In Why I Started Writing and Why I Travel I began exploring the reasons behind my travels. One of the ways to do that is by analyzing the way traveling has impacted me in the past. There are three main time periods in my life that stick out. The first time I traveled by myself to Europe, the first time I traveled to Mexico on my own and the trips I have taken as an adult.
The first time I traveled by myself to Europe, I was fifteen. I participated in a program called People to People where I got to visit five countries in six weeks with a couple of teachers and a group of students my age. My parents sent me on the trip for my fifteenth birthday, rather than throwing me a traditional quinceañera, because they thought it would be an experience whose impact would last far beyond one night.
They were right. When I returned from Europe, I had a new found love for traveling and experiencing other cultures. I became obsessed with Europe and my desire to go back. However, traveling to Europe at such a young age with such an amazing program gave me expectations for traveling that I’ve learned are not necessarily realistic for a traveling student. Rather than be humbled by the experience, I returned with a sense of entitlement that surprised my parents. They sent me to Europe to get a better appreciation and understanding of the world and in turn become a better individual. Instead what they got was a kid who felt entitled for having had an experience most of her peers yet hadn’t.
This was a mentality that persisted and was encouraged through my annual travels to Mexico with my parents. We not only got to spend months in Mexico every year, we got to experience it in a way that is so different from the way Mexicans live. For years I thought I was experiencing the Mexican culture and living the way they lived. It wasn’t until years later, when I started traveling to Mexico on my own, that I realized we traveled in a way that was only possible for someone who lived in such an affluent country as America.
As I continued traveling, I also learned that the sense of adventure I got during that first trip to Europe would never go away, but I have learned to truly appreciate and be open to new places and cultures. A lesson I have touched on in Consider Going to a Place You’ve Never Considered and will continue to expand in my next couple of posts about traveling to Mexico on my own and traveling as an adult.
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