I Visited Six Different Countries in Twelve Months

I Visited Six Different Countries in Twelve Months

Traveling is one of the most incredible opportunities I have ever received.

Many people cannot afford the opportunity to travel outside of the country, but this past year, I was lucky enough to travel to - not one, not two - but six different countries. Each trip was an incredibly stimulating journey, and I would recommend everyone to travel abroad at least once in their life.

The countries I traveled to over the past year were St. Barthelemy, Costa Rica, France, Poland, Israel, and Thailand. They were all so different from one another but incredibly special in their own way. No matter where you go, you will experience something through traveling that you have never seen before, and it will blow you away.

When I was in St. Barthelemy, I experienced the lovely lifestyle of the French beaches. There, I spent incredible family bonding time, enjoyed an exciting romance, authentic nightlife, and appreciated the night sky full of stars. I also got to ride on a vespa for the first time ever; it felt incredible zooming down streets as the wind hit my face. I tried different foods, met all sorts of people, and did things that pushed me out of my comfort zone, which is a huge perk of traveling.

Traveling to Costa Rica was a completely different experience because I went with a group of my friends. I enjoyed listening to the beautiful Spanish language, riding along the beach and through a forest of trees on an ATV, and flying across a tropical forest on a zipline. I met people from all different parts of the world and was able to stand in a butterfly cage, holding a toucan on my arm.

I would never be able to do these things at home; that is the beauty of traveling.

In France, I traveled without a chaperone; it was just me and one friend, thousands of miles from home figuring out how to navigate our way in a town where we didn’t speak the language or know anyone. I felt like a true adult, forced to put myself out there. As a result, I met incredible people.

One night, my friend and I were walking along a gorgeous beach in St. Raphael (right outside of Nice), trying to get a taxi to take us back to our hotel. We couldn’t find a single person who spoke english or wanted to help us. I thought we were going to sleep on the streets that night! It wasn’t until we came across a group of people on their summer vacation who spoke English.

We were so relieved, and after getting to know these people, we ended up spending the whole night on the beach just talking to them. It’s those spontaneous run-ins that make life so special and bring excitement to the table.

My experience traveling to Poland and Israel was an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I will be forever grateful that I was able to go on the “March of the Living” trip. We traveled through Poland for one week, visiting five Holocaust camps, marching through Auschwitz with over 10,000 people, and visiting a few Jewish cemeteries. I really felt a connection with my ancestors and to the Jews traveling with me as we all experienced everything firsthand.

As I watched the people of today living in Poland, learning about the way people act and the way the food is cooked, I felt enamored. It was so real but so very different from what I would ever come close to experiencing at home.

The week I spent in Israel, on the other hand, was a bit more of an uplifting experience. After experiencing the lowest point in history for the Jewish population, I experienced their peak. Seeing firsthand how far the Jews have come showed that no matter how bad it is, it can always get better.

The Israeli culture is so cool and so much fun; it was extremely cool to see people dancing all over the streets, people complimenting you as you walk passed them, and the absurd but cool things being sold on the street. It was just overall a warm feeling spending a week there. Whether you are Jewish or not, there is something about Israel that makes you feel connected, which is an unbelievable feeling.

Thailand was something I’d never even come close to experiencing before. It was my first time ever going to Asia, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect. My mind was completely blown. Their culture is truly magnificent, and honestly, just watching how people live their life there is amazing.

I was able to learn about the religion of Buddhism (something I had only ever read about in textbooks) by actually visiting temples and watching people get on their knees and pray for hours. I tried all different types of foods, such as authentic Thai noodles and seafood, and I learned how they celebrate Christmas in Asia.

I was also able to experience the nightlife there and see how crazy but different it is from the United States.

There is something about travelling and experiencing different cultures that brings so much light and joy to my life.

When you travel to a new place, you are able to just let go, refresh your mind, and let wherever you are guide you in a new way of life.

Being able to savor all these memories and know that I have seen what it’s like to live a life completely different from mine is amazing. Going to a different state, or a different country truly is the one thing that will never fail to put a smile on my face, and I can’t wait to see what else there is to offer in this world.

Cover Image Credit: Aaditya Arora from Pexels

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If You Give A Girl A Little Brother

You've given her the world.

I remember back to my childhood, standing at the top of the steps yelling down to my parents "Why did you decide to have another child?" I remember riding in the backseat yelling "Mom, was I not good enough for you?" as my brother threw snow at me .

I remember crying when my mom made us share our first cell phone. I remember playing in a pool at a waterpark, and my dad couldn't play with me because my brother couldn't swim and needed my dad to be with him. I played by myself, thinking "They must have not wanted a girl when they only pay attention to him."

But now, at almost 22, I realized that the best gift God has ever given me was my little brother.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a pain in her ass.

Oh, he'll be annoying. He'll get in the shower just because you said you were going to. He'll start talking every time you do. He'll pull stupid pranks, he'll make you listen to bogus music, he'll make you watch stupid tv shows, he'll smell up the bathroom (and probably smell himself.) and boy, I promise there will be day's you will resent him. But he's just training for living with your husband one day.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a role.

As a big sister, I had somebody copying all my moves. If I did something, so did he. If I didn't eat something, neither did he. If I didn't like somebody neither did he. He was like a little shadow that did everything I did, so I was always motivated to make good choices and make him proud of me.

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her a rough side.

I wouldn't have done half the things I did if it wasn't for him. Play basketball in the drive way, spend hours on our bikes, spend the summer days in the pool, or down at the park. I wouldn't have learned that it's okay to get in the dirt and have some fun. I wouldn't have played half the made up, imaginary games we played every day. I wouldn't have played with Hot Wheels, or Lincoln Logs, or Leggo's. I would have played with Barbies by myself all day long, and what's the fun in that?

Give a girl a little brother, and you give her the best friend she'll ever have.

In the end, when our parent's both pass away, I won't be alone, because I will have my little brother. When the world gets tough, and everyone turns away from me, he will always be there. No matter where he end's up in life, I know he will drop everything and come running when I'm in need.

For Christmas this year, I bought my brother his first tattoo. We got matching tattoo's on our sides. Our lives our different now, because we're grown up and live on opposite sides of the state. But no matter where we go in life, if we look up, we will be looking at the same sun and moon. We are made up of the same matter, 'made' by the same people, and love each other more than I think we'd like to admit.

Alex is my true other-half.

Give a girl a little brother, and you made her whole.

Cover Image Credit: Abby Engel

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Solo Travel As An Extrovert Is Not Easy

Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.


Life has a funny way of revealing itself and after my mom ditched me on our mother-daughter trip to Taiwan, I found myself on a plane headed to a country I had never visited where I didn't know a soul. (Disclaimer: I have relatives in Taiwan but had never met them prior to the trip.) I was excited for the adventure that awaited, fear not setting in of how difficult it would be not to just travel in a foreign country where I didn't speak or read any Mandarin beyond the very, very basics (Literally my vocabulary consisted of 10 simple words/phrases, one of which was the word for "apple" which isn't that helpful for getting around. I have since picked up a few more phrases.), but also be alone with just myself for company.

So much of who we are is influenced by the people around us. A large part of our identity comes the communities we choose to be part of and how we interact with others. But who are we when no one's looking? Who am I without the pressure of other people around me?

I am an extrovert. I get my energy from being around other people. It's not that I can't spend time by myself; I just prefer to be in the company of others even if we aren't always interacting the entire time. My best friend and I will even do independent activities together. (Once when we were hanging out, she was knitting and I was doing a puzzle. I swear we don't act like grandmas all the time.)

Although an extrovert, I'm still a pretty independent person who doesn't like to rely on others for help. But traveling alone in Taiwan, I don't have much of a choice. I'm forced to learn to navigate public transport myself and somehow survive with the basic English that Taiwanese locals know.

Learning to travel alone has been an emotional and difficult journey as this is the first time I've been on my own for this long. Although lonely at times, I've realized that loneliness is a mental state of mind. There is the Sanskrit saying, "Mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha moksayoh" which translates to "As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind." My mind determines my emotional state of being and perspective! Traveling alone, I can choose to view it as a difficult separation from other people or a journey of learning more about myself.

Through solo travel, I am slowly learning to be comfortable with my own company which has been the biggest challenge. I was never an only child, I've always had a roommate in college, and even when I study, I go to public spaces like coffee shops so I can be surrounded by people. I don't know what to do when it's just me and my thoughts all the time. (Especially during meals. Should I appear busy on my phone like all the other single people around me?)

Because when you're traveling alone, you're in charge. You have control. You can change the itinerary from moment to moment without anyone's approval. No one's holding you accountable. Spontaneity? Let's go. You can build barriers but you can also tear them down. It's fun, it's exhilarating. But it's also scary. And unpredictable.

Would I go on another solo expedition in the future? Preferably not as traveling is way more enjoyable when you have someone to share the experience with. It's the people, not the place who make all the difference on a vacation. Yet I do believe solo travel is an experience that everyone should embark on at some point in their life (to grow and learn more about yourself).

This trip has taught me to find spontaneity in the fear and excitement and I've learned to embrace discomfort and unpredictability. To travel with not just my mind and logic but my heart. There are so many unique experiences, if you overthink too much, you'll lose your chance.

I've found that when I am alone, I become more vulnerable and open to meeting new people and having more offbeat experiences. I say yes with zero hesitation. Certainly, there are friends I made, hikes I climbed, streets I meandered, and epiphanies I had that wouldn't have transpired had I been with my mom or a group of people.

Traveling alone, I am now more confident in myself and am ready for the next wave that life throws me. Because I've learned that once you overcome the fear of being by yourself, getting lost (which you will), or accidentally eating meat as a vegan because you didn't understand the signage (I'm sorry!), the world in all its vast infinity can be pretty great. And there are some things that you can only learn on solo travel.

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