Well, the truth is that I don’t travel that much anymore. When I graduated from college, all I wanted to do was travel. I had the “bug” and knew that I wanted to be fluent in French. I left the United States and didn’t touch American soil again for over a year. Little did I know that this decision would change the course of my life.
I first became interested in travel as a child. My dad worked as a salesman and would travel frequently. He sold pest control products and brought me all over the country with him. I wound up in some pretty interesting places – from the Amish colonies in Pennsylvania to dairy farms outside of San Francisco, California. I became a very good traveler: I read maps for my dad and kept myself occupied with books or games. The moments of arrival in a new place were some of my favorite experiences because I knew this new place brought adventure. I guess that is when I became a “traveler”.
My first international trip was to Australia and New Zealand when I was 14. I definitely corroborated with my two best friends so we could all travel together. It was a student ambassador program through an organization called ACIS and our former teacher was the trip leader. We raised money to go by selling Christmas wreaths and put on other fundraising activities around our city. For over a year, we raised money. We spent 10 days in Cairns/Sydney (Australia) and Auckland/Rotorua (New Zealand). When I returned from this voyage, I immediately started thinking: “Where to next?”
From that point onward, I took every opportunity to travel. When I was 16, I participated in a Swiss Exchange program at my high school through my French class. This was the first time I was able to communicate in an entirely different language. It was incredible. I fell in love with Europe and knew I wanted to improve my French.
A few months after I returned from Switzerland, my father suddenly passed away. To be honest, it was a very dark time in my life. So, like normal adolescents do, my best friend and I decided to go back to Europe on a solo trip. It turned out to be the single most influential trip of my life (perhaps I will write another blog post about it later). Interestingly, on the plane home, I looked at my friend and told her that I didn’t want to be a human doctor (Read My Story for more info on this). I should have listened to my 18-year-old self then, but lo and behold I had no idea what the future had in store.
My next trip was to South America; Peru to be exact. I went on a medical mission trip and spent most of my time playing with the dogs in the streets (another hint to the future). It was the first time I had visited a developing country. The idea of traveling to a place of extreme poverty frightened me at first, but it was such an exhilarating trip. I loved Peru and all of the people I met there.
In 2011, I could tell that my grieving over my father’s death was coming to an “end”. After 3 years of waiting, I was finally ready. Accompanied by my dad’s sister, my mom and my cousin, I traveled to Costa Rica to spread my dad’s ashes in the place he loved the most. This was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I let go of the past and looked toward the future, which led me to move to France in 2013.
During my “four year gap year”, I lived in France and traveled all around the country. I visited friends throughout Europe in Spain, Holland, and Switzerland. I met the love of my life, which brought me to Brazil in August of 2014. Since then, I have been back to Brazil three times and France twice. I lived in Belize for two months working in wildlife rehabilitation. I guess you can say the travel “bug” is not just a “bug” anymore, but it is my way of life.
Personally, I have never been wealthy. I live day by day and paycheck to paycheck. The money subject is taboo, but I feel like it is important to address in this story. I am fortunate to have a security net in that my mom will always be there if I get into serious trouble. Not everyone has that luxury. With that being said, my mom did not always support my travel decisions. I remember when I called her to tell her that a Brazilian guy named Kelvin had bought me a plane ticket from France to Brazil… that was not the best conversation I have ever had with her. What I love about my mom is that even though she initially disagreed with my decision to go to Brazil, she still respected my choice as an adult. It is pretty special to have someone that supportive and I am truly blessed.
Basically, what I want to say is this: When you see pictures of people traveling, try not to see the picture they want you to see. There are so many sacrifices that need to be made in order to travel. I have slept outside, in hostels, on couches, under a roof where an iguana could fall on my face at any minute. There were instances when I have been robbed, gotten lost, felt scared, made mistakes. I have returned home with negative dollars in my account and debt on my credit card. But you know what? These experiences have shaped me. They have made me into the woman I am today. I would not trade them for all of the money in the world.
Please do not think of this as financial advice. I am the last person who should be giving anyone advice in that arena. Through traveling, I healed a part of my soul that had fractured when my dad passed. I rekindled my relationship with my mom, met my current fiancé and expanded my awareness of the world around me. There are so many people I met along the way that pushed me towards veterinary medicine. I have a support system across the world and I am grateful every day that I chose to step outside of my comfort zone in faith. Money can’t heal a broken heart, but traveling often can.
And you know what? The money eventually replenishes if you live within your means. We must all prioritize in life – what do you love? I love to travel and to spend time with my pets and be active. Because I know what my priorities are, I spend money in those areas. That means that I choose to not buy new clothes or fancy cars. I don’t get my nails done or my hair cut. So if you see me (or anyone) traveling, think about the person behind the photo. What have they sacrificed to make this trip possible? Why is traveling so important to them that they would stay in sometimes terrible conditions to see the world? Ask yourself, am I willing to make these sacrifices? Am I willing to eat ramen for a month so I can use the extra money to volunteer in Belize? Am I willing to work over 40 hours per week so I can afford to travel? What makes you feel alive?
To reiterate, I don’t travel as much anymore because I am a full-time student. However, in many ways, I have made travel my life. Because I am in an international relationship, Brazil is always on the list of places to visit. Working with wildlife often requires international travel as well. And so, if I am presented with an opportunity and I can afford to do so, I go. I have also enjoyed exploring the United States over the past few years. This country is so naturally beautiful and I love visiting new places only a few hours away. You don’t always have to travel far to have an adventure.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. I encourage you to read some of the books I have listed on my Reading List page to help create a mindset where you attract these opportunities into your life. Often I find, the mind is the difference between achieving your goals and failing.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” -Jack Kerouac