When you first go to a foreign country, you will most likely do a lot of planning before hand. As the date of your departure draws near, more and more goals will begin to sit in your mind: I want to go here, I want to see this, I want to do that. There is really nothing wrong with doing this; it allows you to begin determining how you would like to prioritize your time while abroad, and elevates your excitement for the upcoming adventure. That being said however, you should by no means set any of these plans in stone, especially if you are going on an extended trip and will be staying with a family. This is because you never know what might happen and who you will meet every day. Sometimes, opportunities will present themselves to you in the most unlikely of ways and there is only one thing you must do when this happens: graciously and unquestioningly say yes.
Several times during my stay in France, out of nowhere a new friend or person decides they would like to invite me on their journey the following day, or wish to go off exploring. The best example of this occurred last week. A friend of my host sister last week decided to invite me on a day trip she had planned for the following day with another one of her friends and her father. They would be visiting Marseille for the day and wished to know if I would like to come. At first, I was hesitant to say yes. These people, even though somewhat known by my host family, were complete strangers to me. Slowly thinking it through however, I realized that this could be an incredibly fun opportunity, not only to see France and visit the Mediterranean but to do something far more special: make some new friends. Immediately, upon arriving at this conjecture I said that I would love to visit Marseille with them the following day.
This decision, more or less made on a whim was probably one of the best decisions I have made on my journey. It was the most incredible experience, and I can say that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend it with any but the amazing and generous new friends that I made that day. I’m not saying that you need to say yes to every stranger you meet on the street of course; remain safe and cautious while traveling abroad, but also remember, that people, no matter where they live in the world, are people just like you. Humans have an innate tendency for being kind, and showing compassion toward others. With this being said, remember to keep your plans flexible, and have an adventurous and spontaneous attitude. If you keep these things in mind, you will undoubtedly have an unforgettable trip, filled with experiences you never thought you would have, and new friends who you will remember for life.
Hunter is living with a host family in France as a part of our Teach English in France - Conversation Coach program.