For the Love of Travel

When I was about six years old I told my whole family that I was going to study abroad and see the world.  At the time I was envious that my grandparents were going to Ireland. I wanted them to pack me in their suitcases and take me with them. They asked me what country I wanted to study in, and my response was “all of them”. My family was confused, so they asked me “How are you going to do that?” and I replied “I’m not sure but there has to be a way, I’ll take a ship or something”. So fifteen years later during my junior year of college I found Semester at Sea and had the adventure of a lifetime doing just that.

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I’m not sure what it is, but ever since I was little there was nothing that got me more excited than to go on a trip somewhere. I would get pretty excited about Christmas, but going on vacation was like a whole other Christmas to me. I think this is in part due to how I was raised. For starters I still have all of my grandparents and both sides travel all over the world.

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Between the two sets I think they’ve seen all of Europe, South America and they even went behind the iron curtain and to Northern Ireland before it was peaceful. No matter the location, it seemed as though they always found a way. That also trickled down to my Mom and Dad. In college my Dad traveled to the UK to visit a girlfriend and my mom always saw the value in going on little adventures and vacations from when we (my brother and I, shown in the above picture) were a young age. We had “Surprise Saturdays” and there are pictures of me on a beach in a bassinet. We traveled to Disney World starting when I was 3 and my brother was 2.

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If we weren’t going to the beach or on a long trip we were camping. Every weekend growing up we took our little pop up camper and would spend a weekend at a camp ground. Sometimes we tried out new locations that were a long road trip away and other times we would just go across town. It had a certain amount of brilliance to it and I wish I could do it now. My mom worked a lot when I was growing up and it was her way to get us to have family time unplugged. We didn’t have a t.v., or a phone or any tie to the outside world. I think it’s how she remained sane half of the time. My brother and I would spend hours playing at the playgrounds. This, I think, helped develop our love of sports and is probably why I’m not entirely dependent on my cell phone to this day. I try not to sleep with it near me, and I try to have a day away from technology when I can.

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One of my favorite camping trips was when we traveled to Chincoteague, VA to celebrate my love of horses and the Misty of Chincoteague books. Not only did we go camping but we got to see the wild Ponies and their famous pony round up and auction. We ate shrimps with their heads still on them and I even got stung by a jelly fish. At the ripe age of 11 I was learning how seemingly scary things can really be giant adventures. Without these lessons I’m not sure how I’d be surviving adulthood.

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When we went camping it was always brilliant how my mom would incorporate the surprises into the trip. I think this is where I got my desire to just try new things instead of planning everything out. This is a bit ironic since my mom plans out every aspect of every trip we have ever taken, even those surprises. There’s a lot of debate on which is a better approach to vacationing or travel. Some say you should have a full itinerary and some say you should just be open to whatever comes about. Since I don’t plan everything out I often have every possible outcome running through my head. I chronically over analyze every possible scenario. Sometimes this is a good thing and sometimes it’s bad. I feel that either is fine as long as you do your research.

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Basically, I always thought that I’d want to settle down some day. But, I’m still waiting for that to happen. After every trip my desire to travel and explore grows. This applies to whether it’s a local trail or what my next international trip will be. I’m always looking for ways to see more, and accepting inspiration to go places that I had dreamed of but never thought I would really get the chance to visit in person.

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For instance, when I made the final purchase on my plane tickets for my UK trip I burst into tears. My mother had to pinch me in order to convince me that it was real. My top three places to visit had always been the UK (especially Scotland), Ireland and Italy. This trip would mean accomplishing all three! The idea had just busted into my head one day and I ran with it and made it happen. That’s the thing about adventures, sometimes they just come upon us when we least expect them to.

–Gwen

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