Originally posted as a guest author on The Causemopolitan’s Cause It’s Summer blog series. The Causemopolitan shares inspirational stories of giving, social entrepreneurship and promotes “cause-filled living.”
I’ve been extremely fortunate to be able to travel the globe over the course of the last few years, and there is no question that traveling has absolutely changed my life for the better on multiple fronts. In short – I’m absolutely hooked and certainly have no plans to stop seeing the world anytime soon. As any backpacker will tell you — once the travel bug hits, it’s extremely hard, if not impossible, to get rid of it. And before I get started with this post, let’s be clear about one thing — traveling WILL change your life.
Thinking of buying a new car? Don’t. Spend that money on traveling instead — I can all but guarantee that your outlook on life will be better and you’ll certainly be a more confident person. To everyone who has not traveled abroad, I think you are doing a huge disservice to yourself by confining yourself to your comfort zone and not experiencing all the world has to offer. Don’t accept not knowing what else is out there. Don’t be fearful of the unknown. Ever wondered what the beaches of Thailand were like? Go experience them! Ever wondered what a dreary spring day in London is like? Go find out! Ever want to see how children can enjoy themselves even though they own literally nothing? Go see with your own eyes.
My international endeavors began right after graduation from the University of Washington when my buddy and I decided to hit the trail and backpacked throughout Europe during the summer of 2005. Going on that first trip abroad was easily the best decision I ever made; I was away for 2 months (my friend stayed 4) and I haven’t looked back since. Prior to that first trip to Europe, I had no idea how vast, complicated, and diverse the world really was. Sure, I had read books, seen images on television and pictures online — but there’s still no substitute for seeing something with your own set of eyes. It was a shock to see business owners who really didn’t care about growing their business and instead were perfectly content with the life they were living. Never before had I seen stores close from 2-6 everyday for siesta. I’m from Seattle where bars close at 2 am and there is no real club scene, so massive clubs with 7 dance floors in places like Spain open all night were certainly something new. Never had someone attempted to steal my wallet WHILE shaking my hand. Never had I been locked out of my hotel room on a balcony on the top floor of a 10 story building at 2 am with no way to communicate with anyone. Never before had I taken a ferry across the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. Never had I sat in the middle of a shouting match between grown men where I couldn’t understand a single word (on the ferry to Morocco). I had never seen the streets of Tangiers, Africa and been to a beach where people were completely shocked to see two white people on the beach. The list of firsts goes on and on.
I believe it was largely as a result of that first trip to Europe that I’ve shed the materialistic mindset that controlled much of my thought process growing up and throughout high school. Raised by a single mom, I have never been rich, but – that said, I was surrounded by materialism (particularly when I got to high school) and, not unlike most teenagers, my extra spending money used to go toward a new stereo, chrome rims for my car, some DVDs, or computer parts. Nowadays, as a result of traveling and coming to the realization of how truly privileged I am, extra money goes towards traveling, going out and creating lasting memories with friends and travelers, and toward nonprofits such as Kiva, Mothers Fighting for Others, and Vittana.
It took me two years to get back out on the travel trail, but my next international endeavor was visiting my friend Kayla Villnow in the Dominican Republic in fall of 2007 (and again in 2008). There, I got my first up close look at poverty for an extended period of time and saw the impact microfinance has on real people below the poverty line in a gorgeous developing country. That first trip in November of 2007 got me completely hooked on microfinance and its ability to help raise people out of poverty. In 2008, I had the pleasure of backpacking through Southeast Asia for 3 weeks. Cambodia is easily one of the most amazing countries I’ve been to. The people there genuinely cared about me as an individual, whereas in Thailand and Vietnam, people were helpful and kind but seemed to just be after my money. The other highlight from that trip was undoubtedly going to the Hong Kong Sevens and watching rugby for the first time in my life. Since that trip to Southeast Asia, I’ve been to Europe twice again. Once in September of last year for Oktoberfest in Munich (the real one) and I’m residing in Santorini, Greece this summer.
Getting out of your shell and experiencing the world is the single best thing you can do for yourself in you want to live life to the fullest and with meaning. If I had stayed in my shell and never experienced other cultures, I most certainly would not be as avid a supporter of microfinance and other philanthropic work as I am today. The combination of my 2007 Dominican Republic trip and this email from Kayla are the two primary reasons myKRO.org exists, and hence a huge reason I’ve met so many amazing people from the microfinance industry. Without traveling and the impact it’s had on me to live a more meaningful and full life, I wouldn’t have met amazing people such as Sloane Berrent (who certainly needs no introduction here), Casey Wilson at Wokai, Ryan Calkins at SeaMO, Sammie Rayner of Lumana, Kushal Chakrabarti of Vittana, and many other passionate people accomplishing amazing things on a daily basis all over the world.
My travel experiences have led me down the path I’m currently taking traveling the globe and working from my laptop, and I’m loving every second of it.
Don’t just THINK about traveling. Do it; the world is waiting for you.