At the age of 13, I boarded a plane with my little brother heading to visit family nine hours away in South America completely on our own. I had never felt more grown up and excited about anything in my young teenage life than I did that day, feeling as though I was a solo traveler. Unknowingly, this was the beginning of my love affair with travel.
By age 15, I somehow convinced my parents to let me travel to Italy with my best friend and her family for the summer. They were Italian and had a summer house in Sicily.
For three months, I lived in a beautiful house with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea where many journal entries were written and even more hours of contemplation took place.
On this trip we traveled up and down the length of Italy, seeing everything from the Colosseum to the mountains of northern Milan to the canals of Venice. One day, we visited the ruins of a theater where Shakespeare used to put on plays.
As a 15 year old, this blew mind for 2 reasons:
→ I LOVE Shakespeare
→ Was it really possible that I was standing in THE very spot where such history took place?!
Realistically, history probably took place in every place we visited that summer. But what truly made me grasp that idea and shook me to my core was this small theater in ruins where I could picture actors reading some of my favorite plays aloud.
After that day something inside of me changed. It was a combination of curiosity, excitement and happiness. If these places could bring about such intense feelings, what else could I discover?
EUROPE: PART 2
Representing the US Abroad
During my senior year of high school, I was selected to represent the United States internationally in a choir made up of other high school students from across the nation. Auditions were held and in the end, only 100 of us were selected.
It was a slightly stressful time to be traveling as 9/11 had just occurred but it was my mom who ultimately pushed me to take this opportunity telling me it was not only an honor, but also an incredible chance to see more of Europe than I already had.
To this day, I am so grateful for that push.
There were lots of long days spent in rehearsals, but once it was showtime – something magical always happened. The band played every note they had to play and our choir sang in perfect harmony, each note better than the last.
We performed in breathtaking cathedrals because of their incredible acoustics, in outdoor plazas and even for government officials!
It was so exciting and unlike anything else I had ever been part of before.
On this trip we visited some smaller, less popular cities in Germany, Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. The best part about this was having the opportunity to get to know the locals and see parts of these countries I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Being part of a group touring Europe had some other benefits as well, the actual tours!
I have never been the type of person who takes group tours, however the activities they had lined up for us in between concerts and competitions were memorable.
In Austria, we took a gondola lift into the Zillertal Alps where we saw the Hintertux Glacier. It was summer when we hopped onto the lift and a complete winter wonderland when we climbed off at the top!
Needless to say, we were frozen.
In Germany, we visited a concentration camp/memorial which was hard to walk through and even harder to read and learn about.
We also got to drive on the Autobahn not going fast enough to even brag about since we were in a coach bus and not a cool sports car like the ones that would buzz past us, took a walk through Mozart’s house and got to see the actual location where a scene from The Sound of Music was filmed.
When I confessed to the group that I had never seen The Sound of Music before, one of the directors was so outraged (remember, I was touring with a music group), she bought it that same day for us to watch on the bus before visiting the location!
Where she found it in the middle of Austria was the trip’s biggest mystery.
WHERE IT ALL CHANGED
In 2016, the fashion company I worked for announced they were in trouble and had no choice but to downsize. My department was one of the teams hit the hardest as only 2 members were left after a massive round of layoffs.
I, unfortunately, did not make the cut. After almost a decade of 50-hour work weeks in a corporate office, I suddenly found myself jobless with more free time than I knew what to do with.
As sad as it was at the time, leaving the corporate world was perhaps one of the best things to ever happen to me. It gave me the time and tools needed to pursue my dream of creating my own event business, which in turn, gave me the ability to travel and fall in love with it all over again.So in a way, it really was like one of those everything-happens-for-a-reason occurrences … because here we are. The beauty of freelancing is that you can truly do it from anywhere. While networking still needs to take place, I have been lucky to find work while traveling and will continue to challenge myself with finding opportunities on all future expeditions.
Conquering My Inner Demons
We live in a society where there is a higher level of awareness when it comes to matters of mental health than ever before, but unfortunately, that is as far as it goes. As a culture, we have all of the tools necessary to learn and to educate ourselves readily available at our fingertips, yet we still have a long way to go to cross over from awareness to actual understanding.
When dealing with matters related to mental health, what comes to the surface as awareness inevitably makes its way into becoming a trend which slowly but surely transforms itself into an excuse everyone uses and eventually is cast aside as something light, a joke.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with social anxiety. Which even to this day, is mind boggling to me because I am a naturally outgoing person. However, being a socially anxious extrovert is actually a real thing.
An annoying, inconvenient, uncomfortable pain-in-the-ass thing. Literally a walking contradiction.
Pair that with life-long debilitating low self-esteem, an eating disorder and depression: you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Or my entire year in 2015.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because if you are reading this site, there is some part of you that wants to travel. If you have made it to this portion and are still reading, it could be that you feel the same way or are going through similar inner struggles. And I just want you to know that it is possible to conquer anxieties over time, I am living proof.
You can have anxiety and travel on your own.
It was travel that transformed me and helped me change my life.
Losing absolutely everything I packed for my first solo expedition thousands of miles from home brought to the surface every fear in its worst possible form all at once. I had nothing to fall back on, everything I brought with me was gone and now I’d have to ask strangers for help when it is the last thing I wanted to do.
It forced me to take a deep breath, suck it up and do whatever needed to be done in order to be able to move forward. I was all alone so far from home and it was up to me to make this either the best or worst trip of my life.
The second I decided to work towards the former, everything changed.
Maybe it was that I didn’t know anyone or that because they were strangers it didn’t matter, but it was the first time in my life where I didn’t stop to inwardly obsess over my usual social anxieties. What I wore didn’t matter, what I looked like wasn’t important. I could just be me in the simplest form and get to know people.
And the more I did it – the more I was the first person to initiate a conversation or continue said conversation without over-analyzing what I said or didn’t say, the easier it got.
I had nothing, so I had nothing to lose.
Suddenly the voice that had lived in my mind the entirety of my life stopped criticizing me and trying to convince me I wasn’t good enough. I was more comfortable in my own skin than I had ever been before.
I felt peace, I felt radiant and most importantly, I felt ALIVE.
After so many years, I finally realized that this voice had always been there because I allowed it to be. And it was only through travel, through losing myself and finding inner peace, that I was able to take a deep breath and just live.
It showed me that I was stronger than I ever thought I was and more capable than I ever imagined I could be.
And it felt fantastic.
I don’t really know what will come next in this crazy adventure called life. For now, what I do know is that I want to see as much of the world as I possibly can for as long as I can.
The bucket list is a long one and I am sure many good, bad and funny stories will come out of each journey I take, which I can’t wait to write about.
No matter where you go, there is always some research and planning that goes into each expedition, but never a formal plan. However, no matter where I go in the world, I am confident things will work out the way they are meant to.
They always do, one way or another.
Get In Touch
I would love to hear from you!
You can reach out and say hello via my contact form or directly at:
info [at] emaroundtheworld [dot] com.
I am always happy to answer any questions or help with any upcoming travel plans you may have.
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