When I’m thinking of why I’m taking this trip it goes a lot further than the last three years that I’ve been working and hoarding my savings to travel the world. It’s hard to pinpoint a precise moment of inspiration or clarity, but an accumulation of experiences has led me to this life goal.
I went to Europe for the first time after I graduated high school with my high school’s Spanish program. I fell in love with the culture, history, architecture, food, fashion, lifestyle – pretty much everything. I knew I wanted to come back, and I knew I wanted to study in Spain, due to my Spanish studies. I realized how language opens up the opportunity to travel and learn about a whole group of people that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
As I hoped, I studied abroad in Spain while in college. I lived with a Spanish host family in Cádiz, went to a Spanish university, and worked part time as a bartender (which was another dream of mine so that was cool!). I took the advantage of Spanish holidays and weekends to explore the continent, found new facets of myself, and soaked up the gaditana experience in Cádiz. While the experience was amazing, it was more difficult than I anticipated. I am very much Type-A (a 4.0 high school student) and I’ve always been expressive with a journalism and writing background.
Living where I wasn’t fluent in the native language, I didn’t feel that I could fully and accurately express myself or the person felt I was. I’m someone who likes to make people laugh and make jokes (even if they are knowingly at my own expense) – and humor is hard to grasp in a foreign language. Speaking intelligently is even more difficult. I felt I couldn’t truly be myself because I wasn’t able to express myself as effectively and eloquently as I could in English. Studying abroad was a very humbling experience for me and the internal struggle I underwent gave me a whole new appreciation for people who speak multiple languages, whether it is to travel or to move to a new environment.
When I graduated college I had the opportunity to move to Australia and work in sports media relations. I loved Sydney and escaping Seattle’s upcoming gray winter for an endless Aussie summer was ideal. I lived off an American stipend that was not sustainable to any kind of living wage in Australia, so I lived in a three-bedroom apartment with nine people from across the globe. Luckily I had just graduated college and was used to living in a sorority house with almost 100 girls. Having to a share a bedroom with three girls in bunk beds wasn’t anything foreign to me. Once my new Canadian friend moved out a few weeks after I moved in, I became the only native English speaker in the apartment. Everyone’s level of English varied and I had a lot of patience for how my roommates were adapting to living in a foreign country. I helped read resumes and answer questions like “what is this called in English?” without irritation because I too was familiar with their struggle and admired what they were doing.
My last month in Australia I went backpacking with my best American friend from work, Sarah. When I say we “backpacked” what I really mean is that yes, we had our little backpacks, but we also had giant rolling suitcases, collected various shopping bags/beach bags to carry spare items along the way, and Sarah somehow accumulated a small duffel. One day we arrived at our hostel which turned out to be a campsite – in maxi dresses, we were quite the sight rolling our suitcases to our cabins, the wheels of our bags dragging along the dirt paths and getting tangled in our dresses.
Sarah and I met so many amazing people who were traveling for extended or undetermined periods of time, typically taking a year off or a “gap year.” Aussies (and most other nations) have much more vacation time than Americans to begin with and from what I experienced less emphasis is stressed on your career. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I shied away from ever wanting to have a successful career, I just didn’t see that as the number one priority in my life – I thought there was more.
The people I met along the way (similar to when I traveled in Europe in college) had a different travel mindset and I knew I wanted to travel more long term in the future when I had the means to fund it, either by myself or maybe with someone I wanted to spend my life with, someday. I met a lot of couples on the trip who were dating or married and I knew that someone who wanted to be with me would have to want to travel because that’s what I want to do. So while I would take this trip alone, I would take it with the right person too.
I spent the remainder of my savings on the Australian trip – skydiving over and scuba diving in the Great Barrier reef, sailing the Whitsundays, four wheeling on Fraser Island, and going to surf school. Sarah and I had the most incredible time.
When I returned home (my parents had to fly me home – thanks dad!), I began my search for another job in sports – this time one that was full-time (as opposed to seasonal) and could eventually fund my travels. During my job search in the slim pickings market of professional sports, my mom was diagnosed stage IV ovarian cancer. I paused and then redirected my job search to stay local. My mom ended up healing miraculously and right before, I found a job, basically in my backyard, in the big tech company that is based in my hometown. I broadened my social media skills there and thankfully got to travel with my role. I focused my niche in social media at events to ensure regular trips, which kept me sane and my wanderlust in check (and also helped rack up airline miles for future use).
While my mom was fighting cancer, Sarah was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, Ewing sarcoma. Her diagnosis was really hard to swallow as we had grown very close during our time together in Australia. I had witnessed the hell my mom was going through and couldn’t believe she would have to face it too, especially so young.
Somewhere along the way, I met this guy Matt at a bar. I was hesitant to start anything serious mostly because the globe was still calling my name. He knew it too, but he managed to stick around and I was surprisingly happy about it.
Sarah passed away less than a year after her diagnosis, I was supposed to visit her with our best friend from Australia (she was taking a long vacation to the US because she’s Australian and they can take long vacations like it’s NBD). I changed my flight to the east coast a few days earlier so I could attend Sarah’s funeral. I’ll never forget how special that day was and one of the things that touched me were the numerous photo boards, many filled with photos I had taken of her, with her, and of us, from our time and travels in Australia.
My time with Sarah deepened my appreciation for travel – it was something we hoped to do again together. So I still had these travel plans and was saving away, just waiting for the where and when to fall into place. Now that my mom was better I was hoping to find a new home base to travel from, maybe London?
Then my mom was re-diagnosed with cancer and nothing seemed to work – things would work and then they wouldn’t. We all believed they would work as well as they had before and that she would beat it again. My trip was still “on” although at times it morphed into a vague dream that I continued to blindly save for out of habit. My mom would ask me “how can you leave me, aren’t you gonna miss me?”
My mom was told on April 12th that she should stop treatment and go into hospice. Matt surprised her (it was a surprise to me too) by sending flowers to the house for her – little did we all know what news would come later that evening. She insisted on still giving another treatment a try, she didn’t want to quit, but it couldn’t save her.
I moved back home to be her caregiver and soon after she started hospice. Everything about it was heartbreaking and awful and no one should ever have to go through that with someone they love. No human should ever have to suffer that much. She passed away in the hospital in June.
My mom was in an unresponsive state for days, in the slow process of dying at the hospital. One night before she passed, I called Matt late after he left the hospital and told him the trip is happening, this is happening. I’m going in January. You’re coming with me or you’re not. And he said he was coming. I had thrown around the date “January 2017” for over a year (my apartment lease was originally set to end in December 2016) but in that moment, to me, it became concrete. The time frame was tangible and I spent the last six months researching, planning, and continuing to save, becoming even more mindful of my spending.
It’s happening and we’re going.
This is why it’s my dream. I figure I have the right set of skills, I am a journalism major, I love photography, I love to travel. Why not make my dream job happen?
I became a certified yoga teacher over the last couple years, which is something I wanted to do, believed I could do, and I made it happen. I love it and never looked back. I only wished I could teach more, and hope I can find ways to incorporate it into my journey. I have the same hopes for traveling the world – I want to, I believe I can, so I will. I let go of the fear of failure and embarrassment of putting myself out there, just as I did to become a yoga teacher.
I follow so many people with travel accounts online and so many people are doing a great job, and it seems many just do it on a whim. I feel like I have the qualifications, even in this day and age where you don’t need to have qualifications to do it. I can do this. So I’m going to. We are doing it.
I can’t wait for the relationships and new friendships we will make – the amazing people, the stories, the experiences, the sites, the photos, the food, the fun, and even all the other yucky stuff that comes with it.
It’s all part of the joy.
I’m doing this not to escape the real world, but because this is the real world. I’ve come from such a bubble but I am aware of it and want to expand and burst the bubble. There is just so much more out there. I want to give back. I want to help others in grief. I want to explore. I want to inspire.
Congratulations if you’ve made it to the end of the post, it has been a labor of love. Thank you for joining us on this journey.