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Travel lesson: Remember the ones you love, forget the ones you don’t.

One major repercussion, consequence, or benefit from traveling abroad is greater self-understanding – as well as an increased understanding of the world. Before traveling alone to Spain, I took many things for granted. I spent a couple of years trying to improve my personal relationships, to overcome the idiocy left behind from my teenage years, but those two years couldn’t compare to the rapid development made in only 2 and a half months. Since moving to Madrid, I have not only realized how privileged I was before coming here, but also how much more I could and should do for the ones I love.

Some people value their families, while others don’t. 6 years ago or so, had you asked me if I was close to my family, I would have begrudgingly said that I was and followed it up with “but, I don’t like to be around them a lot”. I look back now and realize how much of a lie that was. My family is, and always has been, a huge part of me. Maybe it’s because of my (Middle Eastern) background, being raised in a massive family, and being encouraged to foster positive relationships with my siblings and cousins, but I’ve never been able to shake the idea that if there’s anyone in the world I’d want to love being around, it’s my family. Fast forward a few years, and while there may be slight issues here or there, my family remains the center of my world. Before coming to Madrid, I still had my immature moments, those taken-for-granted friends and family, whom I didn’t realize until now deserve my extra mile.

While the details are complicated and currently unnecessary, being in Madrid has made me realize that when the time does come to go back home, that things are going to have to change. And I won’t stop there – while so far I’ve been very good about keeping in touch and skyping my loved ones (friends included), I could squeeze more time in for those catch-up sessions.

This isn’t to say I’ve had a bad experience here so far, or that I haven’t met any good people and therefore my focus has re-shifted to those back home. With travel comes the good and bad, and I’ve experienced as much of the former as I have the latter. However – and this struck me hard as I strolled through the streets of Salamanca the other day – there are things I used to be blind to. For some reason, there were things I thought didn’t exist, people I thought were just part of the make-believe stories of fictions my parents and older friends and family made up to scare me, and that certain qualities in people were completely normal. I also thought I had experienced more than I had, seen more than I had, knew more than I know. The experience has already humbled me, and continues to do so every day. I face challenges every day – some of which I rarely ever faced before, or didn’t see as obviously as I had a huge network of friends and family around me – and these challenges are only making me more resilient.

A common thing I hear from people who know me has been, “are you planning on staying there the whole year?”. It’s a fair question, seeing how many people drop out of the race and rush back to the comforts of home. It would be a lie to say I haven’t thought about it, or sometimes still think about it. I’ve come to realize, however, that this is necessary, not just for the kid in me that always wanted to do this, but also for the teenager in me wanting to be let go. Call me dramatic, but this is the equivalent to the process spartan kids would go through to go from being weak to strong. I want to come out of this stronger than ever, and strength requires time.

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