2005: The Year I Caught the Travel Bug

My junior year in college was nearing an end. I had just came out of an European history class and my mind still clouded with characters like Machiavelli, Pope Alexander VI, Lorenzo De Medici... I passed by a STA (Student Travel Agency) office on campus and was suddenly sucked in by posters of towering cathedrals and fairy-tale like castles. “I'll just grab a catalog to flip through when I'm bored”, I thought. As soon as I walked into my apartment, dumped my backpack and studied every page on that catalog. From London to Istanbul, from Beijing to Bangkok, European highlights, Experience Peru, Tastes of Morocco, plus page after page of promise for the greatest adventure of a life time. I was in a trance. What happened next was a blur. The next thing I remember was sitting at the STA office booking flights from San Francisco to London leaving on June 22nd. But I wasn't satisfied with just one purchase so I added in another plane ticket from London to Bangkok. And just before buyer's remorse kicked in, the travel agent mentioned that for an extra $100 I can catch a flight from Bangkok to Beijing. Sure, why not? Not until I walked out of the office with ticket in hand did this just dawned on me: I will be traveling around the world solo in two months time. Yikes! I haven't even crossed state borders on my own, let alone international borders. Worse yet, I haven't even told my parents! But I'm sure they will find out through their next credit card statement.
I argued with myself over this impulsive, if not reckless behavior for a month. After much time spent defending and justifying this particular plan of mine, I came up with the following conclusions: 

  •  As the oldest child in a family of first generation immigrants, I've always been dutiful and responsible. I've always conformed to the Asian American code of conduct: do well in school, listen to your parents...but that essentially just led me to the land of perpetual unhappiness, and oppression. Not to mention HUGE mommy and daddy issues! It's time to see what I'm capable of on my own. If for just this once, I would carve my own way. It would probably just be easier to defy Newton's third law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, than to defy my parents. I would just have to push through it and see where it takes me.
  •  In a year's time, I will graduate from college (with a major of my parents' choice) and marry the love of my life and probably settle down with a 9-5 finance job with only 2 weeks of vacation a year. This is my last chance to satisfy my curiosity of the world. This is perhaps also my last chance to do a little soul searching and at the same time have some adventure stories to tell my future kids about.
I had tours lined up to visit England, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Thailand, China, and Hong Kong. It was an aggressive list. I had only notified my plans of travel to a couple of people: my roommates, my best friend and my fiance (now husband). Just like executing a get away plan, I was jittery and nervous 2 weeks before it was time to leave. It also didn't help that my parents saw the $4552 charge on their credit card and went a little hysterical (OK, hysterical was an understatement). Without divulging too much of my grand scheme to my mom; who thinks that traveling is a luxury that should be saved for retirement, I calmly told her that I will only be in London for 2 weeks visiting a good friend. But I let her know eventually when I reached London, which led her to bring a lengthy lecture right out of the Joy Luck Club on me. Although much easier to handle this time considering the Atlantic ocean separating us.
On the day I left for my world tour, my best friend took me to the airport. She was hesitant to say good bye. Although I didn't say it, but watching her leave, I wanted to back out. The thought of not being able to see a familiar face for 3 months is daunting. But it was too late. I had to get on with it. I had a plan and I had to see it through. I got on the plane, bound for London Heathrow with my heart in my throat filled with fear, excitement, anxiety, and maybe even a little pride and started imprinting my footprints around the world.
It's been years since I've been bitten by the travel bug and the memories of it plays out in my mind like reruns of Friends on TV. Life wasn't the same anymore. My world has gotten infinitely bigger. Prior to this trip I lived in a pre-Columbian world; FLAT. It ended in California. But this trip made me finally believe that the world is round after all. It also painted my world with colors I had never imagined, it opened my heart to feelings I didn't know was there, it aroused my passion for a life I didn't know was possible. I was no longer satisfied with staying in California and working a 9-5 job. I felt an insatiable appetite for more adventures, more knowledge, more freedom. This is a dangerous thought: I wanted the trip to continue indefinitely. I want to travel the world until I have seen and explored every corner on earth! But sometimes life just doesn't work out that way. 

The following year, I did graduate from college with a degree in Economics and married the love of my life like originally planned. But what I didn't plan on was that the man I married not only encourages and supports my not so traditional endeavors but also participates with me on my ongoing exploration of the world's diverse people and cultures. Since getting married we continued to travel every chance we get, relocated to Taiwan and had 2 beautiful kids who we plan to immerse in the sounds, smells and tastes of the world. So you see? My hopes and dreams didn't end with the end of this trip, but this little world tour did give life to an even bigger dream. What is the bigger dream you ask? I'm not telling. It's a little secret between me and fate and together we will protect this dream like a growing flower bud.

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