My adventurous streak began early, when at 12 years old I nearly gave my father a heart attack when I led my little sister through the streets of Venice in search of the perfect gelato.
That same drive brought me to New York from California, with no friends and two suitcases, when I was 17. A year later, it brought me to Ecuador, my first solo international trip, where I got terrible food poisoning, worked in a school where our sole purpose seemed to be to force-feed crying children, and finally was no longer able to outrun my anxiety disorder. Originally a six week trip, I cut it short to two after experiencing panic attacks and crippling anxiety on a daily basis.
Upon first coming home, I felt utterly defeated. I tried not to let that defeat last long. I took it as the wake-up call I needed to begin taking care of myself and addressing my anxiety head-on. A year later, I was healthy enough to board a plane to Prague, Czech Republic, where I studied abroad for six months.
I loved every minute of it: burčák (young wine), svařák (mulled red wine), pivo (beer – notice a theme here?), smažený sýr (fried cheese) sandwiches at the street carts all along the Old Town. I dove headfirst into learning the local language, burdening everyone from taxi drivers to waitresses to with my enthusiastically broken Czech. I spent weekends bouncing around as much as I could, from towns in the Czech countryside to Dublin to Vienna to Amsterdam to Paris. When it was time to leave, I was, in a word, devastated. That wonderful, wacky country reignited a blaze of wanderlust that I’ve never been able to extinguish.
I graduated not long after that and became a special education teacher in New York City – in large part due to my desire for extensive vacation time. Who doesn’t want summers off, especially in our overworked American society where ten days paid vacation is a luxury? Every chance I got, I traveled as far away as possible for as long as I could. Over five years, I visited 17 countries, as diverse as could be: Australia, Myanmar, Japan, Turkey, Colombia, Belize, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Sweden, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Germany, Canada, the UK, and Mexico. Whenever I’d have even a 3- or 4-day weekend, I’d find myself on an overnight bus to Montréal or hopping a cheap flight to Puerto Rico, just to keep myself sane between larger trips.
I spent hours of my free time each day planning my next trip or trips to come in the future, and it became clear to me that even my 12 weeks of vacation per year weren’t enough for me. So at the age of 26, after five years of teaching in NYC, I took all my savings, quit my job, sold almost all my belongings, and began my journey to travel the world. My goal is to learn as many languages, meet as many locals, and get off the beaten path as much as possible so I can have fully culturally immersive experiences.
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