Oh, Thessaloniki. How you have captured my heart. This month has been one of the most unexpected, enlightening, hard-working, relaxing, and enjoyable experiences of my adult life. Traveling truly has the power to grow and shape a person, but furthermore, studying an intense degree path and cohabiting with others in your field while traveling can present even more opportunities for personal advancement. As a versed traveler, I found myself ultimately prepared for this journey to Europe, but throughout the trip I slowly realized that each experience abroad, or anywhere, is an opportunity to learn new things, educate oneself in different avenues of life, and enjoy moments associated with the place and people surrounding you.
As someone who is largely introverted and travels alone often, my mission on this particular trip was to take time to enjoy people, make connections, and moreover educate myself on the varying lifestyles of the world - from the food, to the people, to the surroundings. Greece presented a perfect place to do so, as there is such a rich culture here laden with history, joy, sadness, and passionate souls.
Something that particularly surprised me about the culture and lifestyle of the Greeks is the ultimate friendliness and welcoming attitude that resides within all residents. Immediately upon my arrival here, I felt safe and comforted, even in the busier parts of the city. The community ties here are so strong, especially within the tight-knit businesses surrounding the city as illustrated through my conversations with beautiful Smaragda, who I interviewed during my time here. I believe that it's easy to expect, as a traveler, to be treated well when arriving in a place - and it's not always achieved. But here, the people are special, kind, and joyful.
Through my connections with locals and careful observation of the bustling city around me, I learned quite a few things that, as travelers, I believe are largely overlooked. As noted in my previous blog post, behind the smiles and friendly nature of the Greek people is a deep passion and striving to output this kind of attitude, despite the hardships they may be going through. I was quite unaware of the massive economic determinants Greece has suffered in the recent past, and through conversation with Smaragda and others, I was enlightened on the true dedication Greeks make to output a sense of happiness and enjoyment despite their lives that are sometimes less than happy. It's a true inspiration and encouragement to continue to work hard, in any situation, to output a sense of positivity, having experienced the feelings reciprocated from those practicing it. Ultimately, positivity and kindness is something I will forever remember about Greeks and will continue to pursue fully in my own life.
Although I did not feel particularly troubled on this journey and experience in Greece, something that both challenged me and grew me as a person was living and working with multiple individuals, coming from varying backgrounds and lifestyles. Immersing myself into the group was sometimes challenging, as my personality does not always mesh perfectly with those surrounding me - however, over the course of the trip it was enlightening to experience an overall mutual respect from all persons involved, and an ultimate chance to adapt to varying lifestyles and embrace difference altogether. I feel that I experienced growth in this field and am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to have made so many new friends and connections!
Overall, this experience was one I will never forget. A month in Greece can offer a lot for a traveling individual, and through my time here I feel completely immersed in the lifestyle and culture of the Greek people. Observing the intimacy of the connections, hardworking nature of the citizens, and love shown to all peoples, whether foreign or not, was an opportunity that I look forward to repeating in the future. Traveling the world can be difficult at times, but leaving home base with a mindset prepared to explore, embrace individuals, and adapt to the challenges of a different lifestyle can offer the most important moments of one's life. Thank you, Greece, for giving me a temporary home, bringing me new friends, and creating memories that will last forever. I will be back.