When you venture out of your tiny little corner of the world with an open heart and mind, you’re bound to come home a different person. Travel changes you. If you let it, it will break you open, rearranging everything you thought you knew about yourself and put you back together as a kinder, more thoughtful human. Today, I share my story of falling in love with travel and this big, beautiful planet we call home.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” ~Helen Keller
Imagining a World of Possibilities
Every year for Christmas, my grandfather (on my dad’s side) would give us a subscription to National Geographic. Every time the new magazine would arrive, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! I’d pull out all the maps and tuck them safely away in my room where I could look at them later. My curious mind would try to imagine what the world was like in the places all those lines and colors represented.
Flipping through the colorful pages of landscapes I saw a world that looked so different from anything I’d ever experienced. It sparked fantasies of gliding over perfectly turquoise water along the beaches of Thailand and watching penguins waddling around their ice shelf homes in Antarctica. Looking back, it seems that I was always meant to explore, though I wouldn’t have the opportunity until many years later.As a teenager, school was one of my least favorite activities and I’d try to get out of it as often as I could. One of the best parts about staying home, when I could convincingly fake sick, was the hour I spent with Bob Barker and The Price is Right. The games were entertaining, but I lived for the Showcase Showdown! Every time the first showcase was one with four or five trips to different places around the world, I was absolutely appalled when the contestant would pass on it. My young mind couldn’t comprehend that people would rather have a new car than see the world. Apparently my priorities haven’t changed much.
Dreaming Out Loud
Fast forward to September 5, 2008. Over the previous twelve months my life had gotten a complete overhaul. After a divorce and finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I found myself back in Utah. I’d accepted a job I felt completely unqualified for, but it held the possibility for international travel so I took it and decided I would figure it out along the way. My shiny new passport had arrived and I was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to get that first stamp. I was scheduled to be in Brazil for a trade show in just a few weeks, but the travel arrangement hadn’t been finalized so it didn’t quite feel real. I’d been dreaming about falling in love with travel, but hadn’t had the opportunity just yet. All that was about to change.
On this seemingly ordinary morning, my boss came into my office to talk about the new product we were launching. He nonchalantly informed me that he needed me to visit four of our facilities in Europe to make sure everything was on track. Then he dropped the bomb, “And I need you to leave tomorrow. Make the arrangements, then go home and pack.” My head was spinning. I’m sorry, what?! There was no time to waste so I just made it happen and figured I’d process this topsy-turvy world I’d just entered once my bags were packed.
After getting off the phone with our corporate travel agent, I drove home as fast as I could, threw whatever I thought I would need into a GIANT silver suitcase (that monster weighed at least 60 pounds by the time I came home) and tried not to freak out. Over the next two and a half weeks, I’d be getting my first glimpses of Sweden, Germany, France, and Austria. Holy shit balls, it was finally happening!
A New Path Emerges
The next morning I managed to get myself to the airport after a mostly sleepless night filled with nerves and excitement. A couple of flights later, I’d made it across the Atlantic Ocean. As we descended from the clouds, headed for Stockholm, I saw Europe for the first time with my own two eyeballs. The mist hung over the endless pine forests, the expanse broken only with little spots of green fields and brightly colored farm houses. I’d dreamt about this day for as long as I could remember. My heart felt like it was going to come tearing out of my chest, unable to contain all the emotions for a single second longer. It was already happening, I was falling in love with travel.
I’ll never forget, my mind was completely clear except for one set of words that continued to play on loop. “I’m home. I’m finally home.” I was as surprised by the thought as you probably are. Still to this day, every damn time my plane descends from those clouds somewhere over the European continent, I still get that same feeling.
By the time I landed it was September 7, a day that would change my life forever. Standing in the passport control line, waiting for that first long-anticipated stamp, I knew this was what I wanted to do forever. That was the moment I decided I would pursue this dream to the ends of the earth - I wasn’t going to have children and every job I would take from that point on would have to give me more flexibility to travel. This, my friend, is where all my extra time and money would go. Yes, I know, I hadn’t even left the damn airport yet. It didn’t matter. The rest of the trip would embed those thoughts and feelings so deeply into my heart that it would, eventually, eclipse any other path I could imagine for my life.
From that day on, it has been my mission to travel as much as possible and for as long as possible. This is what I’m here for, to grab every single opportunity, see as much of the world as I can, and share it with anyone who’s willing to listen.
Learning & Loving My Way Through Europe
Over the next eighteen days, I met the most amazing people, visited places I’d read about in history books or seen on the news, and saw completely new ways of life. Every single minute I wasn’t stuck in an office building, I was out exploring, always wondering, “What’s around that corner? What’s this new dish I’ve never seen or heard about? I wonder what does this person next to me at the pub does for a living?” I was in. Hook, line, and sinker. This was it, I was in love. For the first time in my life, I finally understood what it meant to have a purpose.
I don’t know that I’ve ever learned so much in such a short amount of time. I learned that my hairdryer would blow the fuck up when plugged into a European outlet, even with a converter. Huh. Who knew? Probably lots of people, but not me, since I’d had zero time to research a single thing! I also discovered that a couple of fifty-something Irish ladies in Salzburg, Austria could outdrink my 26 year old ass without a second thought. Another surprise -- the weather in Sweden is NOT the same as Utah in early September. After freezing my ass off for a week with only a sweatshirt for warmth, I bought a coat at the Dusseldorf airport in Germany and it’s still one of my favorites.
Where We Are Today
Here we are, almost 13 years and more than 30 countries later. After two shorter international trips for work, the financial crisis of 2008 put a halt to company-sponsored travel, so I was on my own. A few months later, I met my husband, Stan, and our very first conversation was all about travel. Game. Set. Match.
We took our first trip together as Team Stannie (I know, disgustingly adorable, right?!) that summer and I finally saw the Eternal City of Rome I’d been dreaming about since my childhood. We planned the whole whirlwind through Spain, Italy, and France ourselves, and it was better than I’d ever imagined! We made our own agenda, stayed in little bed and breakfasts along the way, ate all the food, drank all the wine, wandered until our feet were ready to fall off, and relished every single minute of our explorations. All these years later, it still feels like that way when I get to visit a new place for the very first time.
Having experienced the transformative power of travel to push us outside our comfort zones and open our eyes to whole new ways of being, I’m passionate about helping you do the same. I find myself falling in love with travel more deeply every time I go and want everyone to feel that magic for themselves. My travels abroad have helped me break free from so many of the bullshit stories we’re told about how we “should” be a woman in the world so I’m most passionate about sharing this love with other women.
Travel has shown me a life full of possibilities, wonder, and true happiness. The first seeds of Into the Bold were planted all the way back on that day in September of 2008, though, at the time, I had no idea where all that passion would lead me. This love has given me a headful of memories and a heart that continues to expand with every single trip.
Why it Matters
There will always be excuses for putting travel on the backburner, but how many of them are legit and how many are just covering up the fear of stepping outside your comfort zone? Tell me what hurdles are in your way and I’ll help you break them down one at a time. Yes, even the constant excuses of time and money.
What I know for damn sure is that if something is important to you, you’ll find a way.
Life is short and the ride is fast, my friend. Don’t waste it waiting for “someday”. Get out there. The world is waiting for you!
Share Your Story
What experiences have shaped how you see the world and your place in it? How do you imagine visiting foreign lands would impact you?
I love to hear from you! Tell me all the things in the comments!
OK – you had me from NatGeo! I’m 62 and I still have a bunch of maps from the 60s and 70s!! Loved in England for a bit – haven’t done a ton of travel, but got to fly into Canaima National Park and see Angel Falls, )which made the move Up even better !😁)
Ah, Penny, that’s so cool! I didn’t end up saving any of those maps from when I was young, but can still see many of them in my mind. Oh wow, I’m sure it was an adventure to live in England! I’d love to see Angel Falls someday. I’ll be adding that to my ever-growing list! 😀
I loved reading this! Makes me wanna hop on a plane and just GO! <3 Here's a funny thing my husband and I learned when we were in Europe MANY years ago… At home in the U.S., I have probably THE worst sense of direction on the planet. If I say "I really feel like we should turn right here," then you can be damn sure, we should turn left! But for some reason, in Europe, I was spot on! Always made me wonder if my previous life was spent there….
Right?! I’m so ready to go. I love that your sense of direction doesn’t work in the US. That’s hilarious! Mine is much better in Europe too, literally everywhere. All my DNA comes from there so maybe it was passed down? 😛