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Month: January 2016

Students Are Not Rational Beings, They’re Emotional Ones

Students Are Not Rational Beings, They’re Emotional Ones

A young girl speaks up first: “Before Maya I wasn’t confident in how I talk with people and I wasn’t sure what my life would be like in the future. But Maya has given me the chance to say ‘Yes, there are lots of things to do in life.’” The kids around her nod and smile. All of the children in the circle are between 11 and 15 years old, and they all come from very low-income communities in Pune, India. In 2014 they were part of an original musical called ‘Maya’ that they performed for over 10,000 people across India.

Another student speaks up, “What Maya was for me, it was a platform for us kids to figure out, ‘what is our light,’ and what is our potential, and how can we use it in different ways, to help other kids or spread the knowledge that we have… I have grown in Maya. My confidence has increased. Now I can talk to people with more confidence…” Most educators would be glowing with pride if their students spoke like this, but Sanaya, the facilitator, has heard this all before and she doesn’t seem impressed. She cuts into the dialogue, “OK, I’m going to push you a little more. All of your confidence has increased. None of you spoke earlier, all of you speak now. What else?” A murmur of giggles rises in the circle and Sanaya looks up to Elizabeth and I, “At the beginning, they didn’t speak more than a few words of English. They were quite shy. They didn’t have opinions and if they did, they were afraid to voice them.” She looks back to the students, “OK, beyond that?”

Teach for india maya

The students don’t miss a beat. A young boy speaks up, “If we don’t know something, we used to leave it. We used to not ask about it. But after Maya, we learned to ask ‘Why?’ If we’ve been taught something we ask, ‘Why does this happen?’ or ‘What is the reason behind this?’ The reasoning skills that we have, have increased.”

Another girl chimes in, “I’m more aware of the things that I want to do in my life and the things that I did wrong. Maybe I’m a little confused about things, and about what’s happening in my life, or around me. But I’ve started thinking more about what’s going on around me. I’ve started to become more wise. Now I ask, ‘What is the right thing to do?’”

Maya is a program of Teach For India, an organization similar to, but distinctly different from, Teach For America. Maya came about because TFI kept telling their adult fellows that they should focus on values and expose students to experiences in addition to academics. The trouble was that they didn’t have any real examples of what this meant. TFI decided to start a program dedicated to values development and student voice. At about this time, there was a fortuitous introduction to someone connected to Tony Award winning talent from Broadway. The arts seemed like a good place to start and the idea for Maya began to form.

The results are unquestionable. Not only did the students eventually perform an original and elaborate musical (about Maya, a princess who fights to bring light back to her kingdom and, in the process, finds the light inside herself) but their academic test scores ended up over 50% higher than other TFI students across the country. Maya did have a minor academic component where they would break down vocabulary and discuss the musical’s script as a text. But there wasn’t nearly enough time dedicated to this type of discussion to account for a 50% difference in test scores.

Maya teach for india values

The students in Maya talk about the group as a family. They highlight the importance of trust and the fact that their individual voices are valued. It turns out that when young people feel part of a positive peer community like this, it has an immeasurably powerful effect that ripples through every other part of their lives.

Too often we treat children like they are rational systems. We have a goal for them, like academic success, and we push them toward it in a narrow and prescriptive fashion. We want them to be motivated because it makes sense for them to be motivated. But children are not rational beings. They are emotional beings. To find the fire of self-motivation they need emotional experiences. Some students can find this emotion inwardly and nurse their motivation in isolation. But the vast majority of young people need programs like Maya to set the spark that will help them find their ‘light.’

  • Will
The Best Pizza in Naples, Italy, and Probably the World

The Best Pizza in Naples, Italy, and Probably the World

The best pizza in Naples is Sorbillo’s. Some locals may tell you that they actually prefer Starita’s, and I don’t think they’re lying. But I’m assuming it’s the shorter wait and no hype atmosphere that they actually prefer because, with the pizza, there’s no comparison.

The pizza at Sorbillos is just whew, wow, damn… To the uninitiated, it’s like trying to describe color to someone who lives in black and white. The cheese is succulent without being oily. The crust has the perfect flavor of fire and brick oven, without tasting too crisp or burned. The unique shape of each pie testifies to the human touch.

And it’s cheap! So cheap! The basic margherita is about 3 euros, and most of the more ornate pies are still under 10 euros. They could easily get away with charging three or four times their prices, and no one would bat an eye.

Again, Sorbillo’s is the best pizza in Naples. Be warned though, this is not a secret. Here’s a shot of what the ‘line’ outside looked like in early December:

sorbrillos naples, italy napoli

We went for a late lunch at around 3:15 and were lucky to only have a 50min wait. We heard from people who went at peak times and waited upwards of 3 hours. So, you may want to build your whole day around this meal and show up at an especially odd time, like 4:00 or something.

OK, it’s true, we didn’t do an exhaustive pizza tour of Napoli. Maybe there’s some hidden jewel that people like to mention as being better so they can feel cool. Maybe. But it seems to be an uncontroversial line of reasoning to say that, ‘Since Italy has the best pizza in the world, and Naples has the best pizza in Italy, and Sorbillo’s is the best pizza in Naples, then Sorbillo’s is the best pizza in the world.’ No argument from us on that. Pope Francis apparently agrees. This is who he called when he wanted to bless a pizza. Starita’s is still coasting on their photo of John Paul II.

Buen Provecho!

  • Will

 

 

How to Bargain for a Carpet, Rug, or Other Goods

How to Bargain for a Carpet, Rug, or Other Goods

I remember the first time I went shopping in a price-tag free environment. I was 20 and alone in Morocco, and rugs were piling up in front of me. A tray with tea magically appeared. I had no idea how to bargain. Details about the amount of work that went into the rugs and how great a time this was for me to purchase, swirled around my head. It was a disorienting experience. I didn’t even want a rug, but I ended up buying one and paying a lot more than I needed to.

A lot of people are put off by bargaining and don’t quite know how to go about it. Over the last 12 years, I’ve found myself bargaining more than a few times, and I’ve come up with a process you might find useful.

  1. Start a negotiation at 1/3 the asking price. If the person is talking a lot and making a big show, you probably want to lower this to 20% of the asking price. I know it seems like a lot, but you’re aiming to pay 50-66% of the original price. When they tell you the price, it helps to look hurt or surprised and say something like, “Very beautiful, but I’m only prepared to spend ___.” Then smile. This is the most uncomfortable part of the negotiation but also the most important.
  2. The dealer will probably respond by repeating all of the special traits of what you’re buying and reminding you that this is ‘quality stuff.’ Then he’ll probably talk about a ‘cash discount’ (if they take cards at all) and bring it down by 5-10%.
  3. Whatever amount they decrease the price, that’s how much you should increase your bid by. It also helps to wait an uncomfortable amount of time before speaking. Settle in, this conversation may take a while.
  4. Next the dealer will talk a lot and also wait an uncomfortable amount of time. He’ll tell you he’s already giving you a better price than he should. DO NOT SAY ANYTHING until he gives you a new price. He’s trying to awkward you into raising your bid without having to counter.
  5. Look dissatisfied and then generally repeat these steps until you’re near the 50-66% percent range you’re aiming for. Then, wait an even more unusually long period of time during which you seem, excited, pensive, and generally deep in thought. Then smile and say conclusively, “OK, (an amount ~10% lower than his last number).” Then offer your hand to shake, and say confidently, “It’s a good price.”
  6. If he then tries to squeeze an extra couple of bucks out of you, go ahead and let him. There’s no pride to be taken in hustling this guy out of a few dollars that, will certainly mean more to him than you.

Now, all of this advice is for actual high-quality handmade or delicate stuff. If you’re buying something that’s machine made you can normally start closer to 10% and end up paying 20-40%.

On the other hand, there are usually 1-2 shops in a market that will give you a much better starting price than other stores. The main rug in the feature photo for instance. One shop showed a rug of the same size and quality with a starting price of $1200. The shop I ended up buying from had a much less over-the-top dealer and gave a starting price of $450. Our friend Sarah wanted the other two rugs so, we bundled the deal and I ended up paying $350 for the main one in the photo. So, less than 1/3 the price at the first shop but only a ~20% discount from where we actually bought it. Maybe we could have squeezed a slightly better deal, but we were happy with the price. Point being, it pays to get initial quotes from a few places.

Also, my experience comes mostly from Morocco, Egypt, and Turkey. In South America bargaining is less of a thing, and people will kind of stop talking to you if you start as low as I’m recommending here. I look forward to trying this method in India and South East Asia in the coming months, and I’ll amend this post if I find things are drastically different.

Happy Shopping!

  • Will
Throwback Thursday: Google Earth at Machu Picchu

Throwback Thursday: Google Earth at Machu Picchu

DSC_0694

We had just come down from the top of Machu Picchu Mountain and had reentered the ruins.  Just as we were commenting on the remoteness of the Incan city, we spotted these Google Earth guys surveying the area. The 360 camera was originally mounted on one of their backs – we caught up with them just as they took it off to make adjustments.

Will ran over and started taking pictures. “Are you allowed to take pictures of them?” I asked nervously. “They’re taking pictures of everything and everyone,” Will exclaimed. Good point.

DSC_0696

Will tried to joke with the guy without glasses. “If I’d known Machu Picchu would be on the internet, I wouldn’t have come all this way,” he smiled. The Google guy misunderstood. “You’re not on the internet. We’re not recording right now,” he replied. Oh, but we are on the internet, Google guy. We are on the internet.

 

 

 

Responsibility is More than Compliance: Another Lesson from Switzerland

Responsibility is More than Compliance: Another Lesson from Switzerland

 “You should ask them about their apprenticeships” suggested Melissa, the dynamic English teacher who had let us take over her classroom for the period. We had been asking the Swiss students our usual questions. With some shyness, they had just shared that, if they could change anything about their school they would have less homework.

“What type of apprenticeships will you have next year?” we asked. One student, sitting up straighter than before, said he wanted to be a businessman and would be apprenticing at a bank three days a week. The other two days, he would take classes in English, German, and economics. “And how much will you earn?” asked Melissa. We had no idea the apprenticeships were paid. “800 euros per month for the first year,” the student replied with a smile, “but I don’t know how much for the second and third years.”

Other students in the class proceeded to tell us about their apprenticeships. One student will apprentice with city government, another in computer science, many in business. All spoke with confidence and excitement about this next stage of their lives.

There is a marked difference between the type of responsibility expected of students in Switzerland and the United States. In the US, we often mistake compliance for responsibility. Students act “responsibly” when they decide to follow directions – getting to class on time, cleaning up after themselves, doing their homework, etc. While complying with rules does build good habits (rules are there for a reason), it does not actually transition our young people into adult decision making.

desk at school in switzerland

Swiss schools, in contrast, give students responsibilities in preparation for adulthood. They are required to make judgments that will affect not only their present classwork, but their future jobs and economic stability. This seems intimidating, but it’s not if responsibility is released gradually. At The Ruggenacher School, teachers and administrators ready students for the transition to apprenticeship by requiring them to manage 7-8 hours of independent work time each week and plan their own large-scale social events. When students falter, grown-ups provide support. Students are trusted – not only with their behavior, but with preparing for their life paths. This builds confidence, empowerment, and investment in school. It communicates to students that they are about to become contributing members of society and they are trusted to learn, and be strong, and do the right thing.

We also visited Gymnasium Unterstrasse. At this school, most students are preparing for university rather than apprenticeship. Even so, teachers and administrators trust them to make real life judgments. Students plan and attend a week-long ski retreat every year without any adult supervision. “Aren’t you afraid something will happen?” we asked the headmaster.

Swiss School 02

He said there is always the risk of an accident, but students have been trained to know what to do. Every four years the adults at the school turn the building over to the students and allow them to run the entire school for three days – including all teaching, administrative tasks, and building management. It has always gone well.

At both schools, teachers and administrators prepare students for their responsibilities. Ruggenacher provides students with apprenticeship application support. They have a special program to prepare students who are not yet fluent in German or are weak in math. At Unterstrasse students receive specific training in the jobs they perform when adults are not present. This gives students confidence that they can handle the responsibilities they are given.

It’s a common teenage-ism in the US to be waiting for real life to begin, to be itching for the real world. Schools have the opportunity to induct students into the “real world” and adulthood earlier, and more gradually, building investment in the lessons they learn today because those lessons will come into swift practice tomorrow. While many of our thirteen year olds are still required to walk in line to lunch, Swiss students of the same age are planning their careers. It is hard to let go of control, especially in today’s climate of high stakes testing. But gradually trust students with more, and we may be surprised at the investment, empowerment, and adult-teenager relationships that develop.

 

The Art of Banksy: A Review with Photos

The Art of Banksy: A Review with Photos

Flyers are a bit old school but, when traveling, they’re still a great way to learn about cool stuff going on in a city. So, when I saw a row of flyers with a Banksy print stream by the window of the metro here in Istanbul, I immediately went online to learn what was going on. It turns out that, the world premiere of “The Art of Banksy,” the largest Banksy exhibition ever assembled, was about to open its doors just a few minutes walk from our hostel.

Banksy, as you probably know, is awesome. For a long time, I used to twist my lips at political art. I had seen a lot of it, and it all seemed too heavy-handed or too dependent on convoluted symbols. Banksy, however, changed all that.

Banksy’s themes are grand, mostly war and commercialism in this exhibit. But his statements are clean and simple.

He mixes the religious and commercial in a way that forces you to think about the ways the two are changing to resemble one another:

Art of Banksy Sale

Art of Banksy Christ

 

He juxtaposes violence and oppression with the playful and innocent and the absurdity exposes just how far from innocent systems of power usually are:

The art of Banksy flowers

The Art of Banksy

 

Two pieces seem to suggest a vision of triumph or rebirth:

Art of Banksy Rainbow police

Banksy urban rebirth

 

And just in case you have doubts about his back-to-basics talents with oil and canvas there are these museum style landscapes with a little modern Banksy twist:

Art of Banksy Helicopter landscape

Banksy Guantanamo Bay

 

I’ve seen a lot of art, especially on this trip, but no other exhibit has been at all like this. Every single work offers something to think about. The exhibit forced me to see more clearly. It brought me more in touch with the modern world.

  • Will

There are over 100 other works not pictured here in the exhibit. The layout of the exhibit is also unique and adds to the experience. Here’s a final piece for lagniappe that didn’t fit nicely into the themes above, but Elizabeth says it’s her favorite:

Banksy shopping carts spears

Rigorous Relationships: Lessons from One of the Best Schools in Switzerland

Rigorous Relationships: Lessons from One of the Best Schools in Switzerland

Olaf and I were wrapping up our time together when I asked him a final question, “What makes an excellent teacher?”

“There is not ‘the excellent teacher,’” he said. “There is the teacher who can make a connection with the students. The student has the feeling that, ‘he likes me.’ He can be hard, he can be loud, but the student always has to have the feeling that, ‘he likes me.’ This is the relationship piece.” He went on to add that the teacher should know their subject and how to make it exciting. They should know ‘how we talk’ at the school, and they should add insight to school discussions. But it was clear that the relationship between students and teachers was the keystone for everything else.

As soon as Elizabeth and I decided to focus this trip on education, we knew that we had to go to Switzerland. According to the last PISA test (talked about here), Swiss teenagers are both the happiest and highest performing students in Europe. We would have been happy to visit any school, but we were lucky enough to be invited to Ruggenacher, which had recently been nominated as one of the best schools in Switzerland.

Olaf, the school principal, picked us up from the train in his Nissan Leaf. During the short drive to the school, we made small talk about our trip and the unusually warm weather. Once in his office, he gave us some materials and started to explain the approach of the school, “We think the most important thing is to have a good relation from teacher to student. If there’s a good relation, and if teachers are in their topics very well, then we have a good school. That’s the bottom of our thinking.”

students at a school in switzerland

Switzerland is known for its affluence and this is one of its best schools so, we were somewhat surprised to learn about Ruggenacher’s demographics. The majority of the students are working class and over half are from immigrant families. Olaf spoke as much about the supports offered to students who act out or fall behind, as he did about anything else. On the way back to the train station, he told a story about a representative from PISA who came to visit. He asked the man about how he can tell if a school is good or not. “It’s all in how a school treats the bottom 10%. That is everything,” he said.

Now, I’ve heard lots of schools talk about the importance of relationships, but how this priority actually looks in a school can be a tricky question. I asked Olaf what they do to make sure relationships are a lived priority in the school, not just words in a vision. He was quick with examples.

  • Longevity. Instructionally the school is organized into ‘Lelas.’ These are groups of 3-4 teachers who follow students for their 3 years at the school. So, a class of students will have the same three teachers for their entire time at the school. In this way, teachers are able to build strong relationships with each child. The lelas also have a lot of autonomy to plan instruction and come up with support systems for individual students who need it. As Olaf said, “We have no change. It’s very important that we have stability in all of these groups. That’s the point, and why I think we are quite a good school. Because we have good teachers and they work together for a very long time.”
  • Student Coaching. Every four weeks each student has a meeting to discuss with their ‘coach/advisor’ about how they are doing and what their next steps are. If a student needs it, these meetings can be more frequent, sometimes 2-3 times a week. The teachers get special PD on how to facilitate these coaching sessions effectively in both the short and long-term.

desk at school in switzerland

  • Independent time. There are large rooms at Ruggenacher that are filled with 50 student cubicles each. All 50 students are never here at once, so they could share, but Ruggenacher knows that having their ‘own space’ is important to teenagers. Students can personalize their cubicles with photos and their organization chart. Each student spends 7-8 hours a week here and they’re able to manage their own work time. Of course, they’re responsible to complete work, but they have freedom in how they prioritize their tasks. It’s basically a study hall, but taken much more seriously. I think it’s interesting that Olaf mentioned this as part of the relationship strategy. It’s part of a deeper understanding that we saw in Switzerland that, increased responsibility can strengthen a student’s relationship with school. We asked students what they thought of this time and they lit up. It’s clearly one of their favorite parts of the day.
  • Earned Privileges. Students who show they are ‘good’ by being respectful and curious can earn extra privileges like the ability to take home a digital device or get a pass to stay inside during recess. In the US we often take privileges away for misbehavior. I think I like the idea of earning privileges with good behavior better. Students may earn one distinction but not another, and very few students have them all.
  • Respect. The most important aspect of student-teacher relationships at Ruggenacher is something that Olaf mentioned several times: students and teachers can talk with each other. Their communications aren’t defined by a power dynamic, their defined by a mutual respect. This piece is necessary to make everything else work, “Strong teachers can talk with students eye-to-eye. You don’t have so much ‘Teacher and Student.’ They can discuss as normal people should discuss. So the students, you will see, they are difficult in some situations, but mostly you can talk with them. From the first day they come to us they are partners. You can feel it.”

It’s true, we could feel it. The students at Ruggenacher are no different than students at any other school we’ve visited, but unlike students at schools with similar demographics they feel that school is for them. They feel that school is on their side, and they feel this way because of how they are treated when they’re there. Relationships are a priority and the systems of the school actually reflect that priority. Of course, there are other factors in Ruggenacher’s success and we’ll talk about them in future posts, but positive relationships, Olaf insists, are the foundation of everything.

  • Will
Reflections on Terror from Istanbul

Reflections on Terror from Istanbul

Yesterday a suicide bomber approached a German tour group by an obelisk near Sultanahmet square and took the lives of at least 10 people. Less than 24 hours before, Elizabeth and I were walking around Sultamahmet with our friend Sarah. We talked about the layers of history around us and lamented that American students aren’t exposed more to the richness of culture and history in this part of the world. We stood before the obelisk and realized that, a thousand years ago, we would be in the midst of racing chariots. This was the Hippodrome where emperor Justinian once massacred tens of thousands of protestors.

Elizabeth and I were at breakfast on the other side of the city when the explosion happened. We didn’t hear anything. There were at least a million people closer to the blast than we were. We heard what happened like most people several continents away, on the TV. As details emerged, we began to feel increasingly uneasy. This was the exact place where we had stood the day before. We thought of our families and worried for the groups of German tourists we’d seen around the city. We were lucky.

Blue Mosque 01

Photo Credit: Sarah Payne

We were perhaps too cavalier when we dismissed the concerns from our friends and family about visiting Istanbul. This is a country whose eastern border is an active war zone. The crossing with Syria is porous, to put it mildly. On our first night here, we met a journalist who joked about taking us to the east. As we left, he made sure to be a bit more serious, “Do not go to Syria,” he said. “You will be kidnapped, 100%.”

So, many people are reacting to yesterday’s attack as something that’s tragic but unsurprising. For me it’s underlining a different reality: Nowhere is ‘safe.’ Boston, Paris, Cologne, San Bernardino, an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. I have friends who were personally affected when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in my home state of Louisiana. Black people in our country live with the fear that routine interactions with the police could end in death. Sending their children to play in a white part of town has become an act of courage. Terror is everywhere. I don’t feel any less safe today than I did on Monday.

One of the most startling things about yesterday is how quickly a place can appear normal. Yesterday evening people came back to the hostel having just learned what had happened. One man had spent the whole afternoon near Sultanahmet square without knowing a thing. Public transportation in the area was briefly halted, but it’s running again now. Of course the political ripples will continue much longer, and for many people life will never be the same. A certain melancholy hangs in the air. Periodically I imagine what the scene must have looked like and feel sick.

Data shows that the world is actually safer than it’s ever been. But the ways it’s unsafe today are unfamiliar, and they are especially susceptible to narratives of fear and aggression. There is a temptation to define an ‘other’ and rage against them. The broader the ‘other’ we define, the more satisfying our anger will feel. But fear and unquestioning anger will only further radicalize people in all the fractured pieces of our world. I am not a pacifist, but I know that strength cannot be righteous without compassion.

Last week I visited the hill in Turkey where, it’s believed, Saint John wrote his gospel. When I returned I decided to read some of it before going to sleep. I was reminded that Jesus also lived in turbulent and oppressive times. His guidance was clear, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” I don’t think you need to be a practicing Christian to think that there’s truth in that idea. In times that seem dark, maybe each of us should do our best to find the light we wish to carry. It’s difficult, but it’s a more uniquely human ability than fear.

  • Will
Throwback Thursday: Pride Parade in San Francisco

Throwback Thursday: Pride Parade in San Francisco

Throwback Thursday San Francisco

In honor of 2016 we are introducing a new post series! Welcome to Throwback Thursday. There are so many pictures and small stories we want to share about our journey, but that didn’t fit into any other blog post. Here we get to share those tidbits and look back at a magnificent, crazy year.

For our first throwback, we go to the second week of our trip – enjoying the San Francisco Pride Parade just days after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality.  It was a day filled with good vibes as we wandered city with our cousin, Miles. Will and I may have been still recovering from too much fun at a friend’s wedding the night before. Here, we’re enjoying Dolores Park and taking a little rest before our trek back to our hotel across the bay in Marin.

On Comfort Zones

On Comfort Zones

No doubt – Africa was an awesome experience. Between the landscape, the people, the wildlife, and the history – it was a travel experience I will never forget. But by the time we were leaving Malawi, headed for Zanzibar, I was feeling homesick. I was sick of the food, the mosquitos and the heat were getting to me, and the Paris attacks had just added an extra melancholy to being far from home. I fantasized about getting on a plane to the US instead of Italy.

Two weeks later, we flew from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to Rome. Upon checking into our hostel and taking a walk through the streets, I felt euphoric. I was back in my comfort zone. We got a cappuccino and a croissant. We took a meandering city walk. We had pasta and wine for dinner. The windows closed and we didn’t need a mosquito net. We could log on to Netflix again. I felt a little guilty to admit it… but being in my comfort zone was AWESOME.

Eastern Africa had me uncomfortable in ways that were both tedious and perspective enhancing. I missed coffee that isn’t instant and milk that needs to be refrigerated. I missed always feeling appropriately dressed. I missed being able to wander city streets and explore without being hassled to buy tourist trinkets. I missed the predictability – of not having to haggle, of reliable electricity, of consistent expectations on public transportation.

Comfort zones get a bad rap when you are doing anything adventurous or challenging – whether it’s traveling or moving ahead in your career or meeting new people. Your comfort zone is where you DON’T want to be if you are looking for an exciting, meaningful, learning-filled life. No one says “yeah, I’m looking to stay in my comfort zone on this next adventure.”

where-the-magic-happens-3
Just because the magic happens outside your comfort zone doesn’t mean your comfort zone isn’t also magical.

But this makes comfort zones seem like bad places, when really they play an important role in the journey. Your comfort zone is where you regroup. It’s where you process what has been difficult and prepare for the next challenge. It’s hard to be uncomfortable all the time – everybody needs a reprieve once in a while.

Traveling for a year is a huge gift and privilege. But without moments in my comfort zone (for example, the 6+ weeks we spent in western Europe over Christmas) I wouldn’t be able to appreciate and process everything I’ve learned while outside my comfort zone. And I certainly wouldn’t be ready for the next chapter – India and Southeast Asia – if I remained outside a familiar culture straight through the trip.

I guess this all to say: you should definitely get outside your comfort zone and explore things unknown to you. Being uncomfortable is a good thing. It’s also okay to relish feeling at home.