I worry about the people who never leave their home countries: they tend to assume that the rest of the world is exactly like their own or - worse - that it's exactly as someone else has described it to them. They think they understand the world and all of its intricacies, complacent with the way things are.
How many countries have you visited? How many countries have you lived in?
It's one thing to visit a country; it's another thing entirely to live there.
When you visit, you see a country the way you want (or your tour guide wants you) to see it: you visit the tourism-focused sights, laugh a bit at the strange customs, and struggle with the foreign language.
But when you live there, you see a country the way its people see it: you learn about off-the-beaten-path restaurants, struggle with bureaucracy, and discover the complexities of the culture.
By fully immersing yourself in another country, you learn, first-hand, about why people love (and hate) their homelands. And then, upon your return, you see your homeland from the perspective of another.
And you start to realize that it's not the way you remember it, and that it doesn't have to be that way. That, in fact, you can (and should) improve it.
Look at the world through someone else's eyes.
And then make the world better, because then you'll know how.
This was originally posted on The Pastry Box Project at https://the-pastry-box-project.net/raquel-velez/2014-July-4