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How Traveling the World With 50 Strangers Has Changed My Life

Nothing can prepare you for being taken from your comfortable daily routine and thrust into a life abroad; in a city you’ve never known, amongst 50 individuals you’ve never met.

Sure, there’s the “adapting to a foreign city” semi-shock and just learning how to sleep in this new time zone with an 8-hour difference from home. But there’s also the social psychological aspect of such a crazy journey: learning to communicate, socialize and connect with a new set friends — people who I’m told will become my new family.

Remember the first day of freshman year in high school? It’s like that but it keeps repeating every day for the first … well, six weeks now. You don’t remember names, sometimes use the wrong ones, wonder if your clothes are in style (they’re not) and worry about the extra weight you’re carrying.

How?

I imagine his name is Christian. He’s earned a Master’s in Psychology from Yale with an undergraduate degree in sociology from Northwestern Connecticut Community College. He finds pleasure in analyzing human reactions and interactions, studying them and their origins until 2am on a Tuesday in October. He pushes limits of social experimentation.

This is who I presume created the social experiment I am in, called Remote Year.

I landed in Split, Croatia, in August 2017. From there I will travel to 11 other cities in 11 other months. This group ranges in age from 22 to 50. We hail from the US, Canada, Mexico, China, Germany and Australia. We now live together. It is the opposite of what I have ever known.

Clearly, the first few weeks are the hardest. Many cried, many felt it might be a mistake (as I did). This program gives you everything, except that baby blanket, thankfully.

Fast forward six weeks and I’ve learned more about myself and others than I have my entire 39 years. I’ve learned my German roommate is capable (in her own way) of sharing emotions. I’ve learned how strong addicts in recovery really are (a lot stronger than me). I’ve learned how sometimes people are put together for a reason (my month one roommate). I’ve learned that even with the continual loneliness, I’m very fortunate.

I’ve learned that low self-esteem is an epidemic and should be dealt with at the earliest of childhood levels. I’ve learned that conservative Christians can be good people. I’ve learned that I’m part of the “old crowd,” and, surprisingly, I’m OK with it.

 

I’ve learned I’ll be painfully self-aware of myself for the next 11 months. And I’m OK with it.