Gratitude Abroad

This year I’ve had the incredible opportunity to travel, study, and live abroad for five months. I am currently in Singapore, the “lion city” and lively hub of South-East Asia. I have made a strong conscious effort to take this trip mindfully and it has made my exchange a deeply meaningful experience so far. Interning at Plasticity has equipped me with the mindset to approach any task or challenge with an open and grateful mind, so I have assembled three tips for travelling with gratitude.  

  1. It is what you make of it

Are you a glass half-full or half-empty kind of person? Something significant I’ve learned through travel is that almost any situation can be what you make of it. For example, when your itinerary isn’t going exactly as planned, do you panic and wallow in your frustration and anger? Or do you take those mishaps in stride and problem-solve with a clear head? I’ve come to expect that not everything will be perfect, but that it is up to you to decide whether you flip a crappy situation on its head and turn it into an opportunity. Most times it’s not the destination that’s the best part, but the unexpected places that you stumble upon throughout the journey.

Your personal outlook and mindset will greatly influence your experience abroad. I find that I often seek out the “happiness” everywhere I go. This mindset just seems to make the happy things pop out to you a little bit more. You notice the art, people, and places that celebrate happiness and gratitude. It’s easy to let these things slip into your blind spot, so don’t let it!


I stumbled upon this bell of happiness while on a hike with some friends. It was quite hidden and out of place, but beautiful nonetheless. Hundreds of strangers had scribbled their “happiness” onto little bells and fastened them to the arch. Ringing the bell is definitely something that I won’t forget!

  1. Be Mindful

Be mindful of where you are. Try to stay present and experience everything with all five senses. Traveling can be overwhelming and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of activity in new places. Remember the H.E.R.O. traits, and approach everything with Hope, Efficacy, Resilience, and Optimism. Travel isn’t all glorious, so strong H.E.R.O. traits are what help you get through the bumps along the way. It’s amazing how this allows you to adopt a new perspective on your surroundings and take on problem solving with confidence. Check out the H.E.R.O. traits in this handy infographic.

  1. Reflect

This is the best way to keep gratitude in mind throughout your travels. Self-reflection is a powerful tool to remember your experiences in a way that pictures just can’t do. Keep a journal, diary or blog to recount your adventures but also to reflect on what you have learned and what you are grateful for. For example, when I’ve been travelling I often realize how grateful I am for my family, education, and country. These moments are documented in a digital travel journal and I find that I take away much more from my experiences than I would otherwise. In my opinion, self-reflection is what is making my time abroad meaningful and is something that I am excited to look back on for years to come!

Go and pack your bags! Keeping gratitude at the forefront of my mind during my studies has positively affected how I approach new people, cultures, cities, and so much more.

I like keep this quote by James Michener in mind when embarking on a new adventure:

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion, and avoid the people, you might better stay home”.



Sarah Hay