself. I can never adequately express my gratitude to my parents for cultivating our sense of adventure and travel. For what it is worth, Mom & Dad: Grazie.