When I first moved to New York from Alabama I had no real interest in traveling. Aside from Caribbean islands or maybe Mexico, I was simply never surrounded by conversation about traveling or anything going on outside of the United States for that matter. In my International Marketing class (which ironically happens to be my major), my professor told the class that she was taking a group to China to study for the summer and we all looked at each other (slightly frightened) wondering was she insane? Six years later, Hong Kong is at the top of my list.
As I made friends in the city from around the world and all over the United States, I found the majority of them to be well traveled. Most had at least backpacked Europe or South America. They’d done it when they were younger with their parents, studied abroad, or were planning trips at the time. I worked in night clubs where girls would leave for a month and come back to work and I was always awestruck. What? How did you afford it? Where did you stay? Was there internet? Weren’t you scared over there? Three years later, (I am more scared of the United States) I planned a trip to Aruba alone but had some awesome friends join last minute.
Most people were encouraging of my travel interest but more than a handful always had the same remark: “You better do it now while you’re young!” Because I was/am young, hearing this was always so disheartening in every sense of the word. I had no idea where to go first or how to begin to plan a trip. When I think back to these moments I remember feeling deep down inside that I would never be able to travel. I was in my early twenties and I knew there was an opportunity time frame in my life for traveling that had passed. It just simply wouldn’t happen for me. I felt like the well traveled was this elite group of people that I could never fully understand or be a part of.
If someone tells you that you better travel while you’re young, do not listen to them. Despite their traveling background, they have learned nothing. For someone who has traveled to discourage another about doing so in anyway is something I cannot comprehend. I want anyone who aspires to travel to know that those words are completely and simply, untrue. I took my first real trip out of the country at 26 to Amsterdam, Dublin, and Paris. Naturally fell in love with Europe, but I fell even more in love with who I saw traveling. When I looked around me, I saw babies strapped to mothers and fathers. I saw toddlers running around in circles, as they do. I saw couples, young and old. I saw groups of students. I saw people who may or may not have been from limited means. I met couples who were grandparents. And best of all, I met people who were traveling alone.
There is no age limit or time frame that can stop you from traveling. Maybe there’s something you have to give up or take on a second job, but the criteria to travel isn’t do it in your 20's or it’s too late. I feel more excited to one day have a family of my own, because I am taking my children all over the world. I know my family traditions revolve around spending holidays away and knowing that experiencing the world is the greatest gift of all.
“There’s a wonderful old Italian joke about a poor man who goes to church every day and prays before the statue of a great saint, begging, “Dear saint-please, please, please…give me the grace to win the lottery.” This lament goes on for months. Finally the exasperated statue comes to life, looks down at the begging man and says in weary disgust, “My son-please, please, please…buy a ticket.” — Eat Pray Love.