A Reflection on the Pure Joy of Being in a New Place

Nicole Stein
February 11, 2022

I think it may be impossible to express how alive seeing a new part of the world for the first time makes me feel. Traveling has been something I’ve dreamt of as long as I can remember. I don’t know who inspired it—probably my grandmother, who spent the second half of her life traveling all over, all on her own. Or maybe it was my aunt, who’s told me countless stories about her one-year trip around the world. More likely, my travel bug came from many sources. My obsession with Harry Potter and One Direction landed me in London at the age of 13. I remember an episode of Jon and Kate plus eight where they went to Hawaii. After that, my dream was to make it to the Big Island and swim with stingrays, something I accomplished at age 14. Other times, I found myself in miraculous spaces simply because I said yes. At 16, my aunt offered to bring me to the Dominican Republic, and I soon found myself laying under a tree on La Isla Saona and being able to see my feet on the ocean floor in the clearest water I've ever swam in. At age 8, my dad and brother were supposed to go hiking in Bryce Canyon, Utah. I don’t remember why, but my brother wound up not being able to go, so I came along instead. I’ll never forget the day we discovered a secret waterfall at the bottom of a canyon and slid down a natural waterslide made of moss on slippery rocks, or when I rode on the back of an ATV through the desert. As I’m writing this post, I’m on a bus to Porto, Portugal because I found out a few of my friends booked a trip and I was not going to miss it. Anyway, all this is to say no matter how much I’ve daydreamed about visiting new places, the real thing is just as magical as I’ve always imagined. 

Yesterday, I was walking back from the Casa Lis Art Deco/Art Nouveau museum in Salamanca. I was listening to Natalia Lafourcade, a Spanish artist I’ve started exploring as of late. It was sunny, warm, and my last day of classes for the week, and I was in an incredible mood. The only way to explain how I was feeling is just…joy. Traveling, exploring new cultures, and meeting new people is something I’ve always wished for. I talked to my kitchen-mate while she was cooking her lunch, and we talked about Spanish food and Spanish culture. I went out for dinner with some friends and ate Jamón with brie and blueberry jam. I finished my night trying a local gelato shop and befriending the man working at the counter.  I think, for me, being knee-deep in a dream makes me feel so alive. 

Do not get me wrong, the first three weeks of my study abroad adventure have not been seamless at all. There has been a lot of adjusting, some homesickness, some stomach aches. I’ve had trouble getting enough sleep, felt overwhelmed by all my classes and the new language, and I have definitely experienced countless moments of self-doubt. However, I get to feel all these things in Spain–things I certainly experience on a daily basis at home as well. My wish is, by the time my life comes to an end, I’ve experienced overwhelm and stomachaches in as many new places as I can get to.

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Nicole Stein

<p>Hi! My name is Nicole Stein. I am a Spanish major at Kenyon College from Montclair, New Jersey spending the Spring of 2022 in Salamanca, Spain! My favorite things to do are travel, try new food, swim in small bodies of water, pet baby animals of all kinds, spend time outside hiking, skiing and exploring, and making connections with people from all walks of life.</p>

2022 Spring
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Kenyon College
Montclair, NJ
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