I think I was born with wanderlust. As a kid, I always had an active imagination, spending my free time writing novels or creating elaborate games of make-believe. Traveling to other worlds always preoccupied me.
As I grew up, I indulged this desire to escape reality through theater and reading. I never traveled outside the country, and while my restlessness never truly went away, it did go into hibernation. I had plans of studying abroad or serving on missions trips, but the logical part of me always rationalized these fantasies away—money and time were always in short supply.
When it came time to commit to a college, I went to a public, in-state school to save money. Tucked away in the middle of nowhere, I began to dream of doing something “crazy”—unlike anything I had ever done before. So one Saturday night, while the rest of the campus was partying, I was in my room researching other universities. A few months later, I had been accepted to the University of North Carolina and I was off to experience some of the greatest years of my life, far from home and figuring things out for myself. I met my best friends there (who are still my best friends to this day), and my life adventure partner, Andrew. This move symbolized the first time I had taken a chance, had made a decision without knowing what the outcome might be, and it was a liberating and heady feeling.
It had always been a dream of mine to live in New York City, a diverse place with an undeniable energy. So, after college I moved to the Big Apple to pursue a career in book publishing, inspired by my lifelong love affair with reading. During my time in NYC, I commuted five hours round trip every day in order to save money and pay off all of my student loan debt, which provided me a sense of freedom I had never experienced before. I didn’t owe anything to anybody except myself. So, I took the next crazy leap of faith in a string of leaps and moved to the most magical place on earth—Walt Disney World.
Andrew, who had been living in North Carolina, moved with me to sunny Florida, and I remember driving by myself down the long stretch from Connecticut to the Sunshine State with nothing but a few boxes in my car. Living in Central Florida was the ultimate adventure, where we have made incredible friends and done some amazing things with the Walt Disney Company--Andrew has performed aboard the Disney Cruise Line and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and I have held a multitude of jobs including official company spokesperson. Since moving here, Andrew and I got married, bought a house, made friends, switched jobs (eleven times between the two of us!), and we have loved every moment. This was another testament to the reward of belief in one's self and taking risks, even if I had put my dreams of traveling on hold. For the moment, we had created our own adventures.
Yet, sometimes, it is the hardest passages of our lives that galvanize us to be braver than we believed we could be and to take the chances that we have been putting off for tomorrow. It wasn’t until 2012, when my dad unexpectedly passed away, surely leaving behind his own unrealized dreams, that I began a personal renaissance, including a drastic change on my life outlook.
It may seem cliché or obvious, but tomorrow is never promised. This can either serve to paralyze us, or inspire us to live every moment of our life with intention. I chose the latter, and a lot of my happiness in life has manifested itself through travel. While I had always planned on traveling once we conveniently reached an appropriate retirement age, I have since learned that life cannot always be spent waiting—waiting for the perfect timing, waiting for the perfect job, waiting for what is considered appropriate.
Life begs to be lived now.
That has meant more time for friends, more time for family, and more time for travel.
So Andrew and I booked a trip that we had talked about taking many years, if not decades, later in life. We requested a decadent amount of vacation time—3 weeks!—and packed our bags for Australia and New Zealand. To this day, I still consider this trip one of the most impactful in my life because I felt a fulfillment I had not experienced before. A fulfillment that took over when I detached myself from the conventions and certainties of my life and launched myself into the pages of a story that was wildly novel.
Thus opened up my own personal Pandora’s box of wanderlust. I had almost forgotten how much I longed for adventure since my desire had lain dormant for years. Since that trip, as of this writing, Andrew and I have been to 12 countries spanning 5 continents in less than 5 years. Travel has changed me in a way I never imagined possible—opening my mind and heart, while helping me find an underlying connection to all of humanity. It’s incredible what happens when you step outside your comfort zone. You meet people who can teach you new ways to view the world and share their culture. You are constantly challenged to reevaluate and rediscover who you are and what you believe. And yet, you simultaneously find that no matter where you go, everybody in this world seeks the same thing—safety and happiness. The beauty of the world continues to amaze me, and it has become my personal mission to seek the ways we are connected instead of the ways we are divided and to advocate for our planet's preservation for generations to come.
I don’t think I will ever tire of traveling. There will always be an insatiable hunger that I think is the hallmark of a true traveler. A friend once posed a question: how much money would someone have to pay you to never leave the country again? All of our friends weighed in, with vastly different numerical answers—some required as little as $20,000, while others asked upwards of millions, stating that they would happily travel our beautiful country in comfort for the rest of their lives. It may not surprise you, if you have stuck with me this far into my post, but it did surprise all of my friends (and husband!) when I responded with certainty that no amount of money would ever stop me from traveling. To know what our world has to offer, and never be able to experience it, would mean denying a part of who I am—and I don’t intend to ever bury that passion again.
With all that being said, Andrew (who is the greatest, most understanding, and supportive husband in the world) has agreed to partake in yet another of my zany adventures, which predicated the need for this blog. After many happy years in Florida, my soul is itching to take flight again. So in just a couple months’ time, we will be renting out our home and saying goodbye to the United States as we move to Shanghai, China. While I appreciate the challenges that might arise while living in an entirely different culture, I don’t know if I have ever felt so weightless. The ability to combine my passion for writing, photography, novelty, and travel has provided the conviction that this is the right move. Once again, I do not know what the future holds, since I won’t necessarily have a job when we return, but with perseverance, faith, and a spirit of adventure, I know anything is possible.