We all have that one story that triggered our love for traveling, this is mine:
It all began with a map.
My first memories of traveling are from the age of three. My dad was an 18-wheeler driver a majority of my childhood. I was constantly on the road with my dad before I started school. Before I could even remember, I visited five states in the Midwest. The trucker road trips continued regularly until I was in middle school, then they changed to road trips in the car every spring or summer break to visit family.
My first time out of the country was as a sophomore in high school with a group called Global Explorers and we spent a week in Costa Rica. I loved it! I was with a group of deaf, hard of hearing, and those who were interested in learning sign language and how to interact with the deaf/hard of hearing. It was also an eco-system trip as we spent a day planting a garden at a local school.
My next trip was during that summer break. It was a two-week tour through Europe with People to People Student Ambassadors starting in England, France and ending in Italy. As tiring as it was to travel to three countries in 3 weeks, I caught the travel bug then and there. It was so amazing to see the landmarks I had only seen in books or movies.
I did not travel during the summer of my junior year because I wanted to participate in the Yearbook Club which goes hand in hand with my love for photography. Instead, I ended up connecting with other student ambassadors at the People to People Global Youth Forum in Atlanta.
During my senior year, I was at it again. I received the opportunity to travel to Africa for the first time through Operation Crossroads Africa. My mother instilled Africa into me as a young girl. I watched plenty of movies and documentaries based in or about Africa, so it was a blessing to be able to finally see it for myself. This by far was the longest and hardest yet best trip I’ve ever taken. I was fresh out of high school, the youngest in my group and was away from home for a month and a half in a new environment. This trip set the tone for what the rest of my life would look like as I discovered my devotion to international travel, connection to Africa, a gift for photography and passion for giving back.
My first few out of country travels were always with groups. That changed when I traveled with one girlfriend from high school on a spontaneous weekend trip to Negril, Jamaica. The following spring, I went to Puerto Rico for four days on an all girls getaway trip. That trip was the most fun because it was my first girls trip with six of my closest girlfriends. We had a good time!
The most life changing trip came when I traveled to The Gambia for a month, while spending one week in Dakar, Senegal during the summer. It was my first solo trip. I knew for a while that I wanted to visit The Gambia. One friend whom I befriended from Operation Crossroads Africa traveled to Gambia the same year I traveled to Ghana. She spoke so fondly of her trip upon her return, it drove me to go. I had not heard of the country prior until then. Having had some money saved, it was an epiphany that came about that made me realize, “I want to go to Senegal this summer.” I have a family friend who lives in Dakar whom I met in Tampa, and I missed her dearly. I did my research and learned that Dakar and The Gambia are in close proximity to each other, I booked my flight and made it happen. Little did I know that this would be the trip where I would find my King. My life was forever changed knowing dreams do come true. I connected with him before traveling online before meeting in person. My host family was his family. I had a photographic itinerary, but it was easily shifted and the focus became getting to know my new extended family and their culture.
Since then, I have taken my first ever solo trip to South Africa followed by Germany; it was well worth it!
I am so grateful to have a chance to see 10 countries at such a young age. I plan on visiting 30 countries before reaching age 30; 20 more to go!
What's your travel story?
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