When I was 16 I traveled to New York for the first time.
I didn't travel there with my parents, nor did I travel there on some school trip. At 16 I was traveling to New York with my high school boyfriend. I turn 31 this year and I'm still shocked my parents let me travel so young without them/school outside of the country. I know it must have been hard for them to say yes to my begging and pleading to see the Big Apple for New Years. But they said yes, because they knew how much I wanted to travel and see things for myself - regardless of how worried they were to let their only child go gallivanting elsewhere without them.
Following that first New York trip, I returned (with the same boyfriend) for the next two years to witness new years eve in New York again and again. I was just in love with New York. Just to note, when I say New York, I really just mean Brooklyn. The time I spent in Brooklyn was my favorite part of the entire trip. I loved that I could buy the newest kicks and bring them home to my uniform-wearing high school and show off. I loved the food in Brooklyn. Most importantly, I loved everything about Fulton Mall and how nice the people were.
My last time traveling to New York was when I was 18 and I would not return again until I was 29 for Labour Day weekend festivities. Brooklyn was not the Brooklyn I had fondly remembered traveling to as a teenager. Gentrification had taken over. Condos? There's condos being built now? The days of walking through the Fulton area and hearing Juelz Santana's 'There it Go' blaring from every speaker in every store (it had just come out when I went) were obviously long gone. I'm not sure if my memories of Brooklyn were too grandiose from when I was 16-18 or if I just saw things differently now. What I was 100% sure of was that I am thankful my parents let me travel there when I was young.
They trusted THEIR guts to let me travel and trusted me to be safe while doing so. If they hadn't been so trusting, the only Brooklyn I know would be the one existing now.
That is what I wanted this post to be about - trusting your gut while traveling. If my parents hadn't taken a leap of faith with me when I was young, I'm not sure I would be as adventurous as I am now as an adult. I would have missed out on incredible opportunities and experiences if I didn't take chances and just trust my instincts on (to most people) some questionable scenarios.
I graduated college in 2007 (yes, that is 10 years ago). I had gone through a rough breakup with the aforementioned first love of my life that I had traveled all those times to New York with. Between graduating and the breakup - to say I was in a confused place in my life would be an understatement. I was bored and upset, I needed to get away.
Alas, a job opportunity appeared that I just HAD TO apply for. To make this as short as I possibly can, the job would require me to fly to Belgium and be trained for a week in sales and after that I would be traveling country to country selling advertising space to different government bodies. Sounds sketchy as fuck right? Yeah, it definitely does. But to me at 21? While going through all that bullshit? This was an ideal opportunity to get out of Hamilton.
I went to the group interviews and of course, I nailed it! I got the job on the spot and had a month to get ready to leave for Belgium. The conversations that followed this decision were painstaking. My friends thought I was going to get sold into human trafficking. My boss at the time thought I was absolutely insane. My parents, well, they had to now live with me being 21 and not needing permission to do this. I know they were really worried, but they knew it was something I wanted to do and something I needed at the time.
The time came and I flew to Belgium alone, to stay in a house with other trainees from all over the world, in a village called Overpelt. I refuse to call it a city. Refuse! The picture for this blog post was me posing with the cattle we passed every day walking through that village. I hated it. I love my concrete and big cities, this was definitely not the wave for me. To add to it, during the training I became really disinterested in the company and their motives. I'm not perfect, but I try to at least keep to MY morals. I remember saying to one of my colleagues, 'you expect me to go to some country that doesn't give enough money to their people for food, and ask them to give me money for advertising their country in some magazine?'
I will never forget the response he gave me, 'if you don't do it, someone else will.' He was right. If I didn't go do that, there was plenty of other people more than willing to. I chose not to do it. I thanked them for the opportunity and the free flight, and within a week of being in Belgium I hopped on a train and traveled Europe for the month alone. Since I was already in Europe and didn't have a job to come home to in Hamilton, I figured I'd stay a while and visit family. I went from Belgium to the Netherlands to Germany to Austria to Slovenia and then finally to Croatia.
Would I have taken such a chance at 30? Probably not. But I don't live at home anymore and I have a job I would not give up so easily now. I took a chance then, trusted my gut, and ended up having an awesome experience in Europe.
I really hope this blog post resonates with some of you new travelers. I know people will tell you what THEY think you should do and not do - but in the end, it is all about what your instincts are saying. Don't miss out on awesome opportunities that others may be scared of because they just simply aren't you. Don't be afraid to travel alone. However, please don't go out of your way to put yourself in danger because you're trying to prove a point either, no good will come of that.
I am just saying to trust what you feel and go with that.