Self Portrait Series 15/52
I’ve had lots of opportunities to travel in my lifetime and it's something I'm so grateful for. I have so many fond memories of traveling to new places and getting to know the culture. These experiences have been a huge part of molding me into who I am, how I see the world, and what motivates me to do what I do. I want to share a few memories with you of my travels that have been seared into my heart molding me into who I am.
When I was 9 years old, my family moved to the Philippines to serve a family mission there for a year. It was one of the best experiences of my life. We got to know the amazing families in our area, learned some Tagalog, and had the most amazing service opportunities each day. We spent time in orphanages, old folks’ homes and leprosy colonies. I’ll forever be grateful that at a young age, I was able to see the world in a different way. My experience there was the catalyst that began my lifelong pursuit of seeking all that the world has to offer. It also ingrained in me the spirit of service and attitude of gratitude.
I’m also grateful for the family trips we took as a family while I was growing up. We traveled to Mexico a lot. It was a lot more affordable than other sun-and-sand destinations, so it became my family’s go-to vacation spot. If you know me, you know that I love to take trips that are laid back and relaxing. I’m convinced that these trips rooted that love in me. My parents also made it a point to embrace the culture rather than just be tourists, so we never stayed in all inclusive hotels. We would go into town so that we could eat at local restaurants, explore the shops, and meet those who lived there. We always made a point to attend church there and dive into and appreciate where we are and what they have to teach us, even on vacation.
These adventures at such a young age sparked my love for travel. When I was a senior in high school, I really wanted to go to a school back east and go on an amazing adventure myself. It was going to cost $10,000 per semester, so I worked on enlisting my parents' help. The second I said the price they book looked at each other with the look in their eyes that is like… “oh hell no.’ and then asked me, “If we were to hand you $10,000 right now, would you use that money to go to this school, or is there something else you’d do with it?” That question changed my life. What would I do, as an 18-year-old, in 2004, with $10,000? It didn’t take long to realize that $10,000 could quench my wanderlust for a long time.
So, instead of going to my “dream school” when I graduated high school, I packed my bags and moved to Africa for 3 months. It gave me the opportunity to visit a new place and experience it the way I was raised to- not as a tourist, but as a student. Those three months of living in Zambia changed my life and was an absolutely incredible experience. If you want to listen to my stories about living in Zambia, I did an Instagram Live, which you can watch HERE. It’s a great listen. Trust me.
When I finally came back and started school, I still had the desire to travel. I applied for the ILP (a program where you live in another country and teach English). I got the choice of teaching in either China, Ukraine or Russia. I loved the idea of exploring Eastern Europe on weekends, so I picked Ukraine.
We arrived in January and the temperature was -30° ! My friend and I lived there for 6 months with a kind and gracious family. We learned enough Russian to get around and went on as many adventures as we could. The experiences ranged from amazing, to insane, to scary (learn all the details HERE), but I fell in love with the people and the country.
After Ukraine I moved to Washington DC and Nannied for a family there and learned so much about being a single adult. It was a super fun time for me and I loved the faster pace of the East Coast. I’ll never forget the 4th of July in DC. After living abroad and coming home to American soil, my heart rejoiced at the freedoms we have today. My biggest take away was learning how different, yet the same Americans are.
Fast forward to my next adventure when I was 21, almost done with college, and totally unsure about what I wanted to do next. With no job or relationship commitments yet, I was young and free! As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I always knew going on a mission was an option for me, but it was one I never planned on pursuing. Following all mission rules, and being tied to a companion the whole time seemed like something I would NOT want to do. But, I pulled the trigger and was soon on my next adventure.
Part of the process of applying to serve a mission is receiving an assignment. You don’t get to pick where you go. Once you’ve been cleared to serve, you simply wait for a letter (or an email these days) that tells you where and when you’ll be going. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking. I’ll never forget the day I opened up my mission call letter that said I would be serving in Córdoba, Argentina!
During the 18 months I served, I was able to live in five different cities in Argentina. I spent my days meeting new people, talking about God and religion, learning about their customs and becoming part of the community. The people of Argentina taught me so much about love, service, my relationship with god, and Spanish. I am eternally grateful for my experiences there and the things I learned.
The adventures didn’t end as I came home and moved to Jackson Hole Wyoming and worked for a white water rafting company. I met Ammon, I fell in love and since then we have lived and traveled all over the place.
Each one of these life altering adventures pushed me in different ways and taught me something new. The Philippines opened my eyes to just how much people go through in this life. My trips to Mexico instilled in me a love for embracing new cultures. Zambia taught me how to work hard and give my heart to others. As I moved onto my experiences in Ukraine, I learned even more about reaching out to others, and teaching others as they teach me. Washington opened my eyes to how similar we all are and how our differences make us unique and connected. Spending my days serving the people in Argentina gave me opportunities to grow in my own strengths, and overcome my weaknesses.
It’s easy to get stuck in the everyday cycle of work, school, chores, and to-do lists. When I’m able to think back to these experiences, it reminds me that there is still so much to see and do in this world. It also pushes me outside myself remembering how different I could have it, how incredibly blessed I am and how we get to choose how we live, who we are and what we do.
I love to hear about all your adventures and lessons traveling has taught you!