You know how people say someone was born to do something? Oh, she was born to be a star. They were born to be a singer. Well me? I can’t hold a tune in a bucket and as far as being a star, in middle school, I used to put on a skit for my parents called the Young & the Cluessless. It was quite a hit, but that was the extent of my stardom. I wasn’t born to do those things. But, what I was born to do was explore. To journey. To wander and gallavant around this globe of ours, putting words to paper (so to speak) with the hopes of inspiring others to do the same.
In the 4 years that I have been blogging, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about my travel journey and what has led me to where I am today – a three-time expat, currently living in Mérida, Mexico. So, fasten up your seatbelts are I take you along this brief journey.
Four score and seven years ago…
Ok, no, really, my travel journey really did start when I was younger. I took my first trip to Disney World at 18 months, I remember none of it, obviously. But, from there, my grandparents took me everywhere they went. From Minneapolis to Chicago, Texas to Tennessee, I was their little travel companion. I never cried, I wasn’t annoying, asking if we were there yet every 5 minutes. All I did was eat, sleep and enjoy the journey. The perfect travel companion.
We traveled domestically only. They didn’t believe in flying, because, you see, if God wanted them to be in the air, He would have given them wings haha. So, we drove everywhere! It’s why I love road trips so much now.
A sophomore at Albany State University, I discovered a travel abroad program that stationed students around the world to be Camp Counselors on American Military bases. They paid a small stipend and I could even earn college credits. I was a business major, so this didn’t really apply to me. Nonetheless, I was introduced to the world of international travel.
At the age of 21, I boarded my first ever flight to go live in Germany for 3 months. Go big or go home. This trip was truly life changing (yanno, after the 2 weeks of non-stop crying from being homesick). It’s where I discovered an appreciation for fútbol (the World Cup was happening in Germany that year). I discovered international cuisines other than mall Chinese food. I discovered traveling on a budget and hostels and doing what I could with the time I had. 36 hours in Paris, let’s do this! Germany is where I discovered a world outside my own.
My first solo trip to Destin Florida. This trip was the result of first of many heartbreaks. I needed to get away, so I booked a weekend trip to Destin, packed up my car and cried my way all the way to Florida. This trip is where I fell in love with solo travel and discovered the peace and freedom that comes with it. I spent my days on the beach, indulged in an overpriced spa treatment and booked a jet ski adventure, where I met another older lady who was traveling solo as well. I ate hooters every night because I felt like it and enjoyed every single blissful moment of solitude and self care. Florida is where I learned to live an audacious life.
Burnt out and stressed out from 3.5 years at a hellacious job that I was laid off from December 2011, I’d deemed 2012 the year of exploration- the year I would pursue whatever curiosities I had, the year I would live for me. From baecations to friendcations and solocations, I took them all in 2012. Each impacting in their own unique way. The most pivotal trip that year was a solo sabbatical to Madrid. There, I discovered a different way of doing life. Madrid taught me to slow down, to enjoy those fleeting moments that leave finite impressions. It’s where I learned to re-prioritize my values. Madrid is also the place that I discovered that moving to another country does not make your problems magically disappear. Wherever you go, there you are.
Korea bound. After a failed attempt at booking a one-way ticket to any random cheap country, I thought it better to find a job that paid me to work abroad.
Hello teaching abroad! I landed a 1-year contract to be an ESL teacher in South Korea. SoKo tested me in ways I could have never imagined – everything from a cultural standpoint to the journey of self discovery and everything in between. I thought Madrid taught me to slow down, but Korea, brought my life to a snail’s pace, mainly because there was literally NOTHING in my tiny rural town. So, I had nothing but time to myself, time to reflect and time to heal. My time in Korea is where I birthed WOAW, partially to keep my sanity, mainly to inspire Black and brown people to step out of their comfort zones and explore the world. Korea is where I fell in love with my Blackness (post coming soon on that topic).
Back to my beloved Madrid. This time to teach 3-7 year olds English for 9 months. Madrid was just as magical as it was the first time we tango’d. I was telling someone recently that I talk about Madrid like it’s my boyfriend. I’m completely smitten by this city. There’s an energy about this city. It is intoxicating. Wine & wandering would be how I described this go ’round in Madrid. There was always wine and always new discoveries.
Five days before my flight, I made the decision to stay in the U.S. and not return to my Madrid. I loved Madrid, but the pay, as a teacher, was laughable. I didn’t want to continue to live paycheck to paycheck. So, I stayed in the states. A couple months later, I was over it. I knew I wouldn’t stay long, but I was in a year lease with my apartment. I bought a bed and a sofa. That was it. Enough to be comfortable. I didn’t unpack my things from storage, only my clothes and dishes and other necessities. As my lease was about to be up, I decided to move to Mexico. 10 days later, I arrived in Mérida, my new city.
Being back in the states was like going back to the guy that you know is no good for you, but you keep wanting to give him the benefit of the doubt. It’ll be better this time. Things will be different. Nope. They’re still trash.
I moved to Mérida, Mexico with no job and no real plan. At one point, I had 5 different job titles: Teacher, Freelancer, Blogger, Photographer, Marketing Consultant; yet, still feeling like I was only making enough to just get by. But, along the way, I shifted my mindset, I put in the work, and things started to turn around. Opportunities were literally coming out of nowhere. Manifestations were coming to fruition. It all starts with mindset.
I’m sitting here, in this co-working space, writing this post from Mérida, with a heart full of gratitude. I’m thankful for the journey – for every bump along the way, for every pivotal turn, for every misdirection, for every detour, I am thankful. Travel changes you. Experiences mold you. Life humbles you. Yet, there is beauty in it all.