I want to take you back to the first time I was able to scratch my travel itch. The place that popped my traveling cherry – so to speak. Since then, I have seen different places and practically been on every continent. My first travel experience was when I was a senior in High School.
Before I was a senior I always wanted to go places and see things. I remember someone making it seem like my dream was almost impossible. Traveling is not as impossible as some people may think. Also, some people think that since there are tons of people who died when traveling to certain places that the world is a scary place. The world is a scary place on its own without traveling. God bless those souls who went on vacation, not knowing it would be there last. There are all types of things that can happen even by staying in the area you live in. You just have to take the chance and pray your safe.
I received mail from People 2 People about an information meeting to be a student ambassador in Australia. This was the type of mail that people would consider junk mail and throw it away and not think twice about it. I saw it as a real opportunity. I had no idea what a student ambassador was, but it sounded important. A few days later I was sitting in an auditorium filled with hundreds of curious minds. In the meeting, they explained what a student ambassador was. That was years ago so I don’t remember exactly what they told me, but I know it had something to do with creating international relationships and learning how other people live. I was so excited about this opportunity. I thought that this was a gateway experience that would lead to my career as a diplomat (which I never wanted to be). I felt a student ambassador was super official.
There were naysayers who thought I would never go because it was too much money. The total of the trip was $4000 and included in that was a three-week trip traveling from the north to south Australia. This also included a driver, tour guide, food, and accommodations. Did I mention that it was a three-week trip? Getting a flight to the other side of the world is usually half that price. We were in and out of hotels and didn’t stay in a place longer than two days. Our schedules were pack with various actives. I think that $4000 was worth it. There is this theory that people will spend their money on what’s important to them. Some people spend their money on jewelry, some on houses, some on food, and some on all of the above. My mom spent her money on a once in a lifetime experience for me. I was able to raise $1000 and she had to take out a loan for the rest. It was worth it to her because it was a dream her child (me) had.
The experience of traveling to another country at 17 without your parents was an adventure. We had adult chaperones of course, but no parents. It was like going on an overnight field trip (a three-week-long one). Before the trip, we had a few get-togethers to get comfortable with each other. Imagine 40 teenagers traveling with strangers. It can get uncomfortable traveling with people you know, so if that did happen it would have been weird at first, but we didn’t have to worry about that. By the time we went to Australia we already formed friendships. While all of us were friendly toward one another, we all formed smaller groups that people like to call cliques. Cliques are a tight-nit group where outsiders are not allowed. It was more of a natural thing where you just vibe more with some people than others. We all accepted each other as is because we all had one thing in common, our desire to travel.
This is a time when I knew about my introverted ways, but I didn’t fully understand myself. I knew that I would get irritable from being around people for too long. I knew I needed my alone time, but I thought it was some weird thing about myself that I needed to get over. I forced myself to interact with others even if I was drained and the nasty side of me would come out. When that side came out, then I would retreat, take out a notebook, put on my headphones and write. By the time I pulled out the music and the pen I was so over everyone, including myself. Yes I was even over me as a person because I just couldn’t understand why I was so angry. Then, I would write a poem about how life sucks and how people hate me. This was my teenage way of coping, even outside of that trip. Writing and music really calmed my nerves. I needed that time alone, even if it was just 30 minutes.
The funniest part is that I use to really think it was something wrong with me. At that time, I concluded that I had anger issues and I needed some help. What I didn’t realize at that time is that I needed to accept myself and my needs. The good part about the trip was that there were days we had to travel a couple of hours so it was the perfect time for me to get my alone time. So my angry side didn’t come out all the time.
Speaking of music, this was the time that Rihanna and Chris Brown were rising stars, Rihanna’s hit was Pon de Replay and Unfaithful was gaining popularity. Chris Brown’s hit was Run It! and I actually first saw him on a show dancing while I was in Australia and I fell in love. I’m not a big Christ Brown fan now, but before him and Rihanna were a thing I was a true fan. I remember the song Summertime by Thirsty Merc, that I hated at first because our tour guide Peter played it every morning for us. Since he played it every morning for us it grew on me so much so that I had to buy the CD. The song goes something like this.
I don’t have a job,I never like them,I just want to play in the sunshine....Take me back to the sweet timesthe hot nightseverything is going to be alrightIn the summertimeBaby, in the summertime
This is my current mood every day. Going back to the story, Peter, our tour guide, played that song for us because it was summertime in America, but winter in Australia. Here are a few of the things I did there. I met a really kind family that fed me Tim Tams, the only way chocolate cookies should be eaten. They also gave me vegemite to spread on my toast for breakfast, stuff that should never be eaten because it takes like dirt. I also had homemade ginger ale. I had to mix the ginger juice with the liquid mixture, that was a first for me. I went to a high school football game, not American football. I had a crush on two boys that were part of my group because they were funny and cute, but they didn’t look at me that way. I learned how to play the G-rated version of ‘never have I ever’. I stayed in nice places with jacuzzi’s, sauna’s and pools, but also slept in the outback in a co-end barn with 40 other teenagers. I ate prairie oysters aka cow testicle. I climbed the Sydney Bridge, toured the Syndey Opera House, and zip lined. I went to a zoo with animals exclusive to Australia like koala bears and where the kangaroo hung near the entrance as casually as squirrel. I slid down sand dunes and the most memorable thing of all I snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef. It was my first time snorkeling and I don’t think amazing even describes it.
I remember getting back home and I felt no one cared that I traveled. Fast forward to years later when I would find myself in new spaces and their lame break the ice activity was come up with one interesting thing about yourself. I would eagerly say I’ve been to Australia. I remember being on a retreat and the first night my cabin did the interesting thing activity. When I said Australia someone said nobody cares. It was a church retreat and they were more interested in how long someone was celibate (which I didn’t like to share) or their relationship status. I hate that ‘what’s one interesting thing about you question’ now.
While I don’t have to be obnoxious about where I have been, if I am talking about my experience it is my experience. If I was to take their comments to heart in the overthinking way that I usually do, then I probably would not be in Kuwait because I would have convinced myself that nobody cares so what’s the point in going places? Lucky for me I also have another side that does things because I want to and not to impress people. Traveling is something that I like – not something I want to brag about. When it comes to travel I want the experience for myself and then I share because it is part of my story.