This Saturday I get on a plane and fly to Doha, Qatar. When I started this year, I wanted to make my resolution to travel abroad. I have wanted to travel internationally since grade school. In third grade, I dreamed of Egypt's pyramids. In middle school, it was the greenery of New Zealand. And in high school, I just wanted to go somewhere.
Someone told me about the Peace Corps in tenth grade. I remember hearing this woman's experience and deciding irrevocably I was going to be a Peace Corp volunteer - right after college, I thought. I also told myself I would study abroad in college.
And I did try to. But I am one of those blessed children whose parents helped them with their education, but that also meant following my parents' rules. My parents are practical people (sort of like me). My dad has never been on a plane. He did all right. Why should I spend $10,000 for a European vacation? he reasoned.
I didn't give up on the Peace Corps, though. I started my application senior year of college. I even asked my three references to write my recommendations. And I also started grad school apps.
That's the practical side of me. I always have a plan B.
I knew I would join the Peace Corps. I also knew I'd go to grad school. But which first?
Funding happened. It's hard to turn down a full ride to get your PhD. I don't blame myself for taking this route. I'd do it again if put in the same circumstances.
But I told myself I'd do the Peace Corps after grad school. I still tell myself that.
But I began to doubt myself. You can only profess your love for something like that so long before people (and yourself) wonder where else you've traveled, are you being realistic? And when the answer is North Carolina, you begin to wonder if you're a phony. How could I be so sure I wanted to work in public health in Africa or live in Europe if I had never even left United States soil?
At the beginning of this year, I wrote a blog about not making resolutions, but having experiences. I still stand by that, but if I was to have made a resolution back in December, I would have said, "Go abroad." I would have bellowed it from atop the Alps.
"I will go abroad this year!"
But I didn't. I was afraid. Afraid it wouldn't come true. Afraid it was a promise I couldn't keep. Afraid I did not have the money or, worse, was too stingy to part with my money.
I didn't want a resolution I couldn't keep. So I didn't make it.
Four weeks later I had an awakening. I don't want to call it that, but I don't know what else it was. My roommates were booking tickets to go to Iceland. They had both been abroad before. And I was sitting on my couch dedicated to a dream, but stagnating in dissertations and Google calendar invites. I was standing on a cliff looking at a future I wanted, but continually just saying, "It will happen."
I won't argue my circumstances are everyone's circumstances. Not everyone could do what I did. We don't all have money, time, or lives where we're relatively unencumbered. But I did at that moment, so instead of liking panoramas of Switzerland and following travel blogs for my spring break, I bought a ticket to Copenhagen.
Leading up to going, I worried I actually would hate it. I knew I wouldn't, I couldn't possibly, but what if I did? What if travel wasn't for me? What if I was a phony?
But I loved it. I won't expound my experience, but I fell in love in that way where you expect to fall in love. I was not back in the states for twelve hours before I bought my ticket to the Netherlands. I left three months later.
My friends joked I was a monster. The travel bug had reached my brain. "You can't just hop off to Europe like a weekend in Virginia Beach," they said.
Before I went back to Europe, I found out I had been accepted to an exciting opportunity to visit Qatar this October - the very trip I leave for this week. Who knew - who the hell knew - the boy who was terrified to make a resolution to travel abroad in January would have visited four countries by October?
I made a resolution then. I would not go a day without having a next trip planned. I would always have a journey in the works, a ticket on my credit card bill (but no debt!).
This is not an essay to convince you to buy a plane ticket. Travel is a privilege. But travel is also personal. A lot of us have other dreams. Even I have other dreams. The lesson is, we shouldn't be afraid to fail. It's something we hear a lot. It's a cliche. But cliches exist because they're generally true. If it's a dream, and if you don't pursue it, is the bigger failure failing at the dream or never having tried to fulfill the dream?
So that's why I'm posting this today. It's both #TravelTuesday, and it's #TransformationTuesday.
A friend recently told me that on her wall at home, she has a quote. It reads,
"I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."
I also wrote a few months ago that travel did not change me. I say this 1.) because my friends will not let me live this down since I offended a gaggle of them and 2.) I still agree travel itself did not change me. I think travel can change you, but I don't think it has to, and I think a lot of other things can change you, too. You do not have to travel to have an awakening.
My awakening came before I traveled. My transformation is not that I traveled. My transformation is that I bought the ticket. I dared to fail. And I still could fail.
You must be wondering where I am going next, after Qatar, if my resolution is to always have a next trip in the works. Well, I'll be off to Germany in March. But before that, I'm trying to visit my friend in Belgium (pointed cough at a specific person reading this). And after all that - maybe, just maybe, the Peace Corps.