Settling in unknown territory

How do we fit in a whole new foreign environment? As a foreword, I think it is important to underline each experience is unique. There are as many possible scenarios as there are travelers. Having said that, I will happily share my own experience.

The transition between the preparation of a stay abroad, and then the actual implementation of the project of living in a foreign country may be from time to time not that much a piece of cake. Specifically, the first time might provoke quite new emotions when you are not used to getting out of your country for an extended amount of time.

DSC_2648A few years ago, I went for eleven months studying in Sydney. Previously, I had been traveling for instance ten years ago to Potosí, Bolivia, with four friends to take part in the construction of a socio-cultural center and discover this country with Bolivian partners. But once I landed in Sydney, I realized this new step in my path was a significantly distinct experience that would require different resources.

So, I arrived 36 hours of aircraft away from my home country without knowing a single person on the ground. Another specificity lied in the fact I arrived down under without a secured accommodation with several visits scheduled and the objective of getting one once arrived. As a first long-term intercultural journey, this was quite an ambitious foreword.

Eventually, step by step I succeeded in feeling home in this city. Subsequently, I have been living in Strasbourg, Göttingen (Germany), Sarajevo and now Skopje with pleasure as I am very much attracted by this fascinating region.

DSC_2828In parallel, I have regularly been traveling with friends, for instance to the lovely Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, or to Flensburg to the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI), in Schleswig-Holstein, the German Land bordering Denmark.

Each time, the process of arriving and setting foot in a new foreign country is a little bit easier. Improving my adaptability by integrating into a new culture, a new living environment and meeting new people is less and less a big deal.

Let’s try to take a step back. The existence could be defined as assembling the various pieces of a puzzle. Sometimes, the process is not very easy, sometimes you realize afterward you could have maybe acted in a different way. But regretting something over and over scarcely lead anywhere good.

Inversely, I do think the smart response is to learn from your mistakes and move forward.

All these new steps in your personal progression are as many ways to get to know yourself ever more in-depth. As an epilogue, I firmly encourage you to travel the world and the seven seas!

Jules Striffler (text and pictures)

Source : La bible du grand voyageur (Lonely Planet) Bouchard, A., Charroin, G. and Thomassey, N. (2012). La bible du grand voyageur (Lonely Planet). 1st ed. Baume-les-Dames, France: En vøyage Éditions, pp.88-91

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