I am one of the ~28% of Americans who have a passport.
I am one of the few (and growing fewer) Americans who insist upon using all of my vacation days.
I had never been anywhere until, after a series of panic attacks during my sophomore year of college, I felt an undeniable urge to leave everything, to be away, to be elsewhere. I called my father after a particularly hellish week and told him I was off to London to write a book. Without passport or experience, I conjured the first literary city as gloomy and rainy as the state of my own mind and convinced myself it was the answer. I extend my profound apologies to the city of London today, for not only did I not make it to London, but I doubt that it deserved my baggage (literal and figurative).
Instead I became convinced on the slightest of whims to apply for Semester at Sea. “When else will you ever go to Hong Kong,” I asked myself as I embarked on an around-the-world study abroad program aboard the MV Explorer. On the date of embarkation in February of 2007, I did not even know to which countries I would be going. The affair to move had never been greater.
As we straddled the equator and dipped well into the Southern Hemisphere, not only did I not see so much as one drop of rain in four months, but I spent the whole time in a state of sort of wide-eyed wonder. The attack on my senses thanks to township visits in South Africa and rickshaw rides in India transformed me. I came home, literally on the other side of the world, completely ashamed of the insular brat I once was.
Such is the power of travel. Such is the story of how my life was saved.
I came home to my university with a newfound sense of self. I valued my education, perhaps for the first time. I helped to start a regional chapter of a national nonprofit on my campus. I vowed to graduate and change the world.
I graduated with a degree in Creative Nonfiction and a passion for traveling. I now work full-time in an office at a job that has given me 18 days of vacation per year. I take every single one, and I leave.
I’m searching. Searching for it, that which will set me free. I am jaw-jutted and determined and fixated on roaming, if one can be fixated on roaming. For now, I drag my friends along with me; I know one day I will lose them to marriage and motherhood and mortgages. None of those things have tempted me the way one single photograph of a Namibian desert has, one story of an ascent up Machu Picchu has, one blog entry about airfare price strategizing has. My inspiration now comes from the numerous travel blogs I have discovered through Twitter. Through them I have realized that I have a community.
I know a day will come when I can put two and two together – the writing degree and the desire to keep on moving. This blog, I hope, will facilitate that journey.
Ultimately, you don’t care about me. The experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met, everything I’ll write about – they all belong to me. You shouldn’t care about them, nor can you really. You should care about you. If you’re one of the 28% who already have a passport, maybe you’re here because you know me. Or because, like me, you’re addicted to imagining all the places you’ve yet to go and you yearn for stories. If you’re one of the other 72%, then stick around. You’re my project.
If you would like to get in touch, use the “Contact Me” button on the menu of this blog or just send me a good old-fashioned email: amandaelsewhere at gmail dot com.
That was beautiful and it gave me tingles. You are me, or I am you, not in that creepy way but in that through-the-same-eyes kind of way. I hope we both figure out how to use our words and our desire to travel to do something meaningful.