Thursday, June 21, 2012

Get Your Passport and Get Out!

As I prepare myself to take off on another international adventure, my mind races back to other trips abroad.

I'm experiencing so many of the same rushes of emotion - the excitement of seeing new places, the nervousness of wondering whether all my careful preparations will work out smoothly, and the paralyzing anxiety that randomly grips me when I think of all the things I have to do before I leave.

I started traveling internationally when I was 15.  Which is old by global standards, but young for Americans, considering that most of us don't have passports.

I got my first set of stamps going to Mexico City with my friend's family, native Mexicans who still had relatives living there.  Man, was I innocent.  I didn't speak a word of Spanish, was so ill-traveled, and so unprepared.

I was utterly blown away.  The people were incredibly friendly and welcoming, the sights so beautiful and surreal, and the language so charismatic.  So enough said, I was hooked.

My next international adventure didn't happen for several years.  I hadn't even considered living abroad until I was in my senior year of college majoring in Spanish and it occurred to me that all my knowledge of Spain was second-hand.

My roomate and I at the Alhambra; Granada, Spain 2005

So, off to Spain I went.  While I was living there, I traveled throughout the country, and on to Ireland, Belgium, Czech Republic and Holland.

Since then, I've also been to Canada and the Dominican Republic. And now I'm off to Costa Rica and Panama...

The most incredible thing about traveling internationally is the freedom and connectedness you feel all at once. You feel utterly emancipated because you know whatever drama is haunting you is far away.  You can go anywhere, do anything, meet anyone. 

And at the same time, you feel totally connected to humankind in a way that only language barriers can cultivate.  You're forced to resort to basic communication and so you find that it is possible to connect with another human being without words.

That connection is what I am perpetually seeking by traveling.  And I am forever finding it.

Costa Rica, here I come!


P.S. For another great read on a human connection while abroad, check out my fellow Matador Network author, Emily Hanssen Arent's piece, "You do not exist".

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