I am pleased and honored to feature Monique Gascon’s amazing and inspirational post about her passion for traveling. Whether you are an avid travel enthusiast or an armchair traveler wanting to see more of the world, you will find this reflection fascinating:
I often wonder what factors motivate a person to become a traveler. Are the desires for discovery innate? Does it take a singular extraordinary experience to spark a need to see more of the world? I wonder if it is a personality type or just requires the willingness to open one’s mind to the endless life-changing experiences that travel provides.
My first solo travel experience was like many other people’s; traveling Europe with my best friend while in college. We undertook a whirlwind tour of seven countries in just twelve days. Of course, many would argue you can’t see anything that way, but despite the hectic schedule my trip slowly opened a door to a world I didn’t know existed. Looking back at my pictures from the trip, the snapshots of experiences I had and the unique culture I saw inspired me tremendously.
A few years later I studied abroad in Madrid, Spain, and it was there that I realized there was no going back. Being a solo traveler during that trip, I was challenged to immerse myself in a foreign culture, adapt and learn from it. If I wasn’t already a traveler by some genetic makeup, this trip did it for me. I was fascinated by the idea that there was this whole world beyond my life at home and incredible sights, experiences and people that I’d never know about unless I took advantage of my unique opportunity to live among them. I became infatuated and passionate about travel.
Growing up I’ve always felt I was lacking in creativity and yet when I travel, my creativity is ignited, seeking new ways to capture the moments, be it through photography, painting or my writing. Since Spain I have traveled to over 30 countries and I am actually three months into a ten-month trip around the world with my boyfriend, Josiah.
Not surprisingly, however, my approach to travel has changed over the years. While I still love staying in hostels, meeting other travelers, sharing experiences, being inspired by the amazing people that exist in the world, and even the thought of a crazy all-nighter results in a burst of energy and a rush of excitement, my traveling style now is very different than it was during my college years. I have noticed that I have become very reflective.
Traveling has an incredible way of exposing who you are and even re-introducing you to yourself. It is not possible to sit atop Machu Piccu at sunrise, be three feet from a lion in the wilderness of Africa, or take in the splendor of the Taj Mahal and not have an almost spiritual epiphany.
There is so much I have learned about life and what really matters to me, and traveling gives me a much more accurate and unique perspective on the world. In fact, I had no idea I liked to write until my current trip. Encouraged and inspired by JoDee Luna, my boyfriend’s mom, I began a blog to document my travels for my friends and family (www.checkingthingsoff.wordpress.com). While it is very simple with fun stories, first impressions and photos, I have found so much material in my travels that has truly sparked creativity within me that I had no idea existed. Now when I travel I think of stories to write about and shots to photograph that will accurately depict what I am experiencing to my readers.
Many people tell me that they wish they could take a trip like mine or travel as often as I do, but for me it is all about prioritization. Although travel is a high priority in my life now, while I do not have kids or a mortgage, I know that it is something I will find ways to weave into my life forever. While some people like to shop or eat at fancy restaurants, I spend my money on travel and new experiences. As a teacher at home, I recently posted on my blog a piece discussing my stress over a lack of money.
After reading my post, a friend of mine wrote “I know that sometimes it’s stressful with budgeting and all, but you can always make more money later. You’re making memories that are priceless!” So true. It is all about finding new ways to creatively budget and save up for the next adventure. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that memories are forever and debt is temporary (hopefully). The experiences that my travels have given me, the growth I have experienced and the creativity that has been inspired within cannot be captured by a price tag. I fully believe that if you have one life, how could you not do all the things that you want to while you have the chance?