So, my (real-life, non-internet) friend, and fellow blogger, Elizabeth over a One Day I’ll Fly Away, nominated me to participate in the easyJet Holidays Inspiration Initiative. The goal of the initiative is for bloggers to share who, what, where and when inspired them to travel. All the participants who follow the contest rules will have a chance to win an iPad2 and a 5 star holiday.
Of course, you need to be a UK citizen to win the prize… and I am not a UK citizen (at least not yet–Kit Harington I’m lookin at YOU). But I decided to write an entry anyways. You know, for shits and giggles. And I was bored at the coffee shop. And I was feeling introspective.
Who? The people who doubted me.
I grew up in a small town where anyone stood out or wanted a better life was labeled a “snob” or “showoff”. Faced with constant distain from my peers and many teachers (I had one high school teacher who routinely made me sit in the hallway because I made the other students in his class feel “stupid”) I left my high school when I was 16 and enrolled in a community college in the city. I also started working a part-time job. At the community college I was able to take classes on art history, European literature, foreign languages and world architecture. I had professors who challenged me and who thought that my independence and curiosity were an asset not “snobbish”.
With this sudden change, I started to think that maybe I wasn’t a shoe. Maybe I was a hat. Confused? Let Rachel explain:
With my new-found perspective and emerging self-confidence I convinced a friend to spend the summer after we graduated high school backpacking through Europe. This idea really ruffled a lot of feathers. I had people attack me and insist I was a rich entitled bitch. I was told that there was no way I could do it. I would come back broke or even worse my parents would have to bail me out. But I proved them wrong.
I still hear their voices in the back of my head. For better or worse on really rough days it keeps me going. I’m not rich. I’m not a snob. I’m not a showoff. I just refuse to ever again think less of myself just because I want to be something different.
What? A copy of Europe Through the Backdoor.
It was an old copy of Rick Steve’s Europe Through the Backdoor that first planted the seed that I might be able to travel.
I spotted it on the shelves of the library while I was doing research for an art history project on Caravaggio. Say whatever you want about Rick Steves, but that Khaki-wearing-middle-aged-PBS-personality makes independent travel seem easy and affordable for the average American. Picking up that book gave me the final push I needed to realize my dream of backpacking through Europe.
When? September 8th 2006, 4 hours outside Cairo, Egypt.
While my first trip to Europe was eye opening and inspiring, the next summer I decided to use what was left of my savings to travel to the Middle East. Alone. When the entire region was engulfed in multiple wars. This trip was my most empowering–it also ranks up there among the stupidest things I’ve ever done.
As the heading makes obvious, I can even pinpoint the exact moment when everything changed. I was on a local bus heading to the Sinai in Egypt. No one on the bus spoke any English. I had no idea if I was even on the right bus or where I was supposed to get off (we eventually hit the Suez Canal so I figured that we were heading the right direction). I was terrified. I eventually decided to get off the bus. I spent about 15 minutes confused and scared on the side of the road before I was offered a ride by a group of Bedouins on the back of a truck filled with goats. They took me to the nearest tourist town and dropped me off at a hotel (I can only imagine what was running through their minds—they must have thought I was crazy).
I knew I loved traveling, but it was during this particular journey that something different began to take root. I realized that this was what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing–learning new languages, exploring new cultures and scaring myself shitless in foreign countries. I’ve done a pretty good job of doing exactly that.
Where? Anywhere really.
A great lesson I learned during my Peace Corps service that every place has value and potential, from the halls of the Louvre to a dusty African village. Where I am isn’t nearly as important as what happens once I am there.
And that’s the essence of real adventure, right? It’s about experiences. The world can surprise you with beauty, love and whimsy, you just have to be willing to get yourself to a place where you can see it…
how about you?
Whatever you are passionate about, be it traveling, playing the guitar or drinking cheap wine, what inspires you?
Tell me in the comments or leave me a link to one of your own travel inspiration posts.