I can say with confidence that I was not as good of a person as I thought I was four years ago and that I’m probably not now either! I think self-reflection is so hard for a lot of people and that traveling the world has actually made it so much easier for me to take a look in the mirror and openly admit (and change!) when I don’t like what I see. I recently posted this caption on Instagram that really inspired me to dive deeper into what I meant by each of these points.

The caption:

How traveling has made me a better person
1. More empathetic
2. More sympathetic
3. More culturally aware
4. More environmentally aware
5. More accepting of others
6. Less judgemental
7. Less of a know it all
8. Less selfish, more selfless
9. Less me, more we
10. Less monolingual, more trilingual

Taking a moment to shout out myself for the personal growth over the last 4 years✈️🌎. It’s hard to look back on who you were and realize you weren’t as great as you thought. Here’s to never slowing down🤞🏼.

 


1. More empathetic

empathy – /ɛmpəˈθɛtɪk/ – noun- the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in myself is a rise in my empathy. I think this stems from the fact that I feel things deeper now. A really great example of this is with my husband Nenad, who was born and raised in Serbia. I didn’t know about the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia until I met him – and that changed everything for me. I’ve actually published a blog with a heart-wrenching (but totally necessary to watch) documentary on the whole thing and how it affected the people living in this region.

To know that he was just 6-years-old when it happened, young enough to be an innocent child but old enough to remember vividly, tore my heart to pieces. Hearing him speak about it, his parents and his grandma, other friends and colleagues… to listen to the best people you know talk about living through a war period just puts my life and childhood in America into perspective. But it’s not sympathy, because I’m not just sorry for them, it’s empathy because Serbia is a part of who I am now. My children will be half American and half Serbian and it will be a part of who they are – and I want it to be.

I’ve never seen more deserving people who are warm and kind and caring just go through utter shite. I haven’t been nearly everywhere I want to yet with traveling this world, and I’m sure there are far more disgusting and repulsive war and other atrocious acts that have happened to innocent people – hell there’s a war in the middle east happening now where thousands are losing their lives and we hardly blink an eye.

2. More sympathetic

sympathy – /ˈsɪmpəθi/ – noun – feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.

This one is kind of a struggle for me because in certain aspects I think I’ve always been sympathetic when it comes to day-to-day problems (someone is ill and can’t come to work, got a flat tired and missed an exam, fell and got stitches – things like that). But where it matters, which is in people’s life problems, I don’t think I cared as much as I should have and definitely do now.

Growing up I wasn’t taught about universal health care and prison reform and a lot of things that other countries are teaching from a young age. Taking the time to really dive into a lot of those sorts of topics has not only opened my eyes, but it’s changed my heart. It’s easy to talk about a subject with no emotion when you don’t know anything about it. It’s even easier to just repeat what you hear on the news, without looking it up for yourself. Don’t rely on anyone to educate you. Get out there, do your own research, talk to your own subjects, make your own opinions and be willing to change them as you grow! All of these things have contributed to my increased sympathy for others.

3. More culturally aware

I already mentioned the NATO bombing above but it’s events like those in history that really shape countries and the people who live there. There are countless historical events and empires that I’ve learned about that have really put things into perspective for me. Growing up in the US, that’s all I remember learning about. I’m not claiming I didn’t have World History, maybe I did and I remember nothing (which is just as sad), but the truth is I’m learning more now living abroad then I would ever learn in a classroom – and it is not the same.

In Spain I had a friend from Syria who was calling home to try and see if his brother and mother were alive since they were in a war zone. I have friends in Italy and Germany I was contacting during the COVID outbreak to see if they’re okay, if their family and friends are okay. I have a friend who is Muslim and from Saudi Arabia who has sat and answered my endless questions about his religion and country.

It is good to ask people abut themselves. It is great to grow in your knowledge of the world and other cultures. It is necessary to take what you learn and teach others.

4. More environmentally aware

Climate change is real… let me say it louder for the people in the back, CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL.

I really used to not believe in climate change. Which is actually quite hypocritical when I think about it because if I believe in vaccines and diagnosed illnesses and going to the moon and cancer treatment and all these other things led and discovered by science and scientists… why would I not believe what those same people have to say about climate change?

I’ve really consciously become more eco-friendly in the ways that I can! I also wrote a blog on easy ways to start going green so please check that out if you want to start contributing to change with really easy shifts to your daily life! Some of them include switching from cotton pads to reusable bamboo pads and from cotton ear swabs to a reusable silicone cleaner! Doesn’t sound very hard at all… does it?

Since learning more about it I’ve really taken an interest to what other countries are doing to reduce their carbon emissions and go green and it has just been a really wonderful and inspiring journey.

5. More accepting of others

Are you gay? Lesbian? Transgender? Bisexual? Straight? Atheist? Catholic? College educated? A high school dropout? A single mom? Pregnant at 16? … Listen I really don’t care. Let’s ask the questions that matter.

Are you kind? Are you thoughtful? Do you try to do good? Are you inspired? Are you motivated? Do you love your friends and family? Are you a hard worker? Are you honest? Are you helpful? Are you a great partner? Would your friends say you’re loyal? … Let’s ask the questions that matter here people.

I don’t know that I can say I ‘lost sight’ of this if I never really had it. I have it now. I am so thankful for that.

6. Less judgmental

Can I just repeat number five? I’ll add this on to it… I really don’t care about anything but if you’re a good person with good morals. If God isn’t supposed to judge people until the end of time, how the hell am I supposed to judge you now? I read that a few days ago and regardless of if you’re religious, it’s the idea that stands.

I am in no place with my flaws to judge anyone else and theirs.

7. Less of a know it all

The biggest advances in my personal and professional life have stemmed from the phrase “I don’t know.”

Being able to admit you don’t know something is such an underestimated strength.

You want to change your life? Read How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. That book has 30 principles that will change you at the core of who you are.

8. Less selfish, more selfless

At the end of the day we all want to feel important. We all want to get our way. We all want to have the last word, make the final decision, blah blah blah.

I feel far more ‘important’ and ‘worthy’ when I am waiting on others then when they are waiting on me (waiting as in serving, not literally waiting). I feel far more accomplished when I am doing acts outside of for my own good and well-being. I feel like I’m contributing more to this earth when I am making others smile, then when I’m smiling at someone else’s expense.

There’s no reason we can’t all be important. If we all selflessly love and serve each other, we will all feel important.

9. Less me, more we

This planet currently has 7.8 BILLION people on it. Neither you, nor me, are in this alone. Neither you, nor me, are more important than anyone else walking the earth. Neither you, nor me, can change the world without the help of others. We ARE all in this together. When we all realize it, good things will come.

10. Less monolingual, more trilingual

Out of my family members and close friends, I was the only person who was bi-lingual, let alone now tri-lingual.

The ability to speak another language is just life-changing and eye-opening. It not only brings you closer to a culture but it brings you closer to the world. I am astonished to think that there are roughly 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. LIKE WHAT. I can think of maybe 10 off the top of my head? You try? I mean over six thousand…. it just boggles my brain. Sometimes I think I can’t even comprehend that many.

If there’s anything that learning a language has taught me, it’s that we’re all the same. We have the same crazy sayings that only make sense in our language and we don’t know why, we have the same loving parents who try to force you to eat and play outside, we have the same funny jokes with our friends, we have the same grammar rules that are unable to be explained to a non-native speaker.

We aren’t so different, not any of us.