Every year come 4th of July, my parents pile my siblings and I into our mini-van, the Loser Cruiser, and we drive 10 hours east on I-10 to the Sunshine State. A lot of my extended family makes the effort to be there too during this time, and it’s our yearly chance to catch up. Most of my favorite childhood memories have stemmed from these trips! It’s a little hard not to cherish all the times we spent collecting shells and eating watermelon during our numerous beach trips.
I always liked traveling, and it was something my parents always made sure we had access to- even if we didn’t always appreciate it. I remember once my parents dragged us to Cozumel for a family vacation when I was about six. Forget the ruins. Forget the snorkeling. Forget the cute little shops. I spent 95% of my time in the pool, my cool-for-the-summer cornrows flying behind me as I jumped off the edge of the pool every day for seven hours straight.
As I entered college, I realized my travel experience didn’t nearly rival my peers. I was super appreciative of what my parents had provided, but it was the first time I was surrounded by people who had eaten crepes in Paris, or who were half-Australian, and had been to a real koala sanctuary in Melbourne. I wanted to see what they had seen. Not in a jealousy-driven way, in a genuinely curious way. I signed up to study abroad, and the rest has really been history.
Traveling brings me out of my comfort zone. Sure, all-inclusive luxury escapes to Baja can be fun. Heck, I plan on making that trek someday. Unlimited food, booze, and sun!? YES! However, there’s also a thrill that can come out of wandering the back streets of Instabul, getting lost in the souks of Morocco, and watching surfers brave the cold at Bondi Beach. I’m not saying go crazy and start jumping off cliffs… but it’s fun to do things you never ever thought you’d ever get to do!
Defy dem stereotypes. Ask outsiders, any outsiders what they think of Americans. I’ve heard some positive views… and some pretty crap feedback too. At best, we’re genuine and hospitable. At worst, we’re obnoxiously loud and think our money speaks everywhere. Eeek. Not so pleasant to hear people say things about you that they think they know because they’ve seen your culture portrayed on TV numerous times and know it all. I like traveling because I get to show people we’re not all super wild with no manners.
You begin to appreciate the familiar. Sometimes, I find myself grumbling about the States when I’m home in Texas. However, the second I get onto that international plane, I immediately begin to think about the things I’ll miss when I’m away. Southern hospitality. 24-hour supermarkets. People who get my Rachael Ray-themed jokes. Traveling is fun, but there’s no place like Texas.
Global citizenship. Electricity is precious. Turn off the lights if you’re not in the room. Do you really need a full pot of water to boil noodles? Let’s not forget we’re the only ones sharing the world’s resources. At the expense of sounding like a total hippie, let’s protect our planet, amirite? Nothing is a better reminder of how excessive Americans are than a visit to a country where they bathe with two small buckets of cold water. That’s really all you need, so why are we still taking daily jacuzzi baths!?
Constant learning. Traveling is one of the only things you can spend a lot of money doing and leave feeling richer. It’s allowed me to learn new fun facts- like, for example, did you know Ireland was neutral during World War II!? I’ve also discovered some of my favorite eats by traveling! MMMMM CZECH TRDELNIKS. There was a point where I thought a weinerschnitzel was a hot dog. Spoiler alert: It’s not. I know better now… thank God. But I’m always still learning!
Traveling is the most expensive hobby I could have ever picked up. There’s nothing I love to do more though, and that’s why I am constantly and happily saving away my pennies for the next adventure. You will never regret traveling somewhere new, even if it’s to a new town in your state, or to that local donut shop that everyone’s dying to try in your town. Always stay hungry, my friends!