I am from a very small town. There are barely even any red lights. I am being generous by guessing there may be 5 total. Everyone knows everyone. You can't go out without seeing someone you know. And everybody is in everybody's business. That is pretty much how it goes.
My high school had around 300 students. We were lucky to have a Wal-Mart and a few fast food restaurants. This was basically all I had ever known. I had traveled a few times to different states, but not often. I always came back to my small town and just went back to living in my box. And that is exactly what it was is a box.
I was approaching my first college graduation for my Associate's degree and I decided that I wanted to take the study abroad program. I had never been outside of the country. I had never been on an airplane. But I had always dreamed of these things. I was hungry to see what else the world had to offer outside of my box. I just knew there had to be more to life than that. I was nervous, but I was also ready to jump outside of my comfort zone and explore. I knew that would be the only way that I would ever know. And it was truly one of the best things that I have ever done. I was immediately HOOKED!
So, given the town that I had lived in, you generally seen the same types of people. Most people dressed the same and there were the same fashion trends. You rarely saw anything outside of the norm.
The first time I was ever on a plane, I went to Europe. I got the opportunity to see Belgium. We stayed in Brussels and also traveled to Antwerp and Ghent. It was such an amazing and unique experience. It was truly life changing.
Traveling to a different was somewhat of a culture shock, but it was also very mind opening. I was introduced to so many different cultures and trends. It enlightened me to see how much of the world was really out there and I had basically just been living in this box.
There were tons of people dressed all sorts of ways. At first, I was just like "Whoa!" What are these people wearing? But once the culture shock wore off, I realized that I had just never really been exposed to that much of the world other than this little town I lived in. I lived in my box. And not many people there seem to escape it.
I quickly learned that it was a good thing to be different. It was a good thing to be able to comfortably express yourself and your individualism. Back home, everyone tried to be the same and not express themselves in that type of way. This experience was the beginning of a very important journey within myself. It was the beginning of a journey of learning to love myself and embrace my own individuality.
We were not meant to be the same. We were all created to be different. Society has created these standards of what we are supposed to be; how we are supposed to dress. I wish people would stop trying to wear a mask. Society has forced people to wear a mask and they are too afraid to show their true self so they hide it and instead try to be like what they think society wants them to be.
One of the most amazing things that I got to experience about Belgium was all of the wonderful architecture. When I did the study abroad program, it was actually with an Art Appreciation class so we study much about it.
There are just so many beautiful buildings. The detail is absolutely extraordinary. It is nothing like anything you would see in the U.S. It is so beautiful.
All of the architecture was very beautiful. But there was one very special building that turned out to be my ultimate favorite.
This castle turned out to be absolutely phenomenal. I had always wanted to go in a castle so when I saw this, I got so excited. I immediately ran towards it and this is what happened inside.....
I found this cool guy inside and we played his instruments together. So, not only did I get to see a cool castle, but I was had the opportunity to run into this cool cat.
Belgium is also known for their chocolates.
Another aspect of Belgium that was really neat were these cool statues.
There were all of these random statues all over the places. You walk up to them, and BOOM! They come to life. They were actually people dressed up as statues but it was amazing because the detail was so extraordinary. If they hadn't of moved, then you would have never been able to tell that it was a statue.
There were lots of things that you would never see in the U.S. For example, strippers would dance in the windows. A lot of the men wore stilettos. You would even see condom machines on the street.
Not to mention, we ended up at a gay parade and they were throwing out condoms instead of candy.
And even condom smart cars....
I got the opportunity to see some really neat museums. We visited a comic book museum...
I was blessed with the opportunity to see the Horta Museum. which was absolutely phenomenal. It was definitely one of my favorite attractions.
The foods were also amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't really take pictures of my food or the restaurants. I went to Belgium before the era of the smartphones and before people took pictures of everything they ate. However, I am a huge water snob. That may sound crazy but all water tastes different to people. If I go out, I always ask for extra lemon to drown out the taste of tap water. I hate the tap water taste. In Belgium, you could get something called "still water." And oh em gee was it fabulous. I know that probably sounds crazy but it was truly amazing. It was by far the best water that I have ever drank. I wish we had it in the U.S.
I would have brought some back, but I had purchased too many souvenirs already and I was going to be pushing it as it was. Plus, I had to make sure I could get the beer to fit in my luggage because the cherry beer was crazy good. Belgium is known as the beer capitol of the world, and let me tell you, the beer there was fabulous. They had it in every flavor you could imagine, but I was pretty keen on the cherry.
They even have beer machines...
There was so much to see and so much to do. It was truly a life changing experience. This is only a very small portion of my trip,
I have since then traveled to other places. But what I have learned is that with each trip, there is a growing experience. You see new and do new things. You interact with different types of people. You come back as a new and refreshed person. This is one of the many reasons I value traveling. It is also like my batteries to recharge. If I am struggling with the stresses of life, traveling recharges me.