Updated: Jun 5, 2019
We as travelers put ourselves in complicated situations. We experience culture shock, we learn to be adaptable and flexible, and we tend to travel without the financial means to be able to afford our wild trips. We do it because we love the idea of seeing some place new. There are the art lovers, the architecture aficionados, the foodies, and the adventurists. There are the hikers, the sea lovers, the polyglots, and the photographers. Sometimes we are all of these and sometimes we are just one but it takes years to mold the traveler. (Peep the goofy traveler pics 18 vs. 23 below)
I'm highlighting Ireland in this blog because it was the first time I left the country. I had the outstanding privildge of being friends with someone whose dad was letting her bring a friend on her high school graduation trip. And to be perfectly honest, getting to travel to a new country and drink *legally* totally beat going to senior week. I grew up in a family that had to work really hard for the things we had, neither of my parents attended college, and i'm lucky to live where we do with a father who works in construction. We did travel to Jamaica for my parent's 20th anniversary when I was 14, but for me, that wasn't traveling.
Let's focus on Ireland at 18 years old. Of course, I was not involved in any of the planning of the trip, I was young and just about to attend University for the first time. I was going with people who have frequently visited Ireland so I didn't really think twice about things I wanted to see or do. I was just excited to get out of the country and spend some time with my best friend in a completely new place.
My passions at the time were art and photography...and feeling like an adult since turning 18 (don't tell 18 year old me how much that means nothing). Needless to say Dublin & Galway were the perfect beginner locations to do that in! Since then i've been actively traveling. From the time I was 18 until now that i'm almost 24, for the past 6 years i've lived by the motto "once a year travel someplace you've never been before," I like to believe what the internet tells me sometimes, and I'm almost positive this was said by the Dalai Lama. Either way, it's great advice. (pro tip:check your sources). The meaning of this quote isn't meant to be taken so literally that you spend a bunch of money to get completely out of the country each year, that would be outrageous - though many travelers do this and succeed. What I really intend to say with this quote is to try new things and go new places, to be a tourist even in a place you call home.
So I guess with all of this what i'm trying to get at is that when I was 18, I explored the world and saw things a bit differently as I did when I was 23, I even saw the world differently from the time I was 21 to now. With every trip and every year that goes by I think we learn a little bit more from all of our experiences and we realize the type of traveler we are. When I was 18 and traveling to Dublin, I didn't really have expectations and I didn't really have a plan. I certainly did not expect even exploring on my own. My Dublin and Galway experience consisted of site seeing planned by other people and a lot of Guinness. It was so much fun, but I think today if I went back, I would definitely do it a bit differently.
The same goes to my school trip to Cuba or my winter vacation with my boyfriend at the time to Japan. I was always following a schedule and not taking time to do the nitty gritty planning and exploring that I do today! Even when I went abroad for the first time and lived in Rome, I think I would be lying if I said I didn't struggle with planning and finances - I mean, is it ever easy?
This past year I traveled to 9 new countries while I lived in Italy and I wouldn't change those experiences for the world. They consisted of a lot of risk taking, struggling, and of course planning. I had to stay within a budget, I had to be careful of my food allergy in countries where I couldn't speak the language, and I had to be brave and take the initial risk to explore these places and try new things. I don't think 18 year old me could have done it, or would have run into a lot of problems. I'm not saying I do everything right, but I definitely trust myself more as a 24 year old than I did when I was 18, and I'm looking forward to my future trips to keep growing and learning more from my experiences.
Left: Ashley and Ivy (18) in Dublin and cheesing with our Guinness
Right: Ashley (23) in Budapest - In Germany that same year, they asked if I was old enough to drink before I ordered...I guess even as your experiences change you, if you have a baby face that will stick with you through your twenties!!