In 2011, the summer after my freshman year of college I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in Italy with my family and boyfriend at the time. Prior to the trip I remember the whole experience feeling so surreal. I’d wanted to travel to Europe my whole entire life, and as a newly declared history major I couldn’t think of any country I would rather explore.
From the moment I stepped off the plane just outside of Florence my experience felt like a magical daydream. The quaint cobblestone streets beneath my feet, the sun shining down and kissing my skin each day, the art, the culture…even the strawberries seemed to taste better in Italy. I never wanted to leave!
One of my last nights in Florence I cozied up in the hotel bed as my (then) boyfriend flipped through brochures and travel guides in the hotel room, and I began researching study abroad opportunities with my school. I couldn’t fathom flying home without first visiting Paris and Amsterdam, Prague and Barcelona. My heart hurt imagining the rest of my summer babysitting back home in the small suburb I called home but my yearning for adventure did little on its own and I returned to Maple Valley and then returned back to Pullman, my college town, for the school year.
After transferring from a large public university to a small private school I knew I’d given up any opportunity to study abroad. I was already paying triple the cost in tuition I was before, there was no way I could afford an expensive semester across the world. I continued dreaming of far away places through my textbooks as I imagine all history majors do.
Upon graduating I didn’t give up my wish to travel the world but with each passing day it seemed less and less feasible. Rent, student loans and credit card bills piled up, I knew there was no way I could book a plane ticket let alone miss valuable time working. When Jordan and I started dating I confessed my deepest desire and we made a plan hoping we could spend a romantic Christmas just the two of us in Paris.
With tickets booked an Airbnb reserved and a growing Pinterest board of ideas for Christmastime in Europe I couldn’t have been more elated. Yet, something inside me felt uneasy as if I couldn’t actually believe we would frolic through the streets of Paris until we actually arrived. My unease was confirmed when (for many good reasons) we had to cancel our trip. I tried not to act as entitled and heartbroken as I felt but everywhere I looked there were eiffel tower icons, photos of my friends in classmates abroad and I just wanted to cry. Why did it seem so easy for some people to jump abroad and why did it feel so freaking impossible for me?
I know the world offers much bigger issues than travel. I am so thankful for my cozy apartment, for my sweet little puppy, for a career that I love, and for the ability to pursue education. I am so privileged and I recognize my inability to drop everything and travel the world is entirely a “first world problem”. All of that being said, I still can’t figure it out…how do so many twenty-somethings drop it all and just go?
Is it all about living inexpensively while you’re abroad? I think the biggest difference between Jordan and I when it comes to traveling is the standard of living we expect. While I am open to staying in hostels and eating at coffee shops and markets, Jordan doesn’t want those things. For me the experience is just being there, breathing in the scenery, people watching, staring up at old buildings and marveling at the beauty of the architecture. Jordan’s perspective is different. If he can’t “experience” the food and hotels and culture the way he enjoys, is there really a point?
But I don’t want to wait until I can afford all of the nicest hotels and the most prestigious restaurants. I don’t even want to wait until I’m thirty and more established in my career; I don’t want to wait a moment longer, I want to go now! I think with all travel you can have positive experiences both ways: when you’re young and poor and just doe-eyed with excitement to just be there and when you’re able to go and enjoy the more luxurious aspects. I can’t possibly fathom waiting until I can afford luxury spas and glamorous hotels, if that’s ever the case I’ll just go back.
I am so desperate to make a trip abroad this year feasible (even if it means going by myself)! I would love to hear your stories, experiences and tips! If you could travel anywhere in the world where would it be? I’m curious! Oh and if you’re looking for someone to travel the world spending long afternoons in art museums and strolling through town taking hundreds of instagram photos with…I’m in the market for a travel companion! (: