I was always a traveler.
When I was a little girl my parents introduced me to adventure. First on the wild rivers as my Dad’s canoe co-pilot and then in camping trips in state parks. Then, on summer vacations, we loaded up the minivan and went all over the U.S.- 42 states in all.
These trips gave me a taste of adventure and exploration. When I was 15, I took my first international trip to Germany with a high school group. Then a trip back when I was 17 and 21.
I had the international travel bug, the world was big and I was starting to see more of it.
In college I worked in the international student offices as a web master in 1996. Being around people from other countries inspired me because I got a taste of other cultures beyond Europe. Plus, I loved this new Web thing.
I didn’t take off after college, not even to the dot com land of Silicon Valley.
I did what I was supposed to do. I got a very good job at IBM and learned all about user experience and user-centered design when the Web was in its infancy. It was an intellectual adventure.
Then, I got married when I was 24 to a college friend. Between his law school breaks and my work vacations we traveled to California, to Europe, to China and to Thailand in two-week stints.
A little voice from my heart started to tell me, that this wasn’t enough – I wanted more.
I had a good career in user experience, I was a published author and speaker on the topic.
I had a wonderful husband and things should have been progressing in a very linear fashion towards contentment. Why not? I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing.
In reality, I was miserable. My heart was screaming for another life – one that involved a lot more travel – big travel, travel around the world, or at least the Mediterranean.
The whispers grew louder, but I ignored them. I knew that I had to travel the world, but I didn’t see it happening in the life I was living. I got an MBA and moved us out to Los Angeles so I could work as an associate brand manager at the largest food company in the world. I ran marketing campaigns for my brand with Major League Baseball. There were a lot of perks. I was as comfortable as one could get in a career.
All was settled and I felt like I was living the wrong life.
For a long time, I didn’t listen to my heart, to this inner voice. Instead I worked very heard at jobs and marriage. And I did what a lot of people do when covering up inner desires, I read magazines and surfed the Web. I read 50 Places of a Lifetime National Geographic about once a week for many years, trying to placate that voice that said GO THERE.
Finally, in 2008, I gained the courage to finally listen and act. I left the life I was living. The marriage. The good job. Los Angeles. It was difficult and painful, but I left it all (with the very compassionate help of family and friends). To finally travel the world.
My first big trip: India for three months. And that trip opened my eyes to a backpacker trail full of people who were doing what I had always wanted to do. They were completely relaxed about it and happy, traveling along.
On this first big trip, I learned to trust myself and open my heart even wider to this great big world. I was now living my dream.
I came home to a cold Chicago winter and my family asked, “OK, is this it? Are you ready to settle down?” And I said, no, all I want to do is travel again. “Where to?” They asked.
I had no money, so I learned how to be a consultant, how to package my user experience and leadership skills into something that companies could buy. And I earned enough to set off again in just a few months.
This time I went for three months to the Middle East. First stop was Cairo and the Great Pyramids of Giza.
And then I got back, stayed for five months, earned money consulting, and then headed back out to a place that I loved on my first big trip – Kerala, India.
I went there for a guy, which didn’t work out. While sitting in a hammock in this lush place I decided my next journey – where to settle down and make a home.
In that hammock, I asked myself the question, “where do I want to live?” This time I listened to that inner voice. It said, “San Francisco.”
I arrived with two suitcases, no job, and a spot on a dear friend’s couch.
I also brought with me two years of inner strength and wisdom that told me, that I was following my heart, listening to my my inner voice, and trusting myself. That it would all work out. And it all worked out. There was nothing to fear, this world traveler found a home.
But travel never left me. Those big trips changed me forever, I had lived my life dream of taking a big trip and now I wanted others to do the same.
I started my blog Take Your Big Trip as a site of stories, inspiration and resources to tell others how to live their travel dreams.
I found my traveler community. I found Travel Massive – today is my three-year anniversary of my first attendance.
I got involved with Meet Plan Go, first as a speaker and then as an event leader, to provide a big trip support system in the Bay Area.
I became a speaker at Gogobot travel salon and the Asia Society too.
I became an AFAR ambassador and published my stories in two travel anthologies.
Travel never left me, but now I was serving others, helping them take their big trips.
Over the past four years, I’ve designed my life, sothat I can continue to take big trips – albeit three weeks at a time. I have gone to Peru, Ireland, Netherlands, Lived in Paris for a month, on Safari, to Ethiopia, and just recently Mexico City. I have done this to see that great big world, but also to make sure I continue to tell others how to live their travel dreams.
I now work in the travel industry at GeoEx, making getting others out to travel a part of my day job, including a safari in Kenya. This year I will go to Bhutan.
Using my passion for travel, frustration at the current state of travel content and guidebooks, and my technical background, I invented a travel app to let people automatically collect the places they want to visit across the Web, build their own guide and then hook into those places’ social feed – all within an app, I like to think of it as the future of the guidebooks.
And overall, I have lived my dreams and now made travel a part of a more stationary life, serving others to take their big trips.
I am home now and I travel. Travel has always been in my heart and its now woven into my life.