By the time I was 18 years old my family had driven somewhere in the neighborhood of 24,000 miles. To put that into perspective the circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. We moved often because my father was in the Coast Guard, which meant my childhood was unique to say the least. Our traveling family started young, I was 6 months old when we made our first move from Rhode Island to Texas. Since my father's job always kept us living within the borders of the USA my mother insisted we always drive to our new home, she would always say it’ll be a grand adventure! My family moved a total of 6 times, and naturally most people are taken aback when they hear this and express their sympathies for what, they assume, must have been a tough childhood. The idea of moving every few years to a completely new and foreign place where you're always the stranger must sound terrible to some people. For me though, there was no more exciting time of the year than when we received orders in the mail containing news of our new home. I thought it was like a game of where in the world is Carmen Sandiego and I loved it!
When it came time for me to go to University I struggled with the idea of staying put for the entirety of my four-year degree. Luckily, I soon acquainted myself with the study abroad office and became a frequent visitor. I was fortunate enough to study abroad on three separate occasions during my time at university and in total only spend five of my nine semesters at my home campus. Shortly before graduation I suffered an existential crisis of sorts after attending field school in my primary area of study and discovering that I hate it. I had spent four and a half years working towards a goal which at the end of the day I realized I had no interest in. As you might imagine I was freaking out. After the initial shock had worn off I began to think about my options and what I really wanted out of life. My conclusion was I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life or what I wanted to be when I grew up, the only thing I was certain about was my inherent wanderlust.
Great Barrier Reef
During one of my years studying abroad I fell in love for the first time, hindsight being 20/20 the relationship was nothing to write home about, but his travel style had a much bigger impact on my life than I would have ever thought. During our relationship he went on a few trips, like myself he was a traveler and studying abroad so naturally he wanted to see everything. I was never able to join due to my school schedule but he always booked with the same company and had the most amazing stories when he got back. Fast-forward two years, I’m sitting at my kitchen table trying to decide again what I actually want to do with my life and reflecting on all the great times I had in college. During this jaunt down memory lane I thought about my old boyfriend and the great stories he always had from his adventures. On a whim I looked up the company he always booked with and to my surprise they were hiring tour guides for North America. I applied that day but I wrote it off as a longshot seeing as I had never actually worked in the travel industry before. Two days later I was interviewing for the position and two weeks later, with a vague explanation regarding my position and duties, I was on a plane to California with my whole life packed into a backpack. I was ready to start a completely new life as a tour guide for North America.
I spent two absolutely amazing and life changing seasons tour guiding for the company and adding thousands of miles to my journey and truly growing as an individual as well. From that point onward I knew I had found a home in the sustainable travel industry. After two remarkable seasons, I decided I wanted to jump head first into the sustainable travel industry and began searching for a graduate program. As of today, I’ve successfully completed my first year of graduate school at the University of North Texas' International Sustainable Tourism program, and I will be leaving for Costa Rica shortly where I will finish my second year.
I don’t long for the comforts of a house and my happy memories of days past are not linked to concrete locations. Instead I’ve spent my life in transit and I constantly long for the opportunity to be back on the road. I think each trip we take is gift, and if we are open it allows us to see other perspectives and to focus on the new friends and experiences instead of on material possessions. Even if we only get to travel occasionally, ultimately our lives are framed by how we view and appreciate the world around us. This being a travel blog I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir about the rewards of travel, so the question I’ll leave you with is when is your next trip?
by Emily Meehan