Traveling Abroad: How I Discovered A New Perspective On Life


“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for bordering Emirates, please fasten your seat belts and prepare for takeoff,” was the final sentence I heard before my life completely transformed in ways I can’t remember. In under twenty-four hours, a fragile teenage girl who needed her mom in sight at all times turned into a fearless human being. 

Who would have thought that a plane ticket would change my entire perspective and make me realize my life has not yet been lived? I had always wondered if the better version of me was meant to discover other parts of the world, but I never imagined that meant leaving my old self behind. I knew the day would come when I’d finally meet my family who live in Syria, but I never pictured doing it alone.

It amazes me to think how different my life would have been if I simply said “No” to the question my mom had asked me. The petrifying news I had gotten when I found out she hadn’t received her passport yet and wasn’t permitted to fly Arab Airlines had me questioning my choice repeatedly. 

“Do you still want to go?” echoed in my head over and over again until all I could hear was myself. I had never made such a terrifying decision alone — wondering if my cousin and her mom were enough to convince me that I was ready to discover the true beauty within the Middle East. Putting all my fears and past abandonment issues aside, I reminded myself who I want to become. 

My bags were already packed and all that was left to do was start the car and tell my mom I’ll see her in a month.

“We’re here,” my driver in Syria announced, as I opened the car door in disbelief. Suddenly, I woke up alarmed and surrounded by family members. My mind instantly formed into a state of shock when I realized I had no experience on how to greet these unfamiliar faces. Comfort filled my body once my grandparents took me inside the home where my mother was raised. Although I had never been outside of the country to witness the cultural differences in the U.S., nothing could have prepared me for what I had encountered.

Most of the country’s territory had been destroyed along with severe water damage due to the Syrian war. 

I became disheartened as I realized how significantly blessed I am to be given the opportunities and chances that they might never be able to have. The “privileges” I had adapted to strongly impacted my perspective once they were taken away from me.

Two weeks had passed when I knew I would never be able to look at the world the same way.

Nothing could have stopped me from uncovering the truth about my identity. I struggled to find the best version of myself by setting unrealistically high standards but have learned to be grateful for the things I wouldn’t have had. In Syria, I wouldn’t have had warm water to shower in after a long, stressful day, cable to call my friends, a comfortable bed to sleep on, or even money to support my family. 

How do you recover after realizing that you’re lucky to just have those things in your life? I have become a person who understands the values of this world. This unforgettable experience has taught me that I’m ready to see the true beauty that life has to offer. In reality, thousands of people may never be able to afford to witness an adversely raw attribution in life. I can take the lessons as an example for transitioning to adulthood and the journey of not having my mom by my side to remember that I always have myself.