To this day, I will always remember my first international trip to Italy with my family. At twelve years old, I dreaded the endless walking that traveling required, the churches (of which all looked the same to me), the bitter taste of wine— I didn't even like gnocchi.
However, upon returning from Spain and Portugal this summer, I had a completely different epiphany that entailed a higher sense of appreciation, patience, and sense of reality.
Formality of Meals
During high school, getting dinner on the table was a hectic scramble in itself, ergo sit-down meals were almost completely out of the picture. Abroad this summer, however, every meal was spent with my family.
Now that I am a college student, more than 1,000 miles away from my family, I am inspired by the influence a single place can have on bringing my family together.
Appreciation of Alcohol
In a world where all I knew was binge-drinking, my trip abroad proved that there was more to alcohol than a slight buzz. When I first started drinking in high school, I noticed only the hangovers and lethargy that followed. I drank responsibly, casually, and with appreciation.
I fell in love with the smooth, crisp taste of rosé before dinner, the bubbly, frothiness of the beer, but overall, I fell in love with a feeling of control I had never associated with alcohol before.
I'm not a patient person, but have really tried to channel my inner-patience when traveling with those who don't want to hear me complain. Although in that field I am lacking, I will say this: Everything always tastes better once I've waited for it.
The daydreaming about my coming meal, the giddy anticipation I have while nibbling on a final breadstick, and the ceaseless glances towards the kitchen—these are all just teasers up until the main course.
Reality of Where Our Food Comes From
Traveling abroad has made envious of other food cultures. In the United States, food isn't always farm-to-table—a lot of our food comes from factories. Walking into my first Spaniard farmers market, I was overwhelmed with the sense of authenticity and community that I knew I wouldn't be able to find anywhere in the United States.
It's always a good idea to try something new—you'll never know you don't like something unless you try it! As a recent vegetarian, I thought I would be limited by my food options abroad. However, I found that my vegetarianism lead me to try things that I wouldn't have normally tried.
Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or just plain picky—it's important to find the balance between being comfortable and being adventurous!
If I were to give one piece of advise to my inexperienced, twelve-year-old self, I would say this: Appreciate the uncontrollable, the unexpected, and the uncomfortable— because oftentimes these are the things that define you.