In June of 2011, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to Paris and Madrid. It was the summer after my first year in college, and it would be my first time in Europe. Having recently completed a course on existentialism - which featured primarily French authors - I was obsessed with Parisian culture and lifestyle. I was desperate to sit outside a cafe drinking coffee and watching strangers go by; I wanted to visit the resting place of Sartre and Beauvoir. In Madrid, I would visit my godfathers, and tan under the Spanish sun.
My European trip was memorable, but not perfect. I was not a confident traveler, and relied heavily on my friend when in France. In Madrid, I forgot my camera every day and was never able to see a flamenco dancer. Yet through all the upsets and disappointments, I discovered a world rather different from my own. In Spain we ate seafood and walked up cobbled hills in Toledo. In Paris you are able to sit outside a café or restaurant for all eternity without feeling the rush of the waiter from behind. In the US, I was accustomed to eating and then quickly leaving - thinking of the next family who needed the table, and the waiter hovering over asking "do you need anything else?" - and learned to take my time. I discovered the untruth of stereotypes I had grown up hearing - like the French being rude to Americas (which was not the case at all). My mind was broadened.
It would be a few years before I would travel outside the US again (this time on my own). But I made a promise to myself: every year I would travel somewhere that would require a passport. I realize this is an ambitious goal, as well as a costly one. But I've learned a few ways of preparing for my trips, and determining where to go next. I am not a digital nomad. I don't have infinite pockets of wealth. But with the desire to expand my horizons, I've learned that a little does in fact go a long way.