I like to say my mom was born with a travel gene. That something in her DNA drives her need to see the world. It's the best gene I "inherited", always making for one hell of an experience every summer. We started small, staying within the country, venturing to the staples, like The Grand Canyon and Los Angeles. Then escalating to the Caribbean and South America, giving our passports a little ware and tear. Finally the big leagues: France ,Thailand, Israel, and more. Suitcases were always over flowing, neck pillows were common holiday gifts, and bum status look for the 24 hour plane ride ahead was always on point.
Every vacation was like a well balanced diet, a little bit of fun with a helping portion of touring and history. We relaxed pool side in Thailand, post six am tour of the Wat Rong Khun Temple. Toured Israel for 12 hours a day, to then snorkel the shores of Mediterranean Sea.
It went like this on every adventure, and as much as my legs hurt and my brain from information overload, I would never trade it for anything. There are some things history books, geography class, or your Instagram feed cant teach nor show you. Only experience can.
I thought I understood the world around me, but what my ignorance was shading me from was, how wrong I was. You never know how much you have until you see people with nothing. In Thailand, I met multi-generational families, people living with both their parents and their children under one roof in tiny, wood and metal homes, with dirt floors, with a shared bed and no running water. People with absolutely nothing were inviting us, total strangers, into their home. They were not embarrassed at how little they had, or how primitively they lived. They were gracious hosts, happy to welcome us in and share what they had.
In Ecuador I experienced cement houses with paint peeling and an overwhelming stench. Children in ripped, unwashed clothes desperate for attention. Loud and unruly children fighting for my hand and willing to break the rules to get a hug. The few toys available were filthy and broken. Children on small mattresses with thin, unwashed bodies undoubtedly trying to fill voids of love. This was the scene I encountered when I spent a week volunteering at an Ecuadorian orphanage.
I could summarize what I learned from every country but I'd lose you and my fingers from typing so much. If you have an opportunity to travel, 100% take it. It is the most eye opening, fun, and exciting experiences of your life. Don't you ever wonder why everyone says studying abroad changes their life?