I was 19 when I first left home to travel overseas. My friend and I chose Rio de Janeiro as our destination and everyone thought we were bonkers. Two girls going off to one of the most ‘dangerous’ cities in the world didn’t sit well with friends and family.
I remember hand writing my Dad a note telling him where I was going and placing it inside his Father’s Day card. I wanted him to be in a happy mood when he found out his first born was going to Rio. But without delay, I made it to Rio with my Dad’s blessing, and one heck of a thirst for adventure.
That was 14 years ago and I’m still grateful to be traveling the world. The trip to Rio flipped a switch in me, one that’s been on ever since. Not long after Rio I ended up taking a semester off of college and backpacked Europe. No matter how frequently I travel, or where I go, the same rules apply that I learned all those years ago on my first trip overseas.
You will be naive, and that’s okay
Regardless of your level of travel expertise, you will never know every little detail about where you’re going or what you’re doing. For a first-time traveler, I learned quickly that I didn’t know ‘how’ to travel. I packed too much, I wasn’t aware of my surroundings, and wasn’t careful with my purse or money. But I learned and took that lesson on to my next adventure. Every trip you take includes its own lessons, no matter how big or small. The trip I took to Europe included one big backpack and a purse…that’s it. I learned quickly!
Travel is life’s best lesson
I have learned more about life on my travels than in any classroom. Sure, school prepares you, but life puts you in the action and makes you work. I’ve acquired life skills like confidence, adaptability, international communication, client relations, languages and budgeting. I feel more accepting of situations and am more willing to seize opportunities that may be out of reach because I’ve had to put myself out there in foreign environments and adapted.
There is such a thing as the travel bug
I have been completely attacked by the travel bug, yet I haven’t tried to remedy the situation either. This bug has provided me with incredible adventures, friends and experiences, and I’m not ready to give them up yet. From the first trip to Rio, I knew that it wasn’t the last time I’d get out and see the world. After Rio I went to Europe for five months, then Costa Rica, then Australia. I no longer wanted to stay in one spot doing the same thing. I craved change and new places.
My life would never be the same
Traveling opens your heart to new love, your mind to new cultures, and your arms to new people. I’ve become a better, more well-rounded person than before. I have changed what I choose to spend money on, from material things to experiences, and I strive to live in the moment. There was a moment in Switzerland where I was doing the Congo in a small village at their town’s talent show, that I will remember forever. It was the strangest, most amazing night connecting with locals at a bizarre but traditional event. It made me want to experience this connection with strangers over and over again.
I believe in love at first chat
On my first trip I met a young man who took my breath away in more ways than one. After our first chat, I was in love. I had no idea you could meet someone across the world that would connect with you in such a deep and meaningful way. I was moved by him and his personality much more than his looks, and I found myself completely transfixed.
I am not poor
Taking a taxi from the airport in Rio to the city center, I saw first-hand what slums really looked like. My first experience with culture shock never left me. I saw how many of the locals lived in cement foundations of homes with no running water and electricity. I knew that when I would say ‘I’m poor’ back home, that I actually had no idea what it was to be poor. I had food, water and electricity. Some of the amazing locals we met had little food and water yet were the happiest people we met on the trip.