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.

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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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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

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“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.

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“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

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“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.”

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Living a Life of Purpose Is About Hitting the Right Harmony

Fun fact: When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a singer. A happy mix of Whitney Houston meets Britney Spears. The soultry soul meets catchy pop. That was the dream.

For most of my life, music and the arts has always been there. Whether it was singing in the children’s choir at church, performing in musicals at school, dancing in my high school’s modern dance group or playing in the orchestra. Music is as much a part of me as the curly, kinky hair growing out of my head and the brown eyes staring back at me.

Despite my immense love of music, for me, it has always been a closeted thing. I sing to small children I nanny for to get them to stop crying. (Call me the baby whisper because it actually works.) I sing in the shower and on elevators (of course because those are the places where you get the best acoustics.) I am guilty of being a car performer down the 101 and the 405. (When people see me singing in the car, it’s never a source of embarrassment. It just means it’s time to go all out and give them a good show.) Karaoke? Oh, that’s my jam (no alcohol necessary).

I can count on my hand the number of times that I have sang solo on stage for an audience. It’s just not something I have ever done, sing for people. It’s kind of daunting because I love music so much. There’s almost the fear that doing it for others to see might take away the sweet, simple goodness of it.

That’s all changed since living in Los Angeles. One person, Jackie, who is the worship leader at my church, pointed out that I had a good voice, and she asked me to audition. All of the sudden, it was like a snow ball effect. More and more people started pointing out that I had a good voice. It became something I couldn’t hide nor did I want to. I love music. I love singing. Why shouldn’t I share that? Why am I so afraid?

So I decided to put my life motto to the test: feel the fear and do it anyway. I auditioned for my church’s music team and made it! I was so nervous on my audition. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to hit a note or I’d miss the downbeat or not hit a harmony.

Jackie gave me the best advice to ease my nerves. She said, “Sing where you are at your strongest.” So simple but so good.

Twenty-Something Advice for Anybody: “Live of a life of passion. Sing from your strongest point, where it fits, where it feels right.”

As a kid, I always sang soprano. I remember my youth choir director telling us that altos were just lazy sopranos. (Truthfully, she just was short on sopranos and was trying to  fill the spots she needed with a little pressure.) Her words kind of stuck with me though. I’ve always thought sopranos sounded better. Stronger. Think Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. Then, there’s today’s pop princesses like Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Christina Aguilera. I love a good soprano.

On my recent audition, I discovered the most freeing and revolutionary fact: I am an alto. (To be more exact, I am in the range of a first alto and second soprano.) In layman’s terms, I sound better when I sing the middle range notes, not the high ones.

Jackie told me to sing where I am the strongest and that I am definitely an alto. I cannot tell you how good it felt to be told this simple thing. For years, I’d been straining to hit all these high notes that were not in my range simply because I thought they sounded better, prettier. Trying to sing notes I wasn’t built for left me thinking maybe I wasn’t a great singer. I can sing, but I wasn’t singing in my range, in my sweet spot, in the area where I am most gifted.

This got me thinking about  how “singing from where you are strongest point” applies to adulthood and career. Oftentimes, we take jobs and go down career paths simply because of the paycheck or the impressive title. Like me straining to hit notes simply because I thought they sounded “prettier,” we often pursue jobs simply because they look good on paper. We take jobs for money instead of passion and then wonder why our proverbial vocal chords (our souls) are strained.

“We often pursue jobs simply because they look good on paper.”

Here’s what I am learning: Just because the girl next to be is a bomb soprano, hitting all the runs and the pretty high notes, doesn’t mean I need to be. I am at my best when I am in my sweet spot, when I am in my own lane. Plus, me and the girl next to me probably can bust out a sick harmony if I sing my part and not hers.

It’s the same in adulting. How many people do you know who simply took a career for the money but don’t actually enjoy it? Are you one of them? I have found when I am playing a part that I was never meant to play, it’s draining, but when I am using my skills, my talents, my passions, it flows naturally. It’s easy. It’s simple. It feels right. It’s never forced.

Lessons in adulting: Take the career path, job title, relationship or friendships in life that best suit you. Don’t worry about keeping up with the Joneses. I think you will find a life of divine purpose and passion when you learn to run your race and use the gifts you’ve been uniquely given. No one can be a better you than you. Remember: When you are singing from where you are strongest, it’s beautiful. Nobody can sound quite like you.

-Stephkt

The Longest Winter

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Peaking out from my window, all I see is white. Layers and layers of white. As a fresh layer of powder covers the remnants of yesterday’s snowfall, all I can think to myself is whether or not the snow will ever end. The groundhog must have seen it’s shadow. Either that or this must be the longest winter known to mankind.

Life can get to feeling like that sometimes too. When the sun doesn’t seem to come out for days or months in your corner of the world, and the winter season just doesn’t seem to pass. When you’re in a place, where you are desperate to see the first sign of life and growth, but all you see is frozen, dead and infertile land.

The twenties are full of winter seasons. When you’ve worked so hard and tried and done everything you know to do, yet and still, NOTHING seems to be happening in one area of your life or another. There’s no bud that shows promise for something new, for growth, for change. It can feel like winter will never pass.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“This too shall pass.”

Here’s the foolproof, 100 percent guaranteed, sure thing about seasons: they end. Winter will end. And if you are in what seems like an impossible season of your life right now, it will end. Sunny days are in your future forecast.

Saying all this to say: Keep going! Keep going! Keep going! Don’t stop. I’m not sure what area of your life you may be in a winter season in, whether it be career, dating or family/friend relationships, but I want to encourage you to keep trying. If you have a dream or a goal that you are working toward and the journey to getting there has seemed nearly impossible, keep going. Keep putting in the work. Keep staying faithful. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.

You know the cool thing that comes with winter? Snow days. Snow days are great for quiet. So if you are in a winter season of your life right now, maybe it’s time to reframe your perspective on what this time of your life is all about. Maybe you’re in need of a little rest and relaxation, and for that matter, recuperation. I know, as twentysomethings, we want nothing more than to go, go, go! Yet, sometimes in life, there are quiet seasons. And that’s okay.

Don’t be discouraged by the snow falling outside. Breathe. Take it in. Take this time for what it is: a time to rest. But keep believing that a time will come when the sun breaks through the clouds, the snow melts and the winter season ends. Give it time. You’ll be ready to bloom in no time.

– Stephkt

Life’s Unexpected Waves

I love my godmomma. She is the quintessential woman, strong, motherly, charismatic, caring and nurturing. She is everything that I could hope to be someday as a woman. I was talking to her the other day, just catching up on the little things. It was great to hear from her, but what was even better was hearing about all the good that has happened in her life.

Let me first give you a little more background: My godmother lives in Michigan, where my entire family is from. She is my mom’s childhood best friend. We have always been really close. We even share the same birthday (September 10!) My godmom has two kids who are about 10 years older than me, Joy and Joel. They are both married and have kids.

The cool thing about my godmom and her kids’ story is the struggle it took to get where they are now. Looking at how beautiful and happy their family is now, you wouldn’t know all they had been through to get there. My godsister, Joy, struggled with getting pregnant, and dealt with the loss of numerous miscarriages. In his twenties, Joel went through an untimely and devastating divorce. I remember my godmom telling me of how she would just sit and talk with her son, while he sat crying in her arms. Two difficult situations. Circumstances that were unplanned and seemingly out of their control. Situations that could have defeated them.

 

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“But life inevitably throws us curve balls, unexpected circumstances that remind us to expect the unexpected.” Carre Otis

 

That is not where their stories end. My godsister now is a mother to three beautiful children. My godbrother is remarried and now a father to three kids, as well. It’s an amazing story, a story of loss, of suffering, of triumph, of overcoming, of perseverance. It’s the human story, something we can all relate to.

I wanted to share their story today, just a reminder to all the twenty somethings out there: Keep going. Life is guaranteed to knock you down. Life will hand you the unexpected. Expect it. Anticipate the curveballs. When you get knocked down, remember it is always your choice to get back up again or to stay down. You decide. My godmom reminded me of this by sharing with me this beautiful story of heartache, loss and new beginnings. I wanted to share in hopes that wherever you are and whatever life has handed you today, that you would keep going. Happily ever afters are possible, but it’s gonna take going through something to get there.

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All six of my godmom’s beautiful, healthy grandchildren

-Stephkt

Success and Friendship

Isn’t going after your dreams the drive that keeps most of us going? Actually achieving those dreams is just the cherry on top of the sundae! What if you got to see your dreams come true alongside your best friend? I got to interview the duet known as Alaska and Maddie from The Voice earlier this week. Alaska, who will be turning 20 in three months, and Madi, who recently turned 19, are at the beginning of their music careers. They have the potential for a long, successful career ahead of them, but what I found most interesting about them was their friendship.

In it’s most pure, simplistic form, friendship is what makes life sweet. It adds to every moment, even the hard ones. Having someone to share things with is the greatest gift, and these two girls definitely have that. Throughout most of my time with them, there was nothing but laughter. These two have a sisterhood that shows in their witty banter, the unplanned moments when they spoke in unison and the warm embraces they shared.

Alaska and Madi hail from the great state of O-o-o-oklahoma where the wind comes sweeping down the plains. The two have been friends since middle school age and have grown close through their love of music. They first started singing together during their time in Oklahoma Kids, an entertainment organization for children. The two were not always as fond of each other as they are now. They actually did not get along at first because of a BOY! Fortunately, the two were able to overcome their differences. The boy didn’t stick around very long, but the two have remained the best of friends.

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Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.”  Charles R. Swindoll

 What I loved about my time with Alaska and Madi is their genuineness. As twenty somethings, it is so easy to get caught in the rat race of chasing success. It can be easy to forget the important things. Though these girls are early in their career, they seem to have a strong grasp on the important things. One of which, is their friendship. Success is a great thing, but it is even sweeter when you have someone to share it with.

Keep chasing those dreams, twenty somethings! My hope for you is that you have people to share with you in your success. People to laugh with. People to make fun of you when you take yourself to seriously. People who remember how far you’ve come. People who want to see you go further. People to push you to grow. People to encourage you when you meet setbacks. These people are the best of friends. These are the people you want to share the ride with. After all, life and career success are so much sweeter when you have someone riding shot gun!

-Stephkt

Riding Solo and Loving It

I love weddings. The flowers, the music, the food, the beauty of the white dress and how it perfectly fits a woman’s silhouette, the delicacy of the veil, the quiet moment when the bride takes a breath and begins walking down the aisle. I love it all, but for some reason, as I was preparing my mind for a friend’s wedding, I could not find that old joy.

What’s the deal? I’ll get to see college friends. I get to dress up and look pretty. I get to eat free food and shake my tail feather on the dance floor. Then, it hit me. I am 23 years old. Before when I went to friends’ weddings, I felt so young and childlike. Not that 23 isn’t still young, but it is older. I am getting older, and now, when I go to friends’ weddings without a date, it is going to start to be more noticeable. Whenever everyone else is holding hands or sharing a dance with their partner, I will be on my own.

JennyGioviJenny and I on her wedding day

I’m not going to lie. This realization stung. It also confused me. See, I am a very independent person. I bet you are rolling your eyes, thinking, “Yea, sure another one of those independent women speeches.” Truthfully, since childhood, I have been the kind of person who enjoys doing things on her own. So fear of being alone at a friend’s wedding was perplexing.

I haven’t dated in three years. In those three years I have had my moments of loneliness. Sometimes I see my friends with their significant others on social media, and I want that too. There are times when I am stressed out or sick, and I think how nice it would be to have someone to comfort me. A prime time when I feel the absence of a significant other is while grocery shopping! Can anyone relate? Once you carry 50 pounds of groceries on one arm, you start to wonder when Mr. Prince Charming will come riding in.

I had to take some time to myself to get perspective. I realized that while I have had my moments of loneliness, they don’t last very long. In the three years that I have been single, I have grown tremendously. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I have gotten to know myself better, my likes and dislikes, my quirks, my pet peeves, things that I can improve on and my deal breakers for a future relationship. I have gotten to travel to new cities. I got my nose pierced. I ran a 5k, and am working on a 10k. I rock climbed for the first time. I moved 12 hours from home. I road-tripped cross country on my own. I joined a growing magazine’s staff. I grew.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Be patient: Take a lesson from chess. Sometimes when you are young everything seems so immediate and emergent. It’s usually not. It’s one thing to see a move you want to take. It’s another to be able to wait until the right time to take it.”

Sarah Hall, CEO of Harley & Co.

 

My hope for you is that you will grow too. Yes, we will have our days when loneliness starts to creep in, but don’t let it get you down. Be too busy relentlessly chasing your passions to entertain the thought of loneliness. I encourage you to live a full life now. Don’t look for wholeness or purpose in the arms of another person. The right person will find you when you least expect it, when you are busy living. When your friends start dating and marrying, don’t seek out relationship just because you are feeling antsy. Instead, patiently wait. Live with intention, even if it means having to stand alone at yet another friend’s wedding. Your time will come.

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P.S. There is always cute, single people at weddings. Enjoy the free food and the potential eye candy! 😉

– Stephkt