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6 Travel Experiences I’m Grateful For

6 Travel Experiences I’m Grateful For

As the holiday season descends upon us, I’ve naturally started thinking a lot about who and what I am grateful for in my life. One of the top contenders is how frequently and extensively I’ve had the opportunity to travel in the past few years. I can honestly say that my recent travel experiences have helped me grow into a better person. I’m more confident, cultured, considerate, and humble because of it. While all of my travels have positively impacted me to some degree, there are six distinct experiences that I am especially grateful for. I would encourage every woman out there to gain these same experiences. You never know how they may change your life.

1.Traveling with my mom

Growing up, my family never had the money to take frequent family vacations. That being said, most of my time spent with my mother was at home. Last year, we decided to take a mother-daughter trip for our birthdays instead of exchanging gifts. Our weekend in Savannah was by far the best gift I could have asked for. It’s the first time we’ve traveled anywhere with just the two of us, and probably the most time we’ve spent together since I graduated from high school. We spent our weekend exploring old antique shops, strolling the picturesque streets and parks, and talking over long dinners and afternoon teas. I learned so much about my mother and my late grandmother from our conversations that I never knew and had never thought to ask about when I was younger. We both walked away from the weekend feeling thoroughly bonded and committed to making the trip an annual tradition.

2. Volunteering abroad

In college, I participated in a three week sustainable business class at INCAE Business School in Costa Rica. As part of the program, we spent a weekend volunteering in one of the poorest communities in the whole country – La Carpio. Before we volunteered, we learned about the extensive challenges facing the community, including its negative reputation. Most locals wouldn’t dare venture into La Carpio for fear of theft and violence, while tourists would likely never know it existed. As a result, La Carpio misses out on a lot of social aid. As a class, we were dispersed in teams throughout the neighborhood. Some picked up garbage littering the streets and river, some built bunk beds for kids who would otherwise sleep on the floor. I spent my afternoon at a free education daycare center, playing and reading to young children in my broken Spanish. While a clear language barrier existed, staring into the eyes of these kids who had already faced so many hardships at such a young age was profoundly moving, and compelled me to continue volunteering once I returned to school.

3. Vacationing with a boyfriend

Nothing develops a relationship like traveling together. I’ll admit I may be biased – I’m currently in a long distance relationship and my boyfriend and I compensate by taking multiple vacations together each year. For us, it’s an escape from the roaring distractions of consulting and medical school. We learn together, experience new cultures together, and do activities together. We never have international phone coverage, so we really disconnect from trivial distractions and focus solely on each other. While my boyfriend and I live in different cities, I’m confident that we would be compatible living together from the way we interact when we travel. Let’s be honest – traveling can bring out the worst in the best of us. Jet lag, plane delays, sunburns, hangovers, getting lost…the list goes on and on. However, learning to deal with the sometimes overwhelming frustrations of traveling as a couple is healthy and will come in handy in any long-term relationship.

4. Traveling with an ex

Yes, this happened. And yes, we were broken up at the time. Long story short, when my college boyfriend and I split up midway through Senior year, we already had an extensive summer backpacking trip planned (and paid for). Options included canceling the trip or sucking it up and going anyway. Neither of us were seriously seeing anyone else at the time, the breakup had been relatively mutual, and we both wanted to see the world. So, we chose the latter. Before we departed, we agreed on a clear rule – we were going as friends only; no hooking up. People said we were crazy, or weird, or that we would get back together during the trip. They were wrong. The trip ended up being the most incredible experience of my life. Most importantly though, it enabled my ex and I to rebuild our friendship. We had been friends before we dated, and I was afraid we would lose that friendship when we broke up. Spending every waking minute of 66 straight days together forced us to put aside our differences and simply enjoy each other’s company and conversation. We still keep in touch to this day and it’s definitely the healthiest relationship I have with an ex-boyfriend. I really don’t even view him as an ex anymore, just a true friend.

5. Backpacking with a bestie

There aren’t sufficient words to describe traveling with a best friend. It’s simply an experience that both parties will fondly remember for the rest of life. It’s amazing how many inside jokes and stories can develop within just a few short days together. Having someone you trust during your travels means you can push each other out of your comfort zones and try something new. Whether that means skydiving, snorkeling with sharks, or chatting up the cute Irish guy at the bar, it’s easier when your bestie is by your side.

6. Traveling for business

As a consultant, I travel every week for work. Before you run off and switch careers, it’s not as sexy as it sounds. Think 5:00AM flights on Monday, countless delays, and traveling to the same suburban town for six months straight. There are some great perks that I love, including free hotel awards, nice dinners, and racking up tons of airline miles. But what I’m truly grateful for is the relationships I’ve developed with co-workers. When you’re on the road with a team, you tend to spend a lot more time together than you would if you were in your home city. There are frequent team dinners since nobody wants to go straight back to an empty hotel room every night. Sharing rental cars during your daily commute means lots of time for small talk that probably wouldn’t occur during the normal work day. This proximity is an excellent breeding ground for honest friendships and mentorships that have made my career professionally and personally fulfilling.

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