I'm not exactly what you'd call a voyager. Outside of some visits to Grandma and Grandpa's and a couple of vacations to Disney World and NYC, I've largely stayed put in my home state of Pennsylvania for all my life. That all changed when I made the bold step and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean Edinburgh, Scotland for my spring break. I mean, when your university's Study Abroad allows freshman to travel to another country for the week for only $500, I couldn't let that opportunity pass me by.
Going in with no understanding of what made Scotland so special, outside of the bagpipes of course, I had no expectations or ideas about the weather, the culture, and whatever differences could be found compared to America. Right after I left the airport and took the bus to my hostel, the first surreal moment I experienced was seeing the bus drive on the left side of the road. I had already known that the UK is the only place in the world that does traffic backwards, but actually seeing it for myself, especially after seeing it the normal way for more than 19 years really made me realize how surreal it is to see such a law up close.
In many respects, it was the tip of the iceberg. Obviously, there are plenty of things American cities and Edinburgh share, like shops, restaurants, restrooms and museums, but there are plenty of key differences found in each of them that either improves or hurts the regular experience found in the U.S.
The shops and restaurants near my hostel were all on a slope. So instead of everything being on a level plane, you have to walk up or down a pretty steep hill to get to whatever destination you want. I can't really think of any example of a city built on a hill, but it gets crazier. Tips in restaurants aren't required, the restrooms feature two faucets, one for hot water, the other for cold water, and all museums are completely free of charge since they are paid for by the government.
It's little touches like these which helped me discover what makes travel so great. Whether it's massive cultural differences or tiny little touches, there's always something unique and unexpected around the corner, and I loved being able to dip my toe into another world for the week.