BY CAITLIN JOHNSON
Recently I asked a Spanish journalist what he though the most important thing for a traveling journalist is. He said two things: Learn the language and practice humility. The first is obvious; it’s very difficult to be fully immersed in a different country if communication becomes a barrier. The second was a bit more surprising. I had already experienced a good share of humility in my short time in Spain, and to have someone else tell me it was expected was a bit of a relief.
When it comes to interacting with others I tend to be a bit submissive. Thrusting myself into a new place accentuated that—I was a guest, a foreigner; I was at their mercy. When my roommate and I arrived in Valencia a week and a half ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Nervousness flooded over me in the car ride to our new Spanish home. We had no idea who our host mother was or what she was like. Was she nice? Did she speak English? How would we survive this for the next four weeks?
To answer these questions: She is nice, she speaks only crazy-fast Spanish, and Lauren and I are managing fairly well so far. When the two of us walked to her door for the first time, towing our overpacked suitcases and a thick cloud of doubt, worry gave way to relief as Ana welcomed us with open arms and a kiss on each cheek. She ushered us upstairs, the three of us crammed into the narrow clunky elevator I would later discover were fairly common around Europe. We were treated to a hot meal of spaghetti and meat sauce—somewhat unusual for a first night in Valencia—and a night of relaxation.
The week since has been a blur. Lauren and I met our classmates, and, fortunately, we all get along very well. Together we’ve explored our new city, sampling its wonderful cuisine and experiencing its culture through dance and nightlife. It’s only been one week, but we’re already beginning to feel at home. Between Spanish class, writing and photography lessons and sightseeing, I’ve been constantly exhausted. But it’s a good exhaustion, one that comes from submitting to doubt and anxiety then embracing it and using it to fuel the adventure. Life isn’t lived by hiding from what scares you.
As I continue this particular adventure, I find myself looking toward the future. The girl returning home will be different, with new experiences and challenges overcome. She will continue to write her story with these impressions as inspiration for the next chapters in her life.
Humility allows us to learn. It allows us to fully submit to change, and the reward can’t be earned any other way.