10 Ways that Travel Permanently Changed Me

When I began this crazy ride of traveling as much as physically and financially possible at 15, I was impressionable, excited and more than a little clueless. Over the last seven years I have had my share of small tragedies on the road: a pick-pocketing incident when I was stranded with no cash for three weeks, LICE (bleh), several cases of serious illness (and heartbreak) stand out as the most memorable.

But overall I know that travel, despite its inevitable ups and downs, has changed me for the better. Here are all the ways that travel has permanently changed me.


1. I always try to kiss people.


After spending a lot of time in kiss-heavy countries like France, Spain, Argentina and Chile, it feels really normal to kiss others when I greet them. In fact it actually feels cold not to. So when I’m at, let’s say, a dinner party in MICHIGAN, I instinctively rush to kiss people on the cheek- which needless to say, really freaks out most Americans.

2. I’m terrified of elevators.

Due to four months of riding in rickety cage elevators in Buenos Aires, I am extremely scared of elevators. Once I even got my arm stuck in an industrial elevator! So if you ever see me sprinting past the doors of an elevator like I’m running for my life, it’s because I am.

3. I’m a huge bread and cheese snob.


I can definitely blame this one on France, but after all this time here I’m very picky about bread and cheese.

4. I actually understand the metric system.

I now know that I am 1.7 meters tall and that my favorite temperature is around 23 degrees Celsius. And despite the fact that the U.S. is one of the countries that officially uses the metric system, most of us are barely familiar. Please America, let us convert to this logical, efficient and universal system of measurement! Immediately!

5. I measure prices in plane tickets.

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A $700 handbag? But that’s like, half a flight to Sydney.

6. I get really offended when people bad-mouth the U.S.

This is a habit that has unfortunately gotten worse over the years. I’ve just heard so much negativity at this point that I can barely stop myself from leaving the room when foreigners tell me things like, “I think Americans are really stupid.” Are you or are you not aware of my nationality?

So if you want to talk about how much you hate the U.S., please go talk to someone else.

7. I’m a much more optimistic person.

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There’s nothing like strangers inviting you into their bike shops to escape the rain, giving you free rides or inviting you to dinner when you’re hungry to make you believe in the goodness of humanity.

8. I speak English like a robot.

Due to an English tutor job, a couple of foreign ex-boyfriends and working for a French family, the way I speak English has definitely changed. I now speak slowly and clearly and avoid idioms, slang and phrasal verbs of any kind. It actually really annoys me when I come home and it takes me a few days to stop sounding like an alien.

9. I’m always a tiny bit scared of being robbed.

After a pickpocket stole my wallet on a bus in Buenos Aires, I began taking more precautions. Even still, I am always paranoid about having my belongings stolen.

10. I’m much more open to meeting new people.

Like any traveler worth her salt, I consistently thrust myself into extraordinarily awkward situations when traveling. From Couchsurfing in a German basement to checking into to party hostels by myself, I am willing to try just about anything for the sake of having fun or learning something.

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 How has travel permanently changed you?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

30 thoughts on “10 Ways that Travel Permanently Changed Me”

  1. “5. I measure prices in plane tickets.” I do the EXACT same thing! LoL, but I’ve never told anyone. Just goes to show you where your priorities are eh?

    And don’t ever feel bad about #9 you should have your guard up while traveling. Always. As long as it doesn’t get in the way of #7 :)

  2. these are great! i can totally agree with many of them…especially measuring prices in plane tickets (i even do this when contemplating buying a red bull…sad). because one red bull here is the same price as a ryan air ticket. yes, just ryan air, but still… and i, too, get offended when people try to knock down americans. i often hear ‘i hate americans’. well, i hate to say it, but that is racist. and ill be the first to let them know. no one in norway walks around saying ‘i hate somalians’ because that is an unacceptable form of racism. but hating americans seems to be accepted in these parts. its perplexing to me. but usually i just laugh and tell them to get rid of their mac, iphone, mcdonalds cup, facebook, converse tennis shoes, marc jacobs purse…and then we can talk ;) that shuts people up really quick.

    i speak english horribly anymore. i think it is b/c i dream and speak so much norwegian that i forget english. i notice it most when writing a blog post and i cant think of any adjective except ‘awesome’ or ‘great’. its really sad!

    ive been traveling internationally since i was a baby, so i dont really know life without it. but i know one thing that is strange about me compared to other people is i can find beauty in ANYTHING. even a tattered building that is nearly falling down with graffiti covering it. i somehow find the charm in it, where most people cant. i also know how to order a beer in like 40 different languages. hmm…that is all i can think of now :) but i know there are a load of more ways traveling has changed me.

    • I literally can’t stand it, and yes, I would agree that it’s racism! We have a country of 300 million people so to say something like, “Americans are so stupid” is just ridiculous. Everyone here also thinks I’m obsessed with ketchup, but they’re the ones who eat it on their pasta! Weird stereotype…

      I love that you can see the beauty in everything, and am super jealous that you dream in Norwegian! I don’t think I dream in anything but English sadly.

  3. I couldn’t agree more with #7 – traveling has definitely made me realize that people are basically good, and the world isn’t such a strange and scary place. Also, meeting people with so many different attitudes and ways of life reminds me that anything is possible, and there’s no one right way to live life.

    • I totally agree that people are basically good- I used to be a lot more cynical when I was younger (backwards right?) but now that I’ve traveled I think people do things that are selfless all the time. And I actually find comfort in going other places and realizing that there are many ways to think and live; there isn’t one right way to follow.

  4. #5 and #8 are SO spot on for me. My English has changed so much and the only odd thing I’ve ready held onto is y’all (and still the occasional like, much to my dismay).

    And I get SO annoyed when people want to talk to me about the US and then just decide to bash it. I try to explain to people why certain people have their beliefs and act certain ways but all they care to do is say it’s wrong, etc. So frustrating.

    • Hi, Dena, Thanks for your comment! I’m so glad someone else agrees with me on #1, I seriously kiss people all the time and their reactions are so funny; do they they that they’re going to melt if someone gets inside their “bubble”?

  5. “I always try and kiss people” haha that’s a great one! As for the rest, I totally agree….except for number 3. I just don’t have the chance to be a bread and cheese snob, oh but I want to be. Next year ;)

  6. Lovely post. I remember when i first went travelling to Sri Lanka ten years ago, my English completely changed when i spent two months living on a beach with only Sinhalese speakers. I was always having to speak slowly and clearly, and as my friends were speaking broken English back to me, I inadvertently started to take on a bit of that too! Happy 2013 Ashley!

    • An American friend of mine commented the other day on how I speak really slowly and clearly, ugh! When I’m with foreigners a lot I also start to pick up on mistakes that they frequently make, as you did… it’s funny we had such a similar experience. Happy 2013 to you as well, Victoria!

  7. #5 I totally do that. When i’m shopping, I think, “stop, that is a whole day in Spain.”
    #7 I totally agree. Probably the biggest way travel has changed me. It is so gratifying seeing all the compassion out there in the world.
    #8 “I speak English like a robot.” This cracked me up!

    Great post, Ashley!

  8. I definitely speak English differently after a couple years working with ESL students in Minneapolis, then teaching it in Vietnam. No slang, no idioms for me. I’m with you on the awkward situations, too. Or maybe I’ve always thrust myself into them and that makes me a natural traveler. Great blog, Ashley!

  9. I really like all 10 that you pointed out. I definitely can say that I am much more open to meeting people, trying new things, and having new experiences. I also don’t like it when people bad mouth the U.S., not in a ” ‘Murica!” sort of way, but more that everyone should have some sort of love about the place them come from. I also believe that every place we travel teaches us something, including the U.S.

  10. I know this post is older, but so true still! I studied abroad for only a year in Europe, four years ago and still find myself doing most of things things!

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