There seems to be something about traveling to Europe that evokes a type of competition in travelers. Maybe its because the European Union easily allows for copious country hoping, but maybe its just our competitive nature–UF is a very sports oriented school, with students who have quite the enthusiasm for winning. But here in Europe, it seems that the prize for students studying abroad is the number of countries they are able to visit inside the mere five months we call this place our home. It’s a complete question of quantity, rather than quality in 9 out of 10 cases. For example:
Professor: Talk about where you went over vacation for five minutes with the person next to you.
Me: I had the opportunity to go to London and Scotland with my sister, and then I took a weekend trip to Italy at the end. It was nice–I saw alot in each place. Et vous?
Other Student: Well I went to 6 different countries over break and I spent 4 hours in Madrid but it was great because I saw this one monument, and then I sprinted past Barcelona, and then I flew over to Prague for a day and then went to every other country in the European Union for the last two days.
Me: That’s cool.
….It’s funny because you think I’m kidding.
Traveling abroad seems to be evoke the most aggressive, competitive nature in people. More so than football. People almost seemed appalled you spent more than two days in any country. Heaven forbid you actually take time to enjoy where you go, rather than taking a picture for instagram to brag to your friends and then scram. Of course there are places that can be sufficiently seen with a daytrip, but an entire country? It doesn’t feel quite right to say I’ve seen Scotland, when I only had the chance to see two cities in the entire expanse. I mean I have seen it now…but I’d like to take another month to see more.
And this is the dilemma of keeping a Country Count. You see, when you try and keep a running tab of every country you’ve visited, and let yourself think that the more countries on that list constitutes #winning, your going to look back at that list and possibly think your aggressive country hoping tactics were slightly overzealous. Would I love to be able to say I saw 20 different countries while studying abroad? Of course. Obviously. But is it worth it if I can only say I went to each of those countries for 24 hours or less, and saw maybe two remarkable things out of the 3,000 things there? No.
While I’m living in France, I want to be able to say I really saw France. I didn’t just see Lyon, I saw Lyon, the French Alps, Paris, Strasbourg, the Beaches of Nice, Normandy, Bordeaux, and all the little towns in between. I don’t want to leave a stone unturned before I head off to my next adventure–I think it would be a true shame to say I didn’t fully immerse myself in my new home country because I was too busy focused on the countries around me. I just wish I could share that mentality with those around me. But that’s why I’m telling you. Whether you are studying abroad now, or going to study abroad, enjoy the country you’re living in. Truely enjoy everything your country offers before you make it your priority to win the Country Count. It may not sound as glamourous, but it sure will feel just as amazing.
Which brings me to my self realization for my next vacances–the importance is not the quantity of places or boarders I step into, but the quality amount of time I spend in each location. I might not be able to reach every far away place while I’m here, but to be fair I’m only here for five months–knowing what I know now I think it would take a lifetime to see everything that’s here. What’s most important is to be greatful for the time we do have, the experiences we’ve already have, and the moments to come. I know–slightly sappy. Sorry not sorry. C’est la vie.
Alors, here’s to hoping that you can begin to have the same mentality I’m learning to create. Because once you put your overzealous-provoked-by-football-competitive Country Count to the side, I promise you’ll start to see life I little bit more clearly.