This past weekend I celebrated my birthday making me officially in my late 20s now.
This year, my biggest birthday present to myself was spending 12 days in Japan, fulfilling a dream of mine to explore this modern, yet traditional, culture.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m already dreaming of my birthday present to myself for next year.
But how did this love of travel come to be?
I like to say I get my wanderlust from my parents, my father especially, who were always up for an adventure and encouraged their children to get out and explore the world (really, can you ask for better parents?).
As a toddler, I spent my time being hustled up and down the west coast and living in various spots on the east coast. My father had a job that moved around a lot before we settled in Los Angeles where we ended up living in for a while.
I was mostly ambivalent about travel as a child. We went on lots of interesting trips as a family, however. Yellowstone Park, Hawaii, Disneyland. While I enjoyed them, they weren’t a raison d’etre.
It all changed with my first true international trip (that I could remember). My father had to go to Paris for work and my mom, brother and I packed up and went with him.
I was a ballet dancer (photo proof) at the time and I was easily spending 20 – 25 hours at the studio each week. This trip coincided in the middle of competition season and the director at the studio was livid that I was going to miss crucial rehearsal time before the next competition. It required the dance pieces I was in to be rechoreographed to hide the fact that a person was missing.
I distinctly remember her asking me if I could stay while my family went and being absolutely adamant that I wanted to go. Who would give up a trip to Paris?! Yes I loved dance, but PARIS! It just seemed illogical in my mind.
And Paris. What a trip! I absolutely fell in love with the European streets. The charm. The ambiance. The thrill of being in a place where little to no English was spoken. Sure, being a shy teen my French wasn’t the best, but we made it work.
After my dad wrapped up his week of work, we traveled outside the city to explore the castle of the Loire Valley and in my impressionable teenage mind, it was fantastic. I was absolutely hooked on the adventure. Getting lost. Seeing new places. Everything was thrilling.
From that point, I looked for any opportunity to go some place new. There was no hesitation in me when I signed up for a humanitarian aid trip to Cambodia over spring break of my Grade 12 year. I wanted to have an impact in the world and I wanted to see a part of it was well. This seemed like a good way to do it.
Learning in depth about the culture of the Khmer and the atrocities they faced under the reign of Pol Pot was eye opening. Seeing it all in person, changed who I was and made me see how travel was an integral part of learning about the world and developing as an individual.
During university, I did a lot of cross-country hopping for conferences. Halifax, Montreal, Toronto. It didn’t matter where, I was game.
Then the opportunity to go on exchange arose and I leaped at the opportunity. I was placed at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Those 4 months were a whirlwind of travel mostly while attending classes and exams in between adventures. Just thinking about it now, makes me dizzy.
It was only a taster of the continent, however. I wanted more of Europe. I wanted to challenge myself and go somewhere completely different. Where people didn’t speak much English and for at least a year.
And that’s how I ended up in Budapest, fulfilling a dream to live abroad. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I highly recommend people challenge themselves to it if they’re able to go.
Now that I’m back home and working full time at a somewhat “regular” job, I still try to live a life of travel. Exploring places near and far whenever my schedule allows for it.
I know that I will be living a life of travel and that exploring the world will always be a priority for me. So cheers to the next year of my 20s and to the many more years of travel after that.
How did you discover your love of travel?