July 17, 2005
Okay…So I think it’s totally clear to me that I AM going to be doing this. I’ve been re-
tracing in my mind what has led me to this decision and what has prompted this
Let’s go back to 2000.
At this point, I thought I was well-traveled. Really, I had been to London once for
barely a week in college. Outside of that, my cultural activities consisted of going to
New Orleans for Mardi Gras and going to NYC for New Year’s Eve. But I was
mistakenly under the impression that I was quite the little traveler. I guess I was
confusing all of these little domestic trips with my desire to see and do more.
In the summer of 2000, my family decided to take a cruise to the Mediterranean. This
was exciting stuff. I would get a taste of Europe. And not the kind where they speak
the same language, have the same stores and listen to the same music (this is how I
found London to be). This was the Europe that would consist of exchanging currency
everywhere we went, breaking out a travel dictionary in each different country and
having a different gastronomic experience in each place. The three countries that
were on the itinerary were Spain, France and Italy. In hindsight, there wasn’t too
much culture shock that was experienced. Heck…we were on cruise excursions at
each port! And the one city we did on our own before the cruise started (Barcelona),
we did so while staying in our 5-star state-of-the-art hotel (still one of my ‘Top 3
Hotels’ to date!). But I digress. My point here is to say that this trip is where it all
began. My need to see more of the world. Well, at this point I needed to start slowly. I
just needed to see more of Europe.
I think it’s safe to say that this quickly became an addiction. Let’s face it…there could
be far worse addictions. My addiction lied around going to the source of the crepe.
The source of the wine. The source of the art. The source of the old-world charm. I
became fascinated with how beautiful everything was over there and I just had to see
more of it.
The next five years led to many pilgrimages back to Europe. All of them were
completely different experiences based on whom I went with, where we were going,
what the purpose of the trip was and what the economy was like in the place to which
we were traveling. I can now say I feel like I’m very seasoned traveler with regards to
Europe. I’ve done trips out there with money not being a concern (a.k.a. ‘The Family
Trip’). I’ve done trips out there while reaping the benefits of it being the off-season (i.
e. staying in great places while staying within our unemployed budgets). I’ve done
trips where the sole premise was to learn (this is also a trip that gave me a taste of
‘living’ in Europe). I’ve done trips with no itinerary at all to speak of…just a date that
we had to go back to the airport to go back to the United States. I’ve done the
backpacking trip. I’ve done the ‘meeting up with friends in Europe for New Year’s
Eve’ trip. I’ve done the ‘sole purpose of this trip is to taste wine’ trip.
I’ve even done the ‘Lets see the natural beauty of this place (read: outdoorsy)’ trip.
The last one was the most shocking for someone like me.
In addition to the trips mentioned prior, I also had the once-in-a-lifetime chance to
experience the Middle East last year. And I’m getting ready to embark to Africa next
month. My eyes are getting bigger and bigger with regards to what I want to see and
experience. I see a globe or a world map and I literally feel myself start to salivate.
There are so many places left to see. And three weeks a year in vacation time is not
nearly enough to do it.
I am 28 years old. Life has thrown me a couple curve balls over the past year. Curve
balls aren’t all bad. At the time, you can’t see any redeeming qualities. But then, in
hindsight, you realize that they can give you opportunity. In my case, my mom passed
away last year. I now have no other family members in the area. Just me. On my own.
Not completely on my own…I have lots of friends and family friends here. But the
point is that I call the shots without having to answer to anybody these days. A Catch-
22 if you ask me. Everyone is a critic and friends/family friends are no exception. For
example, many of these family friends feel like I should ‘buy’ a home. In fact, they can’
t understand why I haven’t yet done this yet (an easy answer for this would be $800K
= 2BR/2BA in San Francisco). While for many people, it is more than reasonable to
expect a twenty-eight year old woman to jump onboard the real estate bandwagon.
(Note: my first reaction was to type ‘twenty-eight year old girl’.) What I’m getting at
here is that I don’t feel like I’m responsible enough to make this leap. I know that I
could. I just don’t know that I want to right now. I like my freedom. I like my lifestyle.
I just don’t want to give that up right now all in the name of ‘owning’ something.
The other big curveball I was thrown was just a couple months ago when a friend of
mine (a twenty-seven year old friend, I might add) was diagnosed with cancer. He
passed away about a month and a half after being diagnosed. I am attending his
memorial next weekend. What can be more eye-opening than being faced with your
own mortality. I don’t know what’s in my cards. All I know is that I have the control to
do what I want to with my life. I can’t say ‘Someday, I want to...’ I have learned and
seen that ‘someday’ might not exist.
When discussing all of this with a friend, he said “I know exactly what you should do.”
This was exciting to me since I had no idea what I should do. Hey, if someone else has
the answer, by all means, please share it with me! He said “You should take time off
work and travel around the world. You would love doing that.” He was correct in
saying that I would love doing that. However, there were a few things that he was
missing. I would need to quit my job. Kind of a big factor to consider. I also am aware
that while it sounds glamorous, traveling around the world would be a lot more work
than anybody gives it credit for. I realize this from my brief one-week backpacking
stint in Europe where I went to places that everybody, for the most part, spoke
English. Traveling solo can be lonely. It can be challenging. It can bring
enlightenment. It can bring new friends. It can bring new experiences. It can bring
self-awareness. It can bring about a whole new wisdom.
I think you can see where this is going. Doing an ‘Around the World’ trip was
consuming my thoughts. I talked to my sister about this. The term ‘My Sister’ is
synonymous with ‘Voice of Reason’. Even she was supportive of this idea. Then I
started verbalizing this plan. I’m not one to talk about something and not follow
through. From the time I told my friend at work about this, I felt like that was when I
fully committed to making this happen. I came home after work and sat down with
my globe and made a list of 38 different countries that I’d like to visit. Will I be able to
see all of the places? Most likely not. But would I ever get to see them with my 13 days
of personal/vacation time per year? Absolutely not.
One little glitch. While I’ve been known to rough it from time to time, I’m not at all a
‘roughing it’ kind of girl. In January of 2002, I swore I was going to host a ceremony-
of-sorts where I was going to take the backpack I used for Europe and make a bonfire
out of it. The thing that held me back is that it wasn’t my backpack—I borrowed it
from a friend. These were my feelings after backpacking for one week. This is going to
be a far longer trip. With far more difficult destinations to reach. But this was also
before my days of staying in rooms in people’s houses. Before wanting to experience
as much culture as possible. And not the culture that exists in churches and
museums. I’m talking about the culture that one finds by immersing themselves in a
So I have now been consumed by this idea ever since.