What Every “Third Culture Kid” Knows About World Travel

“Where are you from?” If such a simple, standard question throws you into a spiral of self-doubt and a premature identity crisis, then you’re probably a TCK. A slightly less dramatic explanation of a Third Culture Kid (TCK), however, is a person who was raised in a country (or a few) that is not of their parents nor where they were born. The life of a TCK is rewarding, challenging at times, but 500% worth it, and in my experience I’ve learned a lot along the way. These are the lessons that everybody, TCK or not, can learn from, and so I’m sharing with you some tips I’ve collected from corners across the globe.

When travelling, look for the hidden spots.

“Let’s go to the Colosseum!” said every tourist in Rome, ever. While it is important to visit the typically touristy places in a location, there is also great beauty hidden in the less explored corners. Don’t forget to find those places too. Sometimes the fun in it is the adventure in looking, and sometimes you’ll end up lost in a beautiful alley in Rome, with no complaints. Spending a while in a foreign city has afforded me the time to find these little places, and it has always been worth it.

Be a tourist in your own home.

While we’re on the topic of travel, let’s remember that wherever we currently call “home” is also a place to be explored. Every now and again, take a day to go to the highlights of your home city, be a tourist, and in doing so you’ll learn so much more about where you’re from (wherever that may be). Take a group of friends with you to make it that much more fun. On campus, go explore the beautiful library you never actually go to, find friends and go on the typical college tour of your school to throw it back to when we were all eager high school seniors (avoid the walking backwards though). We often forget to explore right where we are, so go ahead and look around you.

Make friends. Constantly. And appreciate them always.

Although this may seem pretty obvious, it’s especially important to a TCK, as we know that our friends will be leaving soon. Sometimes we get six months with that person, sometimes three years, but the point is that nobody has time to get caught up in the drama, gossip, and useless stumbles in a friendship that takes time away from spending it with good people. Also, making friends is not as awkward as you think it is. This idea of “awkward” is all in our head. If someone seems nice, approach them and strike up a conversation. Keep it simple. Yes, I understand that this is not as easy as I’m making it sound, but with a bit of practice, it becomes second nature. And once you have made those friends, appreciate them. Remind them that they’re important to you.

WhatsApp, Skype, and iMessage save lives.

Ok, maybe not lives, but definitely friendships. What happens once you’ve made those friends from #3? If you’re a TCK, you probably will respond with “they leave.” Even if they don’t they will at some point likely go overseas for vacation or to study abroad. And this, my friend, is where these apps come in handy.  You just need to be on wifi or use your phone service, but they make communicating with your friends abroad just as easy as communicating with friends in your home country. I don’t care if all the time spent staring at my phone makes my eyesight worse (that’s why contacts were invented), and I don’t care if I have to be up at odd hours of the night just to talk to my closest friends (thanks, time zones), but thanks to these apps it’s very easy and, of course, worth it when you get to laugh with your best friend while she’s eating breakfast and you’re almost asleep.

Eat all the foods.

By far my favourite. It doesn’t matter how strange it sounds, at one point, somebody ate it, so as long as it’s not lethal you should give it a try. You might find your new favourite food, or you might discover your least favourite food. Either way, it will be a worthy experience, if you like the food, great, if you don’t, you’ve just thoroughly entertained your friends. See? It’s a win-win situation. Also, it’s food, which is always an excellent idea.

Image via Francesca Smeriglio

Ashley Wert

Editorial Contributor, University of Southern California Major: International Relations Her heart belongs to: fruit, friends, family, low top white converse, beach vacations, the sun. You can find her: at brunch, exploring rooftops, at brunch on a rooftop, traveling.

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