Ten years ago I made the choice to go on my first journey that required a passport. In May of 2007 I was slated to fly from Houston to Birmingham, United Kingdom for a one month stay and then another few weeks in London after that. I had been to Eleuthera, Bahamas in high school but made it in with only a birth certificate at the tiniest airport I’ve ever seen. Now I needed governmental approval to travel. That first trip really cemented in me a love of finding new things. Birmingham, which is not most people’s ideal first travel experience, was eye-opening for me. I’ve long been obsessed with British culture and just being around university students that had completely different life experiences than I was invigorating. These students holidayed in Spain or Germany for fun because it was accessible. I, on the other hand, had yet to visit Canada or Mexico.
Starting Out Small
Taking my first trip in an English speaking country was the best thing for me. I needed to ease myself into a different culture and with the diversity represented in Birmingham, there was nothing short of a million things to see. The trip was so amazing that I actually did it again in 2008, followed by another month in London. To date, it’s the most time I’ve ever spent in the UK and I miss it terribly. That’s part of why I chose to propose to my wife in London. There’s just something about the city and culture that has captured my soul.
No matter how many times I go back, there’s always something new to be acquainted with. That’s the beauty of travel, it always affords you new eyes.
Taking a plunge
With my now two-year old passport, I decided to try my mettle at a bit more long term adventure. I signed up for a program that allowed me to teach English to university students in Paris. My teammate and I lived in a tiny room in the 16th Arrondissement and I spent my time letting Paris change me. I was fresh out of university and needed something new in my life. I let my hair grow long, read books by French philosophers and spent every Wednesday playing music at an Open Mic in a Scottish pub. It was a beautiful, stressful and life-altering time.
There was no turning back for me. Travel was exactly what I wanted. Well, travel was more the conduit for experience. I’m a firm believer that you can find what you’re looking for anywhere as long as you’re ready to find it.
After returning home to Houston, life set in. I got a job, started dating someone seriously and moved into the city. Whatever I had wanted from my life in Paris was quickly gone. This is something that happens to every traveler at some point. You lose focus of what you wanted to do, sometimes for very good reasons, and then five years passes. For me, I wanted to be normal. The problem is, normal is a myth and I never knew how to find it. To sate my wanderlust I talked about traveling with my girlfriend, who was pretty lukewarm on the idea. I planned imaginary trips that we would never go on and spent my free time pricing airfares.
I was stuck between two worlds with a girlfriend I wasn’t being fair to. So, as expected, the relationship ended. Meanwhile, my passport sat in my desk collecting dust.
Finding the Perfect Travel Companion
It was now 2012 and I had no idea when I was going to travel outside of the United States again. Then the best thing that ever could have happened walked into my life. I found my traveling partner. In five years I had only been to Las Vegas, Seattle or on trips to see family or friends. Within one year of dating my now wife, we’d gone to New York City, all over Texas and planned all the trips to our dream destinations. So when we had the chance to lead a pilgrimage to London and Canterbury in 2014, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I’ll save the whole story for another time, but in short, she said yes as we sat right outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Since then we’ve been to Italy, France, and England, with shorter trips to lots of US cities. The last trip on my passport was with my wife and parents to Paris for 10 days. Now I have to start the renewal process so we can have some fresh pages to stamp on our next adventures!
My first ten years of travel have been the most formative years in my life. Living in different cultures taught me to appreciate the “other,” whether thats a different religion, race, lifestyle, sexual orientation or simply an attitude. That’s what I love about the art of travel. No matter where you go you never come back the same person. I wouldn’t have it any other way.