The Most Important Lesson I Learned While Travelling

“Life lessons will catch you at moments you would never expect. They don’t announce themselves, or come with a tag.”

I’m going to tell you a story…one that occurred in a very unlikely place that will be stuck with me forever.

My best friend and I were at the beach. I can’t remember if it was spring break, or if we met up in the summer. I can’t remember if it was Oak Island, Myrtle Beach, or some other beach on the east coast. What I do remember from that trip, is having a conversation with a shop owner that changed my life. My friend and I walked into the store with the intention of buying a couple of souvenirs for family and friends back home; what we left with was so much more.

It happened when we were looking at the key chain rack — the key chains with the names on them. Of course, I couldn’t find my name {because you best believe when I do find it, I’m buying all those key chains!}. The store owner approached us, as we were the only two in the store at the time, and struck up a conversation.

I’ll admit it; at first I was slightly annoyed. I’m a shy, introverted individual so when people expect me to make small talk, sometimes it gives me anxiety. But as she continued to talk, I began to feel intrigued by her. She started asking us where we were from {a question that baffles me — see Where Are You From?}, what we were doing down there, and other related questions.

As we continued talking, she soon found out that my family is from Haiti. She stated, ‘Oh, you must be so proud of your parents. Coming all the way over here from another country. Learning a completely different language, and thriving in the United States.” She continued, “You know a lot of people look down on immigrants, especially those with accents. What they fail to see is, the endless work and dedication, the never-ending determination and perseverance these individuals have. Not only have they reached the level of those around them, but they did so in a completely foreign country; they did so not knowing any of the native language; they did so despite the others that kept pushing them down and telling them they wouldn’t amount to anything.”

I was blown away. This little lady, who was an immigrant herself, taking the time to open my mind and my heart; forcing me to change my perspective on the matter; addressing problems that I had within myself that she could not have possibly known. She had an accent too. So why was I so bothered by my parents’ accents? The story behind an accent is unique to each speaker, but each story has a similar characteristic: they put in effort to learn the language and they’ve sacrificed more than anyone could ever know.

Life lessons will catch you at moments you would never expect. They don’t announce themselves, or come with a tag. We have to be willing and open to receive them– wherever, whenever. I’m so happy we decided to stop at that specific store. I’m so happy the owner decided to engage in conversation with us. I’m so happy we were interested in what she had to say. Because of her, instead of thinking ‘if only you didn’t have an accent’, I now think ‘I’m so proud of how far you’ve come, despite people judging you for your accent.’

Have you ever learned a life lesson in a place that you definitely weren’t expecting to? Where did it happen, and what was the lesson? Let me know in the comments!

16 thoughts on “The Most Important Lesson I Learned While Travelling”

    1. It truly does, and I didn’t realize that when I was younger. Now, I can fully appreciate just how much my parents and other immigrants have been through, just in terms of the language aspect.

    1. Thank you! And yes, I am proud of both of parents and my heritage. At a young age though, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “why aren’t my parents like everyone else’s”. As I’ve grown up, I realize just how blessed I am to have parents who are willing to sacrifice so much for their family!

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