My 300th post on this blog seems like a very good time for a pause and some gratitude.
Why the “20 in 10?” That’s 20 countries in 10 years. My first international flight was in 2004, and as I cruise into my ten-year anniversary of studying abroad and changing my life forever, I’ve done a fair amount of reflecting.
- Studying abroad shaped my career. Before finishing a BA in International Business Management & Spanish, I had this monumental experience that I immediately thought everyone needed access to. What I didn’t realize at the time, is that’s what education is all about. Improving access, overcoming barriers, and changing your perspective. It’s no surprise I turned myself toward education and kept my eye on the world at large.
- Money spent on travel is money well spent. I have sounded off on this topic before, most notably in April 2012 asking readers to “Trade your latte for a plane ticket.” Many, many people will say, “Phew you’re lucky .. I don’t know how you afford all that travel!” It’s all in how you choose to spend your hard earned cash. This is how I spend mine.
- The world is full of people you haven’t met yet. I shared a meal with a Canadian in Spain. I crossed the world and befriended a Chicago native in Istanbul. Take the cliché about friends leaving footprints in your life and amplify it by the thousands. You’ll never forget “that one time, in that one place…” or the people you shared it with. And now thanks to social media, it’s a whole lot easier not to.
- Travel is hard. Travel is an extension of your whole self. It hurts, it can be difficult, it can be joyful and it can be simple. I got so sick in Nicaragua that I wasn’t sure I could board a plane let alone corral my group of eight students back to the U.S. But I did. I was so brokenhearted to leave my host family in Granada, but my taxi driver told me I’d be back. And he was right. You miss flights, your train never comes, but you are learning 100% of the time.
- Paying it forward is easy. Traveling lends itself to helping others. Someone pays for your cafe con leche thanks to good conversation in another language. A departing traveler shares a guide book, a restaurant recommendation, a metro pass. A native Irishman who may or may not be a leprechaun leaves you with handwritten Gaelic to use on your journey. Travel karma is legit, and if an opportunity presents itself I’ve learned to take it, because I may need it back some day.
I’d be crazy if I didn’t make a list of favorites in a post like this. But that would take all day, all night and into the morning of next week. We’ll stick with images instead – also an almost impossible task, but a beautiful one for yours truly. So here you have 20 photos from those landmark 20 countries* in this past decade.
*not including Gibraltar, a “British overseas territory” and Vatican City, a “sovereign city-state.”