The first time that I went abroad was in 2006 on a class trip to Spain. The anticipation, the planning, the packing… I couldn’t wait to leave the U.S. I remember listening to Coldplay’s Parachutes album and letting my mind wander, imagining what Barcelona would be like. I remember knowing, even though I had never been, that I wanted to live in another country. I wanted to call a strange place home. My mom bought me a William Sonoma cookbook on Spanish cuisine, and on one of the pages was a picture of the prettiest art nouveau cafe. I told myself that I would go to that very cafe.
The trip was only 12 days, but I was ecstatic the entire time. We saw a Flamenco performance, ate in little cafes, drank wine for the first time, and even kissed each other when no one was looking. I remember feeling like I could be anybody and do anything off in this foreign place… I, myself, was never more at home with my own heart. I felt like I was somewhere important, that I was more important there. I was inspired and hopeful. I believed in love and romance and all that stuff that seemed impossible in my little country town.
That first trip was long before instagram. We were just kids, with slow internet speeds. Google images didn’t have the answers we were looking for beforehand. I was overwhelmed with everything: different vending machines, strange light switches and outlets, tiny cars, hectic traffic, and ambulances that went EE-ER-EE-ER! I was willing to do anything and everything, to understand fully, and appreciate the tiniest of nuances. It was more satisfying than I could have imagined. I loved the women, the men, the style, the language, the food. I danced in the street with my friends. I went to an ocean beach for the first time… after crossing it. I stood in front of Picasso’s Guernica. I ate tiramisu at that little cafe in the cookbook.
That was just my first trip, over 11 years ago. So little about traveling has changed for me now. I still get that wanderlust to experience. I still feel twinges of giddiness when I find myself next to a little harbor, a sand dune, atop a mountain, in a castle. In those moments I believe in us, all of us. I don’t quite think my mom knew what she was getting herself into when she would buy me all of those travel books as a kid. I don’t think she thought I would build a life around it the way I have. Hell, I didn’t quite envision that I would accomplish this much… let alone at 27.