I was fortunate to grow up with a traveling family, with parents who carted me and my four siblings around the world on family trips. From the ripe age of 5, I was engaged and enthralled with place, people, and culture. In college, spending a semester traveling the world on Semester at Sea in 1999 solidified this feeling. There was no going back after that! Most of you folks with travelust (my version of wanderlust) know what I’m talking about when I say the more you travel, the more you crave to travel more. It’s comforting knowing that there are so many others out there who feel the same way I do about travel! In fact, with continually advancing technology and an increasingly competitive travel industry, the world is more easily accessible now than it has ever been!
Where culture and conflict collide
Always searching for the perfect shot
Once I decided to go to graduate school, I knew I absolutely HAD to live in a Spanish speaking country to become adequately fluent (you know, for that language proficiency exam you have to pass when getting a masters in an international policy field!). That was my story, anyway. Living with locals in Seville, Spain for 7 months changed my life yet again. I was over there when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.
One of my roommates was a Muslim Moroccan who was like a big brother to me, and one of my friends from home was a marine on the front line and one of the first to enter Baghdad. My Moroccan roommate and I had the most interesting conversations (some in Spanish!), breaking down all prejudices and stereotypes between us, and our friendship endured (he still calls every Christmas to wish me a merry one). I knew I had to study International Peace and Conflict Resolution to get at the heart of why there was such unnecessary disconnect between the West (U.S. specifically) and the Muslim world (this includes Arabs, Persians, and other Asian Muslims). My fascination with international conflict was born, which was potent when mixed with my love of geography, people, culture, and travel!
A highlight from my grad school days was having the unique opportunity to travel to Palestine and Israel on a study tour and meeting with members of the press, Israeli government, Palestinian Authority, and college students. We heard and saw the reality of the conflict on the ground, first hand. And how about this for drama? We were crossing the border from Palestine into Israel when Ariel Sharon had the stroke that left him in a vegetative state on January 4, 2006. All vehicles were stopped, so we had to walk through the checkpoints on our own, through the mortared wall separating Palestine from Israel, at night. Harrowing indeed!! (You will read more true adventure stories in this blog, I assure you! Like when I caught a train from Madrid to Pamplona at night, on my own, to catch the running of the bulls, and made fast friends with some locals who had a balcony! Perfect place to perch over the stampede.)
Long-term Traveler? Not my cup of tea
I find myself stuck between two worlds: one in which I wander in wonder as a traveluster, with an insatiable curiosity and intense desire to know every corner of our planet and its various cultures fully- a near impossible feat; the other in which I yearn for a strong family, sense of community, and a place to call “home.” Here’s the thing I’m discovering: these things are not mutually exclusive!!! Most of the travel blogs out there (and that I’m a big fan of) are written by road warriors, the “long term travelers” that roam the globe for months or years at a time. You know the kind: the “I quit my job, sold everything, and have been traveling around the world ever since”-ers. Props to them. I think it’s great! There might have been a time when that was exactly what I dreamed of, but my dream evolved, or more, converged with my deep rooted sense of family- and my love of the U.S.A!!! I LOVE to travel. I love to take long trips (so far six weeks in Africa is the longest stint), but I love to come home, too! Sometimes I’m out the door, and the country, a mere three weeks later on another four week jaunt.
My goal with this blog is to demystify travel. It’s something ordinary people (even those with normal 9 to 5 jobs) can and should do often. Why? Experiencing new peoples, places, belief systems, and cultures makes you a better person. It’s just a fact. It opens you up and teaches you how to interact more effectively with the world around you. It’s also an amazingly comforting experience. I feel a lot less lonely when I really connect, as a human being, to a German girl who is my bus seat-mate or a Korean girl who shares my tent. I feel not at all alone in the universe when I have meaningful conversations about life and spirituality with a Moroccan or a Zimbabwean or a South African. This fills my life with purpose and hope.
I want to share stories with you, as well as advice and tips I have come across on my quest to be a global citizen and to better myself through travel, experience, and adventure. I encourage dialogue, opinions and knowledge sharing! It’s my dream for everyone in the world to have the ability to interact with other cultures and to see the beauty and wonder that I see! Traveling is not just for the super wealthy or the untethered backpacker…. it’s for all of us!!!! Come, travelust with me!!!!!!!!!!
Read my first post to find out more about why I decided to start this blog.