The Reasons Why We Travel

Travel. Why do we do it?

Honesty moment- traveling abroad is not easy. When people post pictures on social media, travel looks glamorous, but it is actually quite challenging. It is expensive and can be exhausting at times. It is also one of the most testing and stretching experiences you can voluntarily sign up for. You are surrounded by a foreign language and culture daily.

They say that if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. In my opinion, if you can live abroad for any amount of time, you have the grit, the ingenuity and willpower to do just about anything. Travel truly shows you the stuff you are made of, the good, the bad and the ugly.

We travel because we are curious. We are curious to see the world, to not just read about it online or see photos on our timelines. We are curious to learn about other ways of life and curious to see our own ability to handle adversity. There is a curiosity in each of use like a well run dry that can only be satisfied with the refreshing of travel.

I came to Italy, plain and simple, because I wanted to grow. I was eager for a challenge. I was curious about a world outside of my comfort zone and what that would look like. I am a twenty-something who does not have it all figured out. My time here has taught me so much about myself and about other people. There have been lessons of empathy, lessons of forgiveness and letting things go, lessons on flexibility, lessons on openness and acceptance and lessons on being present and enjoying the moment.

Once I am back in America, my travels won’t stop. Each year, I have a goal to travel to at least one new state in America. In 2018, Utah is my state of choice. My goal is to get to all 50. (I am currently sitting at 30 states.) Why? Because I am curious. Each state has its own uniqueness, and you can easily travel from the west coast to the east coast and feel like you are in a different country. I travel simply to learn and to better understand people.

received_1832602156772710.jpeg

Nice, Italy

Don’t just take my word on the value of travel and living a curious life. I asked some of my fellow WEP teacher assistants and friends why they travel, and they had a lot to say. A lot of them have traveled around the world prior to our time in Italy, and I have so much admiration for each of them. Every time I am with the teacher assistants in my program, I learn something from each of them.

My friend and fellow world traveler Tiffany White explains it most poignantly when she says, “At the end of the day, we are all humans, and we all have stories to tell. So, I travel to see the world, but with my heart just as much as my eyes.”

Keep reading to meet some of the other WEP teacher assistants and read the reasons why they travel:

Griffen, MacLeod, Chino Hills, California

GriffenMacleod

“The reason why I travel is that this world is so much bigger than just ourselves. I am searching to make myself, and whoever I encounter, have a better life, in whatever capacity. Learning, teaching, experiencing, seeing, and, overall, enjoying life as much as possible in the world we are blessed with.”

Zuzu Hamel, Seattle, Washington

zuzuhamel.jpg

“I travel because it gives me a sense of independence I’ve never felt before. I love getting to experience and meet new people. As I see more and more of the world, it allows me to appreciate other cultures and makes me miss and appreciate home in ways I hadn’t before.”

Tommy Do, Dallas, Texas

tommydo.jpg

“I believe that in order to make an impact upon the world, you have to go out there and see it. Traveling gives me the opportunity to meet people from various backgrounds who all have a story to tell. We can all learn from and help one another. Being able to make these meaningful connections inspires me to travel, to have an open-mind and leads me to love my experiences that much more!”

Taylor Gersch, Portland, Oregon

TaylorGersch

“I travel because it gives me a chance to learn about other cultures and an opportunity to teach others about my culture and way of life. Traveling also allows me to explore other parts of the world that are incredibly beautiful.”

Jonathan Sambucci, Mullica Hill, New Jersey

jonathonsambucci.png

“Travel isn’t about stamps in a passport. It’s not something you ought to do in your early 20’s because ‘You’re only young once!’ Travel is a mindset. I am currently in Italy, and I am traveling, but when I return home, I won’t stop. I’ll try a new dish I haven’t before. I will go to a new park and make a new friend. It’s an attitude driven by the never-ending question of “What exactly is behind that corner?”

Cara Costello, Boston, Massachusetts
*Please note that Cara sent so many good travel photos, it was hard to choose.

CaraCostello

“I travel because despite all of the terror going on all over the world right now, especially in my country with politics and social madness, I want to experience the beauty that surpasses the negative. The world is a big place. I believe experiencing its different cultures and exploring the unknown is imperative if you want to grow as a human being. Travel not only to live the world but to live in awe of all of its beauty.”

Nicanor Basabas, Wellington, New Zealand

“The reason why I travel is because I enjoy learning languages. The fact that if I go to a country and I can converse with the people in their language, I feel more of a local. Your experience becomes more real compared to just being a tourist.”

Tiffany White, Allentown, Pennsylvania

TiffanyWhite

“I travel because I’m not just a citizen of the United States but of the world. I’ve traveled for sports, for study abroad and now for cultural exchange- While my reason for traveling may change, the outcome is always the same. Each time I learn something new. Those that say traveling is the best classroom are undoubtedly correct. While I experience new cultures, I am also able to reflect on my own being and my own culture. The challenges we have to overcome abroad teach responsibility, problem solving and flexibility. It has all surely helped me grow as a person.”

Advertisements

When I Was Almost the Girl Who Didn’t Go to Paris

Everyone has their guilty pleasure. For me, classic, early 2000’s MTV reality television is my jam. More specifically, Laguna Beach and The Hills have been my go-to’s since my early teens.

What can I say? It’s my “not so guilty” guilty pleasure. I have most of the seasons of The Hills on DVD, and I go through phases where I will randomly watch them. I am a huge Lauren Conrad fan. I still follow her fashion career today. (Girl-next-door types have to stick together.) I’m pretty sure watching The Hills for so long is subconsciously why I decided to move to Los Angeles in my 20s.

If you were ever a fan of the show, then you know there’s a crucial moment at the end of season 1, where our leading lady, Conrad, is offered a summer internship at Paris’ Teen Vogue office. She turns down the offer to instead spend the summer with her then on-again, off-again boyfriend from her home town, Jason Wahler. The two had big plans: a summer of love and a rented condo in Malibu.

In the second season, fans learn that Conrad and Wahler broke up before the summer’s end. When we see Conrad for the first time in the Los Angeles Teen Vogue office, she is with friend and fellow intern, Whitney Port, who ended up going to Paris for the summer instead (gotta love her!), and their boss, editor Lisa Love.

It is this next moment that is frozen in reality TV show history. Love’s words for Lauren echoed across the homes of MTV viewers nationwide. She looked straight at Lauren (who you can tell seems down) and said, “Lauren didn’t go to Paris. She’s going to always be known as the girl who didn’t go to Paris. Do you regret that decision?”

Ouch.

TheGirlWhoDidntGoToParis

TheGirlWhoDidntGoToParis2

It literally became one of the most quoted moments in The Hills history. Years later, ET Online released the backstory on Lauren’s decision not to go to Paris.

“We had a big disagreement, [creator] Adam DiVello and I, over Lauren’s decision not to go to Paris,” executive producer Liz Gateley tells ET. “I said, this is the perfect ending, because every girl makes this decision. She thinks she’s in love, and she’s going to spend the rest of her life with this person, and that was the relatable choice, and Adam was so upset!”

“He really wanted to try to convince her to go, and she was adamant that she was not going to pursue an internship in Paris,” Gateley continues.

“We tried to convince her, but at the end of the day, she wasn’t going,” Gateley recalls. “That was an authentic moment to that [theme of] coming of age. It’s like, who doesn’t look back and wish they had gone to Europe for the summer? Or taken that internship in D.C.? Or whatever it was, because they stayed behind for a boy or a girl. I mean, everybody does that. It was perfect.”

When I was 14 or 15 and I first watched this episode, I didn’t quite understand. She picked a guy over Paris? Say whaaat? While I love my girl Lauren, Love’s words hold a lot of truth. “She always going to be known at the girl who didn’t go to Paris.” (It kinda hurts my heart every time I type it.) Although Love was a tough, no-holds-barred type of woman, I really believe she was trying to impart a bit of wisdom in young Conrad’s ears. That is….to never put your dreams on hold for a guy.

Twenty Something Advice (for anyone): “Never put your dreams on hold for that guy, girl or relationship. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.”

In Lauren’s defense, she was in her early twenties at the time she made this decision. Also, she eventually did get to go to Paris for Teen Vogue. Today, she is kicking butt in her fashion career and married with her first son. Overall, she definitely came out on the other side winning. Perhaps, this was something that she, and all of us, have to go through to learn from.

If we’re being completely honest, we have all had our “the girl who didn’t go to Paris” moments. I know I have. I have made many a dumb decision or two in my early and even mid-twenties for love or what I thought was love.

Recently, I made a huge, life-altering decision. To travel throughout the U.S. for a month before heading to Italy to teach English for three months. Exciting. Life-altering. Exhilarating. Nerve-wracking. Wildly beautiful and gloriously unknown. All of the above. Then, right before I left Los Angeles, I met a guy. Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong. He was great. Smart. Accomplished. Attractive. Funny. Physically fit. Cultured. Kinda dreamy. I was intrigued. My interest was sparked, and I wanted to get to know him more. Rarely does it seem like we find people who are both physically and mentally appealing? (Or maybe that’s just me?)

Any who, in my last day before leaving Los Angeles, I started to have these thoughts. Like why? Why now do I meet a guy I actually like? Will my chance be gone once I’m back? Will he find someone else?

people-eiffel-tower-lights-night.jpg

Then, I had to come back to reality. Yea, this guy might actually be great. The jury is out on that one. How much can you know after a few interactions? (He could easily still be a serial killer. It’s LA people.)

Yet, he could be the great guy he seems to be. So what? Does that mean my dreams and plans should be put on hold? Does that mean my life stops? Would it be possible for me to dream big, to dare, to chase after those dreams, to travel, to see the world and not settle? Would it be possible to have career and love? I think so.

I am a big believer in the saying, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll be.” (Gotta love that Bebe Rexha song with Florida Georgia Line….If it’s meant to be, it’ll be, it’ll be. Baby, just let it be.“) While I wasn’t going to cancel my travel plans for a guy, I was definitely bummed. Then, I reminded myself… if it’s meant to be.

If a guy or relationship isn’t there when you return or the person decides not to wait for you, well OK then. It just wasn’t the right one. Have the confidence to be OK with that. (Besides, in the history of our patriarchal culture how often do men leave and go off to war or to pursue a career or a dream only to leave women waiting. I think it’s high time we were OK with doing the same.)

I don’t want to ever not go to Paris, Italy or anywhere else I dream of or put my life on hold for a relationship. I am going to put my metaphorical high heels on, pack my bags, grab my passport and keep living. My wide-eyed, dreamer self believes I can have both love and life of passion and that the right one will compliment and not compromise my dreams.

Keep dreaming readers! And for goodness sake, go to Paris!

-Stephkt

Lessons Learned 2 Years in LA: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

I have said it a million times, and I will say it again. Making it in Los Angeles is hard.

There’s the gas prices. The traffic. Rent. And the people, oh the people.

I joke that living in LA is like being in high school all over again. There are the super popular kids clad in their designer shades with their puppies in tow. (Just to give you a taste of my personality, growing up, I always thought the popular kids were stupid because they didn’t think for themselves. Not cute, boo boo. Not cute.) Short anecdote: Freshman year of high school, a girl who would go on to be the queen bee of the popular girls invited me into the clique, but I avoided them at lunch simply because I knew they disliked one of my middle school friends. (Even at 13, I wasn’t about that “follow the leader” life.)

Then, there’s the ultra artsy Los Angeles people who take weird to a whole new level. I thought I was weird, and then, I met people here. Let’s just say everything goes in the City of Angels. Nothing I see shocks me at this point. There will always be something in 10 minutes that will out-weird what just happened.

If you let it, Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it. It can also make you a stronger, and, dare I say it, better person. In my second year in my dream city, with every turn, it seems I have faced a new set of obstacles. There were some moments when things were so bad I simply had to laugh to keep from crying. My friend Jade and I became masters at the “laughing at your pain” mantra.

“Los Angeles will eat you up, spit you out and then eat you again. That is…. if you let it.”

There was the job lay-off at 26. The roommate remiss of caring for her dog  (i.e. a regularly pee- and poop-stained carpet. You’re welcome for that imagery.) There was the vandalized car window. The getting rear-ended by an uninsured driver at a red light that nearly totaled my car. The five hundred plus dollars spent to get my Jeep fixed in order to pass the California smog test, just to spend nearly the same amount to get my California tags and plates. (Yay, me!) Then, there was the hurdle of getting over the three-year friendlationship that I thought just might be “the one.” Oh, and just this week, there was the moment where I nearly flooded my friend’s kitchen (sorry, Jade) and had my things attacked by ants in the bedroom the next day. (Shower, please?)

Like I said, rough year. But with every rainy cloud, there was a silver lining. There was crossing the finish line of my first half marathon. (I literally could not feel my legs but have never felt more proud in my life.) There was the benefit concert that an old roommate, myself and few loyal friends teamed up to create. I stepped out of my comfort zone and played MC/hostess for the night, and we raised more than $1,000 for Syrian refugees.

There was getting to go back home to Michigan, Oklahoma and Georgia (yes, I have a lot of homes) to see family and friends and get so much quality time, hugs and kisses to fill my heart up. There was the starting my freelance journalism career (more like stumbling into it) that pressed me to be more confident than ever in my writing, editing and negotiating skills. There was stepping out of my comfort zone, auditioning for my church’s music team and making it!

There were also some laughs. (Well, actually lots of those.) There was the time I ran through a fountain on Hollywood Boulevard and ran into a huge sign in front of hundreds of people. There were the awkward dates that made for lots of witty banter with friends later on. (A Mercedes-Benz will not compensate for bad grammar folks.) There was the guy I met at a party who told me I look like someone who has money. (Apparently, I look like I make money moves.) There was reconnecting with my middle school crush and realizing I can do so much better. (His loss.)

With every turn of the page this year, there has seemed to be a hurdle. Clearly, I must be on to something good. As one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist says in her book Cold Tangerines, “Nothing good comes easily. You have to lose things you thought you loved, give up things you thought you needed. You have to get over yourself, beyond your past, out from under the weight of your future. The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

“The good stuff never comes when things are easy.”

2017 has shown me that I am stronger, tougher and more resilient than I realized. There have been a number of times when I’ve told my friend Sam that I was quitting, packing up and moving back to Oklahoma. I never once meant it. You see, what I have learned through of all this adversity is that I am no quitter.

While I may get knocked down, I always, always get back up. Oftentimes, I have sold myself short, in friendship, in love, in career, but not anymore. If I want the best, if I want more, then I have to ask for it. No one will believe in me unless I do. LA has taught me that people will walk right over me until I say, “Enough.” Living here has taught me that a “no” isn’t a bad thing, but it just leads you to the right “yes.” It has taught me that rejection does not equate to failure but can be information to redirect you where you need to go.

If there’s any words of wisdom I can share to you as you wrap up your 2017 and start your 2018, I’d say this: Sometimes, you have to be your own best friend, your own cheerleader, your own advocate, your own defense, your own believer. If you’re going to bet on anyone, bet on yourself.

I’ve been backed in a corner a number of times this year, but I haven’t given up. And I’ll keep not giving up, dusting myself off, holding fast to hope while encouraging yours. Yet and still, I am hopeful, yet and still.

Happy New Years friends! And thank you to all my beautiful family and friends who made 2017 sweet.

17798957_406274836421434_7270038477076788572_n

 

This post later appeared on Hello Giggles.

So You’re Twenty Something and You Don’t Have it Figured Out

mistakesI sat done at a wobbly, wooden table decorated in festive red, green and yellow paint. The chips, queso and pico de gallo were neatly placed and quietly awaiting my arrival. I walked up and connected eyes with my high school mentor/ journalism teacher, something like an old friend. We had years to catch up over an hour’s lunch. The conversation was jam packed but well worth it.

As my former teacher and I sat there catching up, I began rehashing the many blunders I have made since he knew me at the ripe age of 17. It would’ve been easy to feel like in a lot of ways I have messed up, failed in more areas than not. Dating mishaps, friendship changes, job failures, family issues, you name it, the 24-year-old version of me has probably seen it.

The cool thing about my high school journalism teacher is that, for lack of a better word, he is cool. As I sat talking about the many mishaps, the twenties has brought so far, he reminded me of something important: “It’s okay to not have it all figured out.” What??!? My thoughts came to a screeching halt. What do you mean it’s okay to not have it all figured out? Do you mean it’s just fine that I do not have it all together? Music to my ears!

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.”  John Wooden

Talking to someone who has known me for so long and has seen my progression over the years took a big load off my shoulders. Because I know that he believes in me and sees what I can be. I think the trick is not getting so caught up in the mistakes I have made or will make in my twenties and to continue to see the potential that others so readily see in me in myself.

Of course, making mistakes as you grow, learn and stumble is not an excuse to act crazy, but it does mean, “Hey, you! That twenty something over there! Don’t be so hard on yourself.” I think being in your twenties is a beautiful place to be because it’s in between. There is so much room to grow, to learn, to reinvent yourself, to start over, to pursue a childhood dream. The possibilities are endless.

If you’re anything like me, a twenty something whose life doesn’t look exactly like what you thought it would in high school or college, well here’s some news: You don’t have to have it all figured out. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to stumble. It’s okay to make mistakes. The point of it all is to teach you to keep going.

My high school teacher reminded me of the optimism that the 17-year-old me he once knew possessed. The 24-year-old me could learn a lesson or two from her. Keep your eyes wide open. Keep chasing those dreams. If you make a mistake or two and get off course, then that means you’re right on track.

– Stephkt

Right Now

Change

Change. That’s what my life has looked a lot like lately. Everywhere I turn, all I see is change and to be honest I haven’t always dealt with it the best.There’s been so much change lately I haven’t written in a month! That’s nuts!

Earlier this month, my parents left the house we have lived at for the last 9 years. I am crashing at a friend’s apartment for the next few months. My closest friendship ended recently. I am looking at moving out of state in a few months to pursue my writing career. Change.

The twenties are all about change. Around every corner, every turn, every side road, it seems there is a change awaiting. How do you keep your head together during the change? How do you manage to keep your footing when the ground beneath your seems to be shaking? When the life you’ve known for so long seems to be coming undone, what do you hold on to?

I cannot pretend that I have all the answers to this. As I am still very much figuring out the tumultuous twenties, I think I am starting to realize the best way to handle change is to focus on right now. Instead of worrying about what will happen or being afraid of letting go of what used to be, focus on now. Enjoy now because right now is all we’ve got.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“We’ll never be as young as we are right now. We’ll never see the world like we do right now. So take in what’s around you. Take a shot. Give it all you’ve got.”

Don’t get stuck looking back at what was. If you’re always looking forward or always looking back, how can you enjoy right now? Take in what’s around you. Let go a little. Enjoy the ride you are on now. You can navigate the change just ahead.

-Stephkt

The Twenties: A Happy In Between

middleroadLife as Told by an Upcoming, Twenty Something is usually a place where you can come for great advice, a kick in the rear, a companion to tell you, “Yes, I know the 20s are rough, but you can succeed!” This is a place to come find encouragement and hope for another week in your tumultuous twenties.

It’s all about the motivation here, but today I am going for a different vibe, a good laugh because we all need one. If you have ever felt old in your twenties, well here’s a video that will reassure you that you are and make you laugh out loud at least once: Do Teens Know 90s Music?

I can only watch the video once because I start to feeling like I am a day over ancient. The part that gets me is when one of the girls says, “My sisters played it. And they’re like really old, 20s, 25.” To a girl who is 24, going on 25, that was enough to make me feel like I need to hang it up and go register for the AARP.

Funny thing about your twenties is that we constantly get mixed messages. Thirty somethings tell us we are babies and have so much to learn. Teenagers think we are ancient and have fallen off the face of the Earth.

Well, here’s some good news: You are right in the middle where you should be. Yes, you have survived high school, your teenage years and many of you have survived or almost made it out of college. You have taken your first steps into the real world and look at you! Adulthood doesn’t look bad on you, but yes, you do still have a lot to learn. You are reminded of this by your weekly, if not daily, mishaps and blunders that leave you wanting to crawl up in the fetal position or on the phone crying to your mother.

But here’s to you kid! You are making it. You are surviving and taking the curve balls that the twenties bring your way. Remember it’s all ebbs and flows. The twenties are just a happy in between so enjoy while it lasts. One day when you’re thirty something, believe it or not, you will miss the uncertainty and adventure of this time.

-Stephkt

Dream On

dreamon

Once upon a time lived a wide-eyed girl with big dreams. Dreams so big, they oftentimes scared her, but she dreamed anyway. Despite circumstances around her and the things she did not have, she believed she could be absolutely anything that she wanted to be in her wildest, most daring, brave dreams. If she worked hard and believed, then she just knew there was nothing she could not be.

The girl got older and somewhere along the way she lost her way. Life took its tool. The hand dealt out wasn’t always fair. People came and went. She grew tired, and the wide-eyed, dreaming young girl unknowingly became a bitter, hopeless young, woman.

This story is not a magical fairy tale of a girl in a far away land. This is my story, and the story of so many people who lose the wonder and magic of their crazy, most wild, daring dreams. As of late, I have found myself in a dry season (a.k.a the longest winter, according to my last post). I have found myself in a place where the dreams I have held so dear, for so long seem completely out of reach. I have seen myself grow tired of the hum drum, day to day grind of life, of the constant work, effort and toil that seems to never end. I have found myself dry and to be honest, extremely worn out.

I read somewhere recently that age 24 is a carefree time, a time where you are supposed to persistently and incessantly pursue your dreams. I laughed when I read this, more like scoffed. For me and so many people I know, 24 has been hard and the journey to getting here has been even harder.

Let me explain. The twenties have not exactly looked like I thought they would so far. I am not nearly as put together as I thought I would be. My career? Not where I thought it’d be. Dating? Relationship? Nonexistent. Living in my dream city? Let’s just say, Tulsa, Oklahoma isn’t exactly where I planned to be in my post grad years. It’s been a hard road these last few years. There have been a number of attempts, followed by a lot of getting knocked down, just to have to find the courage to get back up again. Talking to a lot of my twenty something friends, their journey has been a lot like mine, not according to plan.

Twenty Something Advice (For Anybody):

“See the world not for what it is, but perhaps for all that it can be.”

To anyone reading this, whether you’re in your twenties, thirties, forties or even in your teens, here is what I want to leave you with: Get back up!

I know a lot of my blogs are about the mishaps, missteps and lessons learned of the twenties, but overall my biggest goal with this blog is to encourage my readers to keep going. Even when the road gets hard, especially then, keep chasing your dreams. Do not lose the wide-eyed, childlike wonder of your dreams. Without them, life becomes lackluster, dull and bitter. That is not a road that you nor I should travel.

So if you have been down at all about a season you are walking in with your career, relationships, locale, etc., I want you to keep dreaming, not for me, not even for yourself, but for all the people you will impact by daring to dream those crazy dreams. After all, crazy dreamers are the people who change the world.

-Stephkt