Vacation or Travel? Adventures Across the Globe
A few years ago, I sat looking out a caged sorority dorm window at the University of Tennessee. I had carefully selected all of these things–the SEC school close to home, sisterhood, Knoxville–so why couldn’t I see myself in any of it?
I don’t know where I first heard about Semester at Sea. I think I googled it after a conversation that went something like, “Dude, I hear there’s this boat, where you can like, take classes and sail around the world.” By my next semester of school, I wasn’t headed back to Knoxville. I was headed to Nova Scotia, Canada to circumnavigate the globe with 550 students from around the world. Turns out, there was something more than my crayon box life in Tennessee. And somewhere between sleeping next to a goat in a Ghanian village and climbing the Great Wall of China, I tasted it.
Turns out, there was something more than my crayon box life in Tennessee.
Heading back to Tennessee after my semester at sea was not ideal. After my sparked love affair with seeing the world, how could I be comfortable in familiar Knoxville again? So I became a traveler a bit like one becomes a monk or a nun. I was obsessed with travel. My best friend was travel. And I did everything I could to get myself somewhere new.
I took unplanned trips to Austin, Texas where I’d sleep in my car, and road trips to Chattanooga, which was only two hours away. I was always seeing, always going. I called myself a free spirit. My friends called me a flight-risk.
Soon I started planning another study abroad adventure. My next destination? France. After a long year in Tennessee of course petitions, scholarship applications, and pleading for a last minute visa, soon I found myself in a cozy apartment Paris, adoring something new about the city everyday. But the clock was ticking. I was graduating soon. Could I join my friends back in America in search of careers and engagement rings, and for some, even cradles? This sure didn’t sound like me.
So, I moved to Italy. Perched comfortably in the hillside town of Bergamo, I lived with an Italian family on an olive tree farm. I spent my days teaching them English, and nights working at the suave discotheque my Italian mama owned. I didn’t know where I would be in a month. I didn’t know where I would be in a week.
I was obsessed with travel. My best friend was travel. And I did everything I could to get myself somewhere new.
But I did know that traveling taught me more about the world than any career, boyfriend, or classroom ever could. I learned to be open-minded to everyone, even to the most close-minded of people. I learned life was more than internships and careers and two story brick houses. Sure, sometimes it was scary. Sometimes my brain wouldn’t stop pinball-ing the fact that one day I would have to build a stable fence around my free spirit. But I wasn’t ready to buy the hammer and nails. I’m still not ready.
Now I live in Manhattan. Still the same free spirit, different backdrop. It’s hard dealing with reverse culture shock and the reality of landing a career. But Manhattan keeps me moving, and it’s the only place I can still travel the world without leaving New York City’s borders. In a way, my adventure hasn’t ended. Some try to bring me back to the real world (whatever that is, I’m not even sure), and some criticize me for living a life of “vacation.” But only the traveler knows the real difference between vacation and travel. Curious? Come see for yourself. I dare you.