From Travel Idiot to Travelphile: One Woman’s Travelution
Once upon a time, I was a travel idiot. About fifteen years ago, on my first couple of trips to Europe, I researched virtually nothing in advance. I was lucky enough to show up at the right hotel and have the right currency in my wallet. I once forgot to notify my bank about my travels, and to my chagrin, they froze my one and only credit card while I tried to check into a London hotel. On that same five-week trip, I had packed such a huge and heavy suitcase that I couldn’t exit le metro without two Parisian teenagers carrying my blue behemoth up three flights of stairs for me. So embarrassing.
Since then, I’ve learned a lot about being better logistically prepared. I pack lighter (just a carry-on and a day bag); I always inform my bank about my travels, and I have back-up money options; and I thoroughly research my destinations well in advance and travel with good guidebooks and apps about those places.
But beyond the nitty-gritty of basic travel skills, my travel world has changed a lot, too, and continues to change with every new experience.
Early on, I floated through Europe with pure wide-eyed wonder, so thankful to be traveling at all. Everything fascinated me: sounds, scents, history, architecture, art, food, accents, the antiqueness of the buildings, the cleverness of public transportation, and the differences and similarities between these places and the place I called home.
With admiration comes curiosity. I found myself wondering more and more about the places and cultures I was visiting. Inspired by my growing love of travel and my love of languages, I took advantage of opportunities to do summer language programs, once at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain and twice at the Sorbonne in Paris. Immersing myself in the grind of non-touristy, daily life; engaging in the language on a daily basis; interacting with locals; and making friends–gave me an even deeper appreciation for what their cultures had to offer. Studying the languages, as well as the historical, gastronomical, architectural, religious, political and artistic heritages of Spain and France, broadened my understanding of their impressive and complicated societies.
This quest for understanding emboldened my passion for travel. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. For me, Europe had long-ceased being merely a place to visit historic sites, see priceless art, and taste savory foods. It was a mental playground where I could engage all fives senses in ways that I didn’t back home, and greater still, it became a gym for my soul where I could exercise sympathy, respect, and appreciation for the triumphs and challenges of cultures that are different from my own. Engaged travel changes us for the better. We learn. We adapt. We evolve.
The more I experienced, the more I wanted to share those experiences with others. Except for the summers when I studied abroad, I spent two weeks a year traveling through Europe with some of my high school students. Each itinerary differed from year to year, but for me the goals were always the same: to teach my students how to become practical and savvy travelers and to help them become better-engaged citizens of the world. It sounds like a lofty goal, but I learned early on that if you set the bar low, people tend to reach only that level. If you set the bar high, they will surely rise.
On every trip, even if I’d been to a place several times before, my students gave me a chance to see it through their first-time eyes, and it renewed my sense of wonder. Their transparent awe reminded me of my very first trip to Europe and how amazed I was at finally seeing and standing in front of things I had only read about in text books or seen on film or heard in songs. Their bold and unfiltered inquisitiveness reminded me to challenge long-held beliefs, to constantly seek the truth, and to embrace the unknown.
So while I hoped to provide my students with experiences that would help shape their worldviews by expanding them, they returned the favor by providing me with invaluable lessons about travel that I carry with me on all my adventures.
Nowadays, I’m no longer a classroom teacher, but I still love to travel. I try to strike a balance between the “intellectual” and “playful” sides of that. As an assistant tour guide, I constantly get new opportunities to share what I’ve learned and to help people make the most of their own travel aspirations. With my blog, The Travelphile, I discipline myself to reflect thoughtfully on my experiences and, hopefully, to encourage others to nurture their passions to be engaged travelers. Let travel change you, and experience your own “travelution”.
For a decade and a half, Trish Feaster has traveled throughout Europe, the Philippines, Central and South
America, and in the good old U.S. of A. During her nearly fifteen-year tenure as a high school Spanish
teacher in California, Trish shared her love of travel with her students by taking them on annual trips to
Europe. These days, she’s expanding her “classroom” even more and working as an assistant tour guide
and guidebook researcher in Europe.