Many of the people I come in contact with in my professional life are fanatic travelers. They have been everywhere – from war zones, to rural villages in Asia, to all of the cities in Europe. These individuals are from all age groups and backgrounds – from a single mom with her two kids, to a forty-year-old member of the military father of three, to younger PeaceCorps returnees, or former UN consultants. When I talk to them I usually am the one who feels I am not an experienced traveler. Once I step outside of my bubble and share just a few of my recent trips or upcoming plans with people I realize that although there are lots of places I haven’t been and experiences I haven’t had to most people I look like a travel pro. And I mean I did get tuberculosis so I think that really helps my street cred.
I went on some wonderful trips when I was younger to beautiful places – mostly exploring the U.S., but there was an amazing cruise on the Mediterranean and a big family trip to Ireland (we are not Irish it was just somewhere my parents thought would be beautiful, which of course it was). However, my parents were not diplomats, missionaries, or in the military so it is not as if I grew up traveling frequently to far flung locations. However, travel was always something I loved and that was valued in my family. I remember being thirteen and reading A Year in Provence at summer camp. I tried to re-read it recently and just couldn’t imagine what my thirteen your old self was thinking while reading that in my cabin. Recently someone asked me what made me get a PhD in International Relations and I didn’t have a neat soundbite answer. I always had a huge imagination (I wrote before about how I always tested to see if I could get to Narnia from my closet) and grew up taking mini adventures with my mom exploring beautiful places close to where we lived and I loved my summer outdoorsy trips that I did when I was a teenager. It is hard to say when the moment was that I decided maybe this thirst to see new places and have experienced that scared me could be something more than a hobby.
Some people see travel as a luxury and of course it is in some sense. But the more travel blogs you read and the more my generation has redefined what it means to be an adult (aka not buying houses or having kids as early) people are finding ways to travel. I think that for those people who it is a priority or a key value in their life, they will make it work. Whether that means selling all of your belongings or waitressing for months full-time to save money to leave, it seems that people who want to travel find a way to travel. I guess if it is your passion and life value system you make it happen no matter what.
I went to Uganda this summer and it was a fantastic trip. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I was to be there. A few weeks after I got back from Uganda I got invited to a conference in Germany in which the conference organizer would pay my way there. Shaun decided to join for this trip. I have always wanted to go to Germany to visit the concentration camps, but as a whole the country was probably not one on my bucket list. But do people turn down an all expense paid trip? There are not many places I would say no to going with expenses paid (when I can’t sleep tonight I will walk through those potential scenarios).
The other pieces of my appetite for travel right now has to do with the fact that I know my days of being able to have last minute international trips will not last forever. As we start to plan our future and talk about having kids I realize I can’t just accept every opportunity that comes my way. I have talked about this endlessly with people and I know there is a way to travel with kids, but I still feel scared that as soon as I have a child I will never go anywhere again.
I put this blog aside for a month or so, not sure if I was ready to put it out there, but I have now revisited it while on a train in Germany with Shaun. I keep thinking about the things I wrote here and maybe have resolved them in my head. Before this trip I got a lot of comments from people insinuating (in the kindest of ways) that I am a bit spoiled in my travel when I told them I was going to Germany. They replied, “Didn’t you just get back from somewhere?” I understand their comments (probably stemming a bit from jealousy) and probably would be the same way to someone else, but recently my response was something along the lines of, “Yes this is my profession.” I don’t describe my travels as “traveling for work” but really it is. If you are getting a PhD in International Relations then traveling to international places is inherently part of your profession. So yes I am unbelievably lucky to get to travel, but as I slog through this program and think about the sacrifices I have made to do it I think I can accept being a little “spoiled” in this way.