A year ago, I boarded a plane that was bound for Russia. I was not travelling to the more popular tourist destinations of Moscow or St. Petersburg. I was headed to Siberia. Perm, Russia was my destination. As my friends packed their bathing suits destined for warmer locations, I filled my suitcase with sweaters and a winter coat. I was going to be spend a little less than a month traipsing around Russia with my classmates. My time in Russia is something that I still struggle to stop talking about. So, here I am talking about it again. This is what I learned during my time in a foreign land.
1. It is possible to live without sleeping for three days.
This trip was my first time overseas. I was a knotted mess of excitement and nervousness. The flight from Salt Lake City to Paris was excruciating without a wink of sleep. I spent hours in Paris running around with my travel companions. I am still unsure as to how my body was physically able to do this. After Paris, we made our way to Moscow and then Perm. I received about 20 minutes of sleep total once arriving at my destination. However, with that knotted mess of emotions, exhaustion seemed to simply become just a state of mind.
2. When you don’t understand a language, there is a lot of time to absorb your surroundings.
I went to Russia not knowing a word in Russian. I could say vodka, and that was pretty much it. Along the way I learned a couple words, but I was still pretty oblivious as to the conversations that surrounded me. Every morning I had a 30 minute tram ride to Perm State University. During that time I was able to absorb my surroundings in a completely new way. I was no longer eavesdropping on the conversation that the couple behind me were having, like I would be doing in the States. Don’t act like you don’t do the very same thing.
3. People are innately good.
I got lost in the middle of a Russian city. It was the middle of the night. I was alone. The people around me did not speak English, and I did not speak Russian. I managed to get home, though. It was by the grace of God, and the kind people of Perm, that I arrived at my host's apartment safe and sound. Thank you, Russian tram ticket taker man. I owe you my life.
4. Americans are loud.
We sounded like a herd of elephants wherever we went. We probably looked a bit like adult size toddlers bumbling around the streets of Perm. We only got yelled at a few times. Thank you, citizens of Perm, for putting up with us.
5. It is possible to be frozen and still walk.
There were times I was freezing my booty off in Russia. As expected, it was cold. Really cold. As a native Montanan, I am no sissy when it comes to cold weather. Okay, I am a bit of a sissy. It was cold, though. Trust me. However, the human body is incredible. Somehow, my joints continued to function as they froze.
6. Travel somewhere unexpected.
Skip spending an extended amount of time in tourist traps. By going to Perm, I was able to experience the real Russia.
7. Laughter can improve any situation. So, stop being a miserable cow.
When travelling, you will get exhausted. You will get homesick. There will be times when you want a steak, mashed potatoes and a cold glass of water. Why do other parts of the world drink carbonated water? I don't understand. However if you spend too much time thinking about these things, you will miss out on the experience that is in front of you. Take time to laugh and be in the moment.
8. The Russian people are kind and welcoming.
On the streets there maybe an abundance of stern faces. I may have looked insane because I smile incessantly, and I laugh too loud. However, once you meet a Russian you will find that they are incredibly giving people. Their home is your home, and they will do whatever it takes to ensure your happiness.
9. Don’t let fear hold you back.
There were times when I was extremely uncomfortable. The first time that I rode the tram I was incredibly concerned about getting lost, and I did get lost. There was a moment when a high school student said that he was going to steal me. However, things turned out more than fine. I have a great stories to tell now. The likelihood of something terrible happening is slim. So, it is useless to spend time worrying. Simply be aware of your surroundings, and have fun.
10. The people that you meet are the best part.
During my time in Russia I saw some incredible and beautiful things. However, the most incredible and beautiful parts things were the people that I met and the friendships that I made. I shared laughs and stories with people that I hope to always have in my life. To my friends that became family in Perm, thank you for changing my life.