1. I was 8 years old when I first traveled by plane.
I went to Arizona to visit my grandmother. She’d moved there from her small town in Michigan for her health. Arizona has warm and dry weather, while Michigan weather can range from blizzards, monsoons, and sticky heat that puts Florida to shame – all in a week.
My mom and I went for a week in February. I remember seeing palm trees, lots of palm trees, which fascinated me, because I’d only seen them in cartoons or movies. I also remember finding it equally amusing and perplexing that I was wearing summer clothes in February, wheras in Michigan I was bundled up in a winter coat and looking like a marshmellow.
And I’ll never forget that feeling of the plane taking off, and seeing everything get smaller and smaller … and then floating with the clouds. Feeling like I was in heaven.
Even as a young girl, I’d known before I always wanted to travel, but this trip confirmed it. This is what I wanted to do with my life.
2. I almost studied German in high school instead of Spanish.
Studying Spanish has, without a doubt, changed my life. Because I know Spanish, I’ve been able to travel, communicate, and create amazing friendships with people while speaking multiple languages.
And to think my life would have been so different, had I studied German.
In elementary school, I learned a little German. I’d always wanted to pick it back up and learn even more languages. But this was before YouTube, podcasts, and the ease of finding language learning resources for free.
Fast forward to my high school orientation. The guidance counselor was helping me choose my classes. I was just about to pick German, when she suggested that I may like the Spanish classes better. The teacher was young, energetic, and everyone liked her.
I had always had an interest in learning Spanish as well. My childhood church used to go to Mexico for mission trips every summer, and I thought it would be interesting to volunteer as a translator.
So, I decided to study Spanish.
If I had known that a decision that felt so simple at the time, had changed the course of my life … years later, when I was t trekking tough the Andes mountains, or watching the Panamanian sunrise after staying up talking all night with new friends … it’s like I had already known, even back then.
3. In addition to Spanish, I’ve studied (sporadically) German, Portuguese, Romanian, and Korean.
The little Romanian that I had remembered came in real handy when my friend and I spent the weekend hanging out in Transylvania and Bucharest.
4. I took my first solo trip when I was 22 years old. I traveled 10,000 miles through Argentina and Chile, and touched the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean in 2 months.
What convinced me? A night in Mendoza, Argentina – the wine capital of the country – and hanging out at a hostel with a few girls from the UK on their gap year, and a man from South Africa on his sabbatical. Hands down the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.
5. I was originally going to study in Segovia, Spain for a summer instead of Rosario, Argentina.
My Spanish teacher in university convinced me to go to Argentina. She’d studied in Chile, and said that in Latin America, “People love Americans” (I really wish there was an equivalent word in English for estadounidenses), and that it was much cheaper than Europe. I was sold after talking to a few girls who’d studied abroad in Rosario, Argentina as well. They also convinced me to stay for a semester, because a summer abroad wasn’t going to accelerate my language learning as much. Thanks to cheaper prices in Argentina, I was able to have both a semester and a summer.
I did end up visiting Segovia nine years later, when I’d moved to Spain to teach business English. As I stared at the aqueduct, and looked out at what could have been, I thought about how in Chile, I’d met some volunteers who were teaching English there . . . I don’t think I would have considered teaching abroad in Latin America, had I not met them.
6. I’ve traveled in 14 countries in 3 continents.
North America: USA, Canada, and Panama.
South America: Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador.
Europe: Spain, Austria, Romania, Czech Republic, and Germany.
7. My dream trip is to visit Antarctica to see the penguins.
Yes, I’m aware that it costs about $10,000. I don’t care. Bring me the ice and the penguins.
8. The cheapest flight I’ve ever found was a 15 euro one-way flight to Prague from Madrid.
I loved bragging about this. I still love bragging about this. Also, this is one of the few times I’ve taken advantage of a Black Friday special, since I’d worked in retail for so long and almost always had a full schedule that day.
9. I went skydiving in Uruguay.
And it was awesome.
10. I once had to sleep in a bus station in Colombia.
This was not awesome. I was returning to Colombia after a week in Ecuador during Semana Santa (Holy Week). And during this week, I learned to always buy bus tickets in advance during holiday weekends, because the bus station may run out of buses. And you may have to wait overnight in a bus station, with a bunch of strangers, until the next bus arrives.
11. Thanks to traveling on long flights and overnight bus rides and on dozens of uncomfortable hostel beds, I can sleep anywhere.
So that’s the good thing about uncomfortable travel. I’m very easy to impress now.
12. I started an online friendship with a guy from Ecuador when I was 16, and we met 10 years later in Quito.
This story is very long, and just goes to show how small this world is. I had no idea that when I joined an online art community in high school that I would start to build an interest in Latin America, and that one day, I’d travel all over Latin America. And years later, we’d meet. And this trip was one of the best trips of my life.
13. I decided to travel alone because I wanted a cool way to get over my social anxiety.
Did it help me get completely over my social anxiety? No, it did not. But traveling alone has made me braver, and has left me feeling more optimistic about the people in this world. Long story short, most people are for the most part, good. Be careful out there, and be reasonable, but don’t let bad news stop you from seeing all this world has to offer.
14. I spent my 26th birthday in the Caribbean.
Go ahead, be jealous.
15. I’ve learned how to travel as cheaply and uncomfortably as possible, to see something beautiful.
I can put everything I own in three suitcases. I would like to make that two suitcases eventually. Having more things doesn’t make you happier, but if anything, adds more stress. Invest in memories, expereinces, and yourself, because they will always be a part of you.