I can still vividly remember stepping off the plane on my first international trip. All of my senses were heightened. The smells, the people, the food…everything looked and felt so different from home. I was in an airport in New Zealand and I couldn’t wait to see what a different country looked like after the long flight. I ran to the bathroom only to be disappointed that the toilet didn’t actually flush backwards. In fact, it flushed straight down which seemed equally exotic to me at the time.
I immediately noticed some of the workers in the airport were Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, who I knew (due to my research before the trip) were marginalized throughout New Zealand’s history and had a civil rights movement of their own in the 1960s. Having never seen someone of Maori ancestry before, my sixteen year old brain couldn’t process the fact that the people I researched and read about were real.
My first trip abroad was to Australia and New Zealand with People to People a student travel program. Although Australia and New Zealand are not culturally very different from the United States, they were my gateway into international travel just like those sugary Starbucks Frappuccio drinks were a jumping off point for trying black coffee.
In Australia, I tried Vegemite, Museli and Milo (a chocolate drink) for the first time. I snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef and climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge meanwhile forming friendships with the other students I was traveling with. New Zealand brought its own set of adventures; staying with a host family, attending a high school for a day and spending the night in a Maori community where they cooked our entire dinner underground.
The travel bug is a real thing and once you are infected you only want to see more.
Next came European adventures. My first experience with foreign languages was in France and Spain on a class trip in high school. Even though I wisely chose to take Latin in high school, the foreign language department took me with. Luckily I quickly learned a few words in French and Spanish.
In college, I went to Singapore and Istanbul on short term study abroad trips. Each time traveling with a group of students and a knowledgeable professor to gain an in depth perspective on each location.
Educational travel has impacted my life in countless ways and has encouraged me to avoid traveling like a tourist. My travel experiences did not stop after college. Since then I have traveled to Mexico, Dominican Republic, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Austria, Ukraine, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, United Kingdom, and Colombia always trying to immerse myself into the local culture instead of trying to consume it.
I hope that sharing my stories about travel on Globe to Go will encourage others to explore the world!