At some point in Kindergarten, you get this assignment instructing 5-6 year olds to write a story about what they want to be when you grow up. I managed to compile a Top 10 list of things I wanted to be. (Oh indecisive little Teresa you) Somewhere in that list was a writer, actress, traveler, pizza taster and astronaut.Even as a kid, I knew to dream big. Since I’ve been able to hold a pen, I’ve been writing. Since I’ve been able to cross the street, I’ve wanted to travel.
When you grow up in a multifaceted city like Manhattan; a global melting pot of Chinese takeout, Spanish salsa clubs and Irish pubs, you get a small taste of the world.
A sensation takes over you to go beyond the city because your world is so fast paced and you know you can handle it. Growing up in a lower- middle class family who lived in the same neighborhood their entire lives made traveling seem almost impossible. My parents didn’t have or need passports since they migrated from Puerto Rico decades ago.
As a young girl blossomed into a teenager, my focus was to get lost in my Honors literature books. My high school announced a Europe trip; 2 weeks in Madrid and Paris for $1500. It was the turning point in my life where I had to do anything and everything to go on this trip. After struggling to beg my parents to allow their little girl to follow her dream, they were willing to sponsor half of my trip, and the other half would be my responsibility. Part of the Europe trip deal with my school was a fundraiser to sell chocolate; to help inner city students travel.
Insert photo of chocolate box or me selling chocolate on the subway. I only wish I took more photos in my youth!
Yes, I was that girl on the New York City subway selling chocolate for a dollar. With a small speech, a sweet smile and an awkward stance, I asked random strangers to buy chocolate so I could go to Europe. I understood and respected that there were individuals in dire situations and could probably use the money more than I could. But, I boasted that this opportunity is too good to pass up and that I would cherish it for the rest of my life.
Luckily, some nice businessmen and teenage boys would give me $10, even $20 for just 2 Snickers bar and would let me keep the change! (Thanks!) And I made the other half of my trip money and was able to fund my first trip abroad.
And after applying for my first passport, buying my first suitcase and sleepless nights of excitement- I finally was ready for my first adventure to Europe. The stories and sights are stories that probably deserve their own post. The excitement of being at tourist, tasting new delicacies and knowing you were thousands of miles away from the familiar was intoxicating. It would only be a year later that my school would plan a trip to tour the boot of Italy- and I was able to do it all again.
I look back at this story as a moment in time when I told myself I’d do anything and everything to make travel a part of my life. When it came to deciding a major for University, I jokingly said if I could major in travel. I decided to move forward with Journalism, because of my love for the written word. University studies came and stuck around; for too long quite frankly. My razor sharp focus was to maintain my high GPA and to finance my studies. Travel was probably the last thing on my mind. A life rut and a toxic relationship took over my dreams to travel the world and I felt stuck; unable to finish school because of finances chocolate boxes couldn’t cover.
What does a passionate traveler do when you have unfinished business back home? You’re trying desperately to pay your dues and clear your life of debt to travel. Sometimes, it can take years to do this and the urge to find your spiritual awakening is calling.
With the help of an unfortunate inheritance after my Uncle passed away and some money saved aside, I ended up on a 5 month journey in South America. Anyone can easily say the journey was a true life changing experience, but for me on so many levels. It opened my eyes to changes mentally, physically and emotionally.
You feel free to conquer the world; to fall on your feet to get up and do it all over again. No one back home would imagined I did things like hiking up a mountain, or sand boarding in the desert. You find a voice inside of you that tells you: this is why people do this; that it is not so far fetched to go beyond your borders and personal comfort zone.
The world is moving and shaking and waiting for you to see it. Personally, I don’t regret traveling with debt back home or unfinished school plans. It reawakened my passions and cleared the cobwebs in my head. It made me a more well rounded person with dreams and desires to reach my fullest potential. It gave me a fire to finally pick up where I left off, graduate University and move forward in my life.
It’s not to say that every time I’m in a rut, I’ll grab a flight somewhere. (If only it were that easy!) I have my memories, my connections, and my social environment to nourish my mind and soul and to guide me to wherever I am supposed to go. As a young adult looking back and trying to move forward, there is a realization that the road to success is always under construction- and that is okay. These flaws and obstacles are elements that become the weaving fabric pattern of who we are.