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Editor First Person: Why Traveling is Worth It's Weight in Gold

Editor First Person: Why Traveling is Worth It's Weight in Gold

July 08, 2011

Since I was a little girl, I remember hearing my parents talk fondly about their travels in a time when they were young. Before us kids were even a “glimmer in their eye”. A time when they were free and experiencing all life had to offer.

Like the time they were chased through a Moroccan bazaar by a street vendor that was trying to rip them off. Or the time my father was mistaken for Muhammad Ali in Egypt circa in 1974 (he swears the villagers followed him around chanting “Ali Bumaye!” and showering him with gifts). Or the time they were mistaken for drug smugglers crossing the Spanish border. They talked about the delicious food they ate in Paris and the beautiful sights they saw in Luxembourg.

As a little girl, their stories were magical. It wasn’t just the stories themselves—which were exciting and fearless enough—that made me want to travel so badly. It was the way their faces lit up when they talked about their adventures. They never told me this, but I knew from the way they told those stories that traveling was the best time of their lives.

So when I graduated college, I knew I would make traveling my destiny. I figured Europe was a good place to start and mapped my trip through Paris, England, Spain and Italy. I bought a huge backpack, much like the ones my parents had stored away in our attic and I couldn’t wait to add patches from each country I visited as I made my way through.

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With Mos Def at the Eifel Tower in Paris, France.

Like many other recent graduates, I didn’t have a lot of money. But what bothered me the most was that I didn’t have one single friend who wanted to make the trip with me. Either they had jobs starting immediately after graduation, they didn’t want to spend the money, they wanted to travel but not to the same places I was interested in, or a host of other reasons.

Part of me thought about delaying my trip until I could find a traveling buddy. But I feared that if I did that, in a few years, I would look up with a career I couldn’t leave, and a mortgage and maybe even a husband or kids—all of which would prevent me from doing what I’d been dreaming of doing since I first heard those stories years ago.

So…I got online and booked my flight. I paid $350 to fly from New York to Paris on Air India – an experience that was an adventure in itself. It wasn’t until I got off the plane in Paris that I started to panic. I had planned to call the hostel to get directions from the airport, but the payphones only took some sort of card, not coins and the recorded operator was firing off directions in French only. No press two (or three, or four) for English option. When I finally figured out what train to take to get to the hostel, I got to the train station, only to find that the public transportation workers were on strike!

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Exploring the Balinese jungle, a wild monkey decided to perch on my shoulder.

What the heck had I done, I thought. I’m here, thousands of miles from any family, I don’t speak the language, I don’t know where I’m sleeping tonight and I can’t even figure out how to use a payphone. What was I stupid for doing this all on my own!?

And that’s when I realized: MY adventure had begun.

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