The movie had faded to rolling credits. I’d barely noticed. My mind was still processing the words - the world, has changed me. 

Beyond her fame, I knew little of the life of Amelia Earhart, the film’s subject. But her story, as depicted in the biographical picture, AMELIA, had ignited a longing so visceral that my heart suddenly felt heavy, tears springing to my eyes. 

These emotional tsunamis always strike when I least expect it, plunging me unsuspectingly into life’s Big Questions: Why, for example, are some people beckoned to a life of exploration while others are happiest at home?

After fifteen months of living abroad in Central and South America, my husband and I are stateside for an interim and aware that we, too, have been changed by our experiences and the people we have met along the way.

Sometimes, the side effects are cultural, even humorous. For instance, I’ve adopted the Latin American propensity for hugging people upon greeting. A habit, I’ve noticed, that’s not always welcomed by the recipient. 

Just ask Dominick, the twenty-something Swiss guide who wasn’t sure how to respond when I spontaneously embraced him goodbye during a recent trip to Switzerland. Or, my dad, a stoic man who rarely initiates a hug but has quietly adapted to my demonstrative ways with gentle acceptance.

Other times, the changes are trivial, literally: I can make you a Pisco Sour without a recipe; I know, without Googling, the elevation of Cusco, Peru, in meters (3,400) and feet (11,154); and am aware that Panama hats really come from Ecuador.  

But the important and lasting changes incubate and reveal themselves over time as subtle shifts in perspectives. I’m more prone now to view change as opportunity and talking as overrated. Or, to realize that happiness is less about what I own or where I live, and more about what I choose to notice. 

What about you? How has travel changed you? What lessons have you learned? Use the comments section below to share.  

iPhone photo by Ellen Barone in flight over the Peruvian Andes.


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Ellen Barone is an American writer and wanderer. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".