While I was growing up, my mom always made our family travel plans quite the priority. I was confused about the logic in this decision for the longest time because I knew our money could've gone elsewhere. I mean, she was a single mom with two kids, who owned a business and a decently sized house... all on her own. Props to her right? It's amazing how the world likes to make us think that single mothers can't give their children a good life. Well, mine gave me one of the most important gifts that one could ever ask for. She gifted me with the desire to explore the world in an effort to understand who I am. As told by the Urban Dictionary, it's the gift of wanderlust: "the uncontrollable desire to hit the road and travel, by whatever means desired, to explore and enjoy the world."
So why do people leave their homes and voyage all over the globe in search of this sense of understanding?
People travel for all kinds of reasons that don't need any justification at all. I remember my mom telling me, "I want to take you and your brother to all 50 states by the time you both graduate high school." And she stuck with it; I've now been to 46 states and 3 countries and we still have two more years to complete our quest. We've gained so many memories over the years that we can sit and reminisce about in the future and that is truly humbling.
Here are 24 personal experiences I've gathered over the years that I now get to say I've been a part of... all thanks to my undeniably determined and amazing mother. P.S. These photos were all taken by myself or members of my family... please try your best to ignore my lack of fashion over the years.
1. Illegally pumped our own gas in New Jersey
At the time, we didn't realize this was illegal... until some guy ran out of the station yelling, "STOP, you're breaking the law!"
2. Snorkeling in Cancun, Mexico
It's safe to say that this was a terrifying experience for me, as I am extremely afraid of water. In the end, I did admit that "because the water was clear," I wanted to do it again someday.
3. Ben and Jerry's Factory in Vermont
Yes, this is real and yes, I ate a ton of ice cream that day.
4. White House in Washington D.C.
I mean, it's a rougher version of me and the White House. That's enough.
5. Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, IN
I have officially declared that I have an obsession with attending country concerts here. There's nothing better than sitting back and enjoying a sunset with some friends and family while country music enriches your soul.
6. Lighthouse in York, Maine
There's a funny story behind this picture. We didn't want to be cliche and take a photo with the actual lighthouse, so we hopped in this abandoned boat that had washed ashore. Then, to add to the comedy of the moment, some local fisherman decided we would look better with a fishing rod in our hands as well, leaving this picture to rise to a whole new level.
7. Texas: Rangers Game, Deep Sea Fishing, and Horse Back Riding on the Beach
As you can see, we proved the whole "Go big or go home" idea to be true. And as they say, "everything is bigger in Texas," so we had to go above and beyond. I hope you enjoy my fishing picture.
8. Times Square in NYC
This one is especially cool for me because I'm a New Year's Baby and to visit the site of the yearly Ball Drop was an incredibly surreal experience.
9. Niagra Falls
The picture says it all.
10. Zip-lined down a mountain and over the ocean in Haiti
Being one of my favorite experiences yet, this moment in time was simply eye-opening. While gliding through the air by a thread, I was able to truly let go and feel as though I was free of any baggage.
11. Hollywood, California
I mean, can you even say that you've been to California if you haven't been to Hollywood?
12. Mall of America, Minnesota
This trip was insane. I went on my first upside down roller coaster in the middle of this mall and then tried on my first prom dress ever. Oh, and there's no such thing as a sales tax on clothing here.
13. Disney World, Florida
Disney is a classic and a go-to for many people. I, on the other hand, was terrified of the dressed up characters and managed to hoard all the ketchup at a Disney Resort restaurant one night... All I did was ask for some ketchup and suddenly the entire restaurant brought me their bottles. It was quite the tradition they had going on there and made for a hilarious experience to look back on.
14. Swimming with Dolphins in Jamaica
My fear of water extended into this activity as well, but I quickly forgot about it and fell in love with my dolphin.
15. Smoke Jumpers in Montana
This was a special experience for my entire family because it is the exact moment when my brother realized that this is what he wanted to do with his life. We met these awesome men and women who jump out of planes to fight wildfires in the mountains... how incredible is that.
16. Mountain Biking in Wyoming
This was another one of my brother's favorite experiences and looking back, it's now one of mine too. I was quite hesitant at first, though. I mean, this place made me put on all this gear and then said, "Here's a bike, the ski lift is over there. The tracks to the left are easy and tracks to the right are more challenging." Simple as that. No one warned me that this mountain biking was a legit sport and on a track, not the casual mountain biking on a path I pictured when we were planning the trip. This experience encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone though, and I have come to truly appreciate it... plus I left Wyoming with this bad a** picture.
17. White water rafting in Glacier National Park, Montana
Here's another experience where I, quite literally, jumped out of my comfort zone. This activity was way harder than any of us expected. At one point, we were given the opportunity to jump into an 80-foot hole of crystal clear glacier water. This truly inspired my family to work as a team and cooperate with one another. I'm the second person from the front on the left side... don't ask me what I am doing because I'm pretty sure I was in the process of forcing myself to take deep breaths.
18. Rode a train to the Grand Canyon in Arizona
The Grand Canyon was as breath-taking as ever.
P.S. It only confirmed my fear of heights... but was totally worth it.
19. Four Corners
Yes, this is a pic of me doing the splits in four states at once. Cool, right?
20. Jelly Belly factory in Wisconsin
Yes, this place is real too! Here, I discovered that there are not only good flavored jelly beans but also some flavored as puke and dirty socks. No, I did not try them... for obvious reasons.
21. Rode Segways in St. Paul, Minnesota
There was a lot of history involved in this excursion and needless to say, it's important to know our history.
22. Camped on Myrtle Beach in South Carolina
Yes, you read that right. We camped in a tent, on the sand, for one week... and I loved it.
23. Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota
We were only here for an hour or so, but it was nice to experience another major part of U.S. history.
24. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Concert in Las Vegas, Nevada
I saved this one for last because it is one of my all time favorites. We saw Tim and Faith one night, and they took turns singing their own songs and then some duets. It was the best concert I have ever been to, hands down. 10/10 times, I would recommend that you find out the next time they'll be near you... and make sure you buy tickets.