I’ve been thinking about the choices I have made throughout my life that have brought me to this place—that have made me the wife I am, the mother I strive to be, and the ambitious career woman who I work to become each day. The journey that I have taken is what I want to share with my daughter. There are the mistakes that I have made along the way that I wish I could help her to avoid, and the incredible encounters that shaped who I am today. When I look back over my life, there are a few pivotal moments that changed me fundamentally, that shifted the direction I had been headed in, and that brought me to where I am now.
When I was twenty, I decided to spend my junior year abroad—a decision that, at the time, I didn’t recognize to be a tremendously important one. My main motivation for leaving was, quite honestly, to get away from the havoc that was my life since my parents had separated and divorced. In fact, I wasn’t an adventurous person—I had only been out of the country once, and that was with my father to Ireland—and I had never really been anywhere by myself. My year in England was one of the greatest of my life—I became friends with some incredible people, I traveled all over Europe, and for the first time in my life, I knew what it felt like to be confident. Up until this time in my life, my self-esteem had suffered under a belief that I was ordinary—destined for mediocrity—and with a father who praised only those things that were exceptional, I may as well have been invisible. Being so far from my family, and being forced to do things on my own—like flying to foreign countries, sleeping on trains, and finding my way around countries in which I didn’t speak the language—changed something deep inside me. I still remember the day that I sensed this shift in how I viewed myself. It didn’t happen in a train station in London or at a cafe in Amsterdam, instead I was sitting in my room reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez,—given to me by friend who I admired for being both creative and extremely intelligent—and it honestly blew my mind. There was something about what I was reading—I had so many thoughts that I couldn’t wait to share, to discuss, possibly even to debate with my friend. In that moment, I knew that I was an intelligent person, something I had never actually felt or believed. From that point on, I began to look at the world around me in a new way—to question everything—and I was certain that I was smart enough to find the answers all on my own. When I arrived home, I was not the same person who had left nine months before, and I couldn’t wait to start the next journey of my life.
Travel—for me—is more than visiting exotic places or seeing beautiful sites. I truly believe that travel can be a catalyst for change, it can be the thing that will make you feel the most alive, make you believe you can do anything. It is such a fundamental part of who I am, that I can think of no greater advice to give my daughter than to tell her to travel, to see the world, to study abroad when she is still young and doesn’t have a job that only allows her two weeks vacation per year, to not be afraid to experience life. And, to know that the most exciting part of travel is not always knowing where you’ll finally end up . . .