Every year for Christmas, when I was little, I made a list for old Saint Nick. And at the top of my list I wrote in big bold letters two things:
Eventually, I gave up on the idea of having a furry playmate. But my desire to travel the world stuck with me year after year.
And while we as a family never went on that cool vacay to Disney or somewhere around the world, I vowed to myself that I was going to see the world when I got older.
So when the opportunity to study in India for a semester, came up in college, I jumped at the chance to make my childhood dreams of traveling the world come true.
But that didn’t mean I wasn’t scared. Especially when I listened to the reactions from others when I told them what I was going to do.
You see, I’m the first in my immediate family get a passport and to travel to a foreign country where not a soul knows my name. When I told people in my community that I was going to India, they said things like:
India?…girrrl you trippin.’
Why would you want to go there?
What’s wrong with staying here?
Are you sure that’s where you want to go? India. Hmmmm. You know the world is dangerous, right?
I remember on the Christmas before I was set to go to India, my uncle stood in the doorway between the dining room and living room and said, please remember us when you make it big.
To me it wasn’t a big deal. I mean it was, but it wasn’t. I just wanted to travel. To them, I was a pioneer exploring an unknown frontier.
When I got to India, my mind was blown because everything and everyone was just so…different. It was as if I got a chance to breathe again. In India, I just didn’t go there to study…I lived.
I learned how to make Naan, ate amazing Biryani and Tandoori chicken, rode an elephant through the jungles of Kerala, posed in front of the Taj Mahal, and explored the colorful temples of the south.
Even in the more quiet moments like sharing chai tea with my classmates, they shared with me Indian superstitions, like you must wash your hands before the food dries or you won’t get married. Insights like this gave me the keys to unlock a new part of the world…it was access to new ideas, perspectives and ways of living. Something I couldn’t just read about in a textbook.
My semester overseas gave me undeniable purpose.
From there, I knew I wanted a career that allowed me to travel all over the world, have adventure, serve others, and learn from people who weren’t anything like me. I also realized that I couldn’t keep this transformative experience to myself. I had to encourage others, like me, to travel because I knew the power of travel.
After India, I went on to work in Spain, China, Vietnam (summer 2018), and I traveled to many countries in between. I have also worked in a study abroad office, helping hundreds of students receive keys to the world.
And next year, I will have the opportunity to serve my country overseas.
While I still don’t have a dog, my childhood desire to travel the world has definitely come true.
And by the way, my mom is finally getting her passport. There will be a family vacation overseas, after all.