Life is too short. I say that being relatively young, but I find it true nonetheless. Given this perspective, life should be about more than just surviving. While that may sound obvious, it wasn't always obvious to me.

Up until age 13, my life was what I considered average. I was happy and that was all that mattered. Once seventh grade hit, however, every day was a struggle for survival. I had convinced myself that I had to be "perfect". In my mind, everything had to be just so or I felt I would never be successful in life. With that skewed perception, life became miserable for me, and I became depressed. What I didn't know then, but have since learned, is that my definition of success was unreasonably narrow. Eventually, I was able to broaden my understanding of the idea of success and ease my feelings of depression, through traveling.

When I was 14 years old I traveled with my mother to California. It was my first time traveling any significant distance since I began feeling depressed… and I was hooked. Los Angeles was a whirlwind of experiences and ideas. I realized for the first time that my opportunities for the future were practically endless and that realization was liberating and exciting.

For the first two years, I traveled all over with my mother. With each experience, my perspective improved and I began to understand that success was a term I could define for myself. It was about deciding who and what I wanted to be and deciding how I wanted to approach life.

With my traveling also came new long-lasting friendships, and while it was fulfilling, it was also getting expensive. Eventually, my mom told me that I would have to travel alone if I wanted to continue to see my distant friends. I was only 16 the first time I traveled by myself. It was the first time I was completely responsible for myself and it was both exciting and scary. It gave me a newfound confidence and a sense of pride in my own abilities. I had learned a lot traveling with my mom, and now I was able to put that knowledge into action independently.

Traveling helped me to become a better person. It helped me become more aware of the struggles everyone is facing and the jobs they have to do to find their own measure of success. I became more patient, tolerant, appreciative and independent, and my demeanor became more outgoing. I have become more responsible, motivated and confident. I had been confined by my limited definition of success and now I might even define myself as adventurous.

There is a financial cost of traveling, but there was another cost for me as well. I never worried about the drama that comes with high school, but instead about earning money to travel while still meeting school requirements. It was during the senior year that I realized that I had become so focused on expanding my horizons that I missed out on many of the events that typically come with my age, but life is full of choices on the road to success. Traveling opened my eyes to a world I was missing. It gave me perspective and I wouldn't change that for the world.