When I was in high school, our city had a foreign exchange program called Sister Cities. At the time, there were four cities in the program: Skopje (in former Yugoslavia), Regensburg, Germany, Lower Hutt, New Zealand and Zhenjiang, China. In order to participate in the program, you had to be a junior in high school, complete an application and engage in a series of interviews. If you made the “cut”, you were part of a delegation that would be selected to travel to one of these destinations for 5 weeks during the summer. After a student’s visit in the host country was complete, the foreign son or daughter would return to Tempe to spend the same amount of time with the American family. What a great opportunity! The problem was, I was shy. Painfully shy. My parents begged me to at least apply, but I was a headstrong teenager and I was not going to be pressured into doing something I was so dead set against!
So I did nothing. I refused to even put pen to paper. My friends however, had the summer of their lives as they traveled to far flung lands and made new life-long friends.
Was I jealous? Oh yeah. For several years afterwards, whenever I was asked the question, “Do you have any regrets?” My answer was always: “Yes, not applying for the Sister Cities program.”
I did finally study abroad after my junior year in college. I spent an amazing summer in Spain, via an Arizona State University program. We spent four weeks in Almunecar, a small town on the southern coast, east of Malaga, and four weeks in Madrid. We had classes in the morning and time to ourselves in the afternoon. On the weekends we traveled all over Spain which provided many opportunities to practice my language skills and learn about Spanish history and culture.
I found my calling on that trip. Traveling energizes me and makes me feel alive. I travel to learn about myself and my most intimate relationships; those with my spouse and my children. On each trip I find myself challenged in one way or another which makes me stronger. I am constantly learning about life on this “blue marble” and the role I/we play in it. I want to learn about other customs, cultures, histories and languages. Life is short and I want to use my time to explore the world and feel like I am living life to its fullest. This is why I travel.
(Picture is me in the Plaza de Espana, Sevilla, Spain on my first trip to Europe, many years ago).