Ten years ago I embarked on a 3,500 mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean. I lived twenty-one days in four different countries. To say this experience was life-changing is an understatement. Little did I know, this was only the start of my wandering feet.
When you visit a foreign country, learn another language, or dedicate yourself to understanding a culture different than your own, you change. You grow. You evolve. Your perspective shifts. You suddenly become aware of how massive the scale of life is and how minor you, one person, are on that scale. But then you meet people, many, many people, who aren't so different from you at all. "Foreign" fades and "familiarity" rises. You sit around a table swapping stories of good times and offering advice for hardships. You become friends.
That's when you realize, this world isn't nearly as big as it appears to be.
About this time last year, I had a wild idea strike me. I had been reflecting on the travels I had done back when I was in high school and thinking about how vastly different my life could have been without those adventures. I wouldn't be who I am, with the perspectives I have, without the experiences I've been through. The idea that struck me was: I want to be able to help someone have the opportunity to travel, to learn, to live. The answer I found was to host an exchange student.
And now, in exactly one month, my new Swedish friend will be coming in August to live with me through the next school year. She's seventeen years old and will be a senior at the local high school. I get nervous walking into school on the first day and I've done it for how many years? I can't imagine her apprehension. She's braver than I perhaps have ever been.
Over the past few weeks as I've shared my excitement with people, their reaction is always the same, "That's so perfect for you!" as if in some way, I've always been destined to offer up my home to a stranger. But when I actually think about it, it's because they see me as someone who's been changed. Someone who knows that while the earth may be 24,902 miles around, all it takes to make a friend are open eyes and an open heart.
"I have no special talent.