My parents made me.
That's a phrase that was common in my lexicon as a minor, but for the purposes of this post, my parents not only made me, but spent thousands of dollars to do so.
I went kicking and screaming, of course, whisked away on a 4.5 hour flight from Detroit to LA, then a 14 hour flight from LA to Sydney. It was the summer before my senior year of high school, and I, along with about 25 other people, was a "student ambassador" with the People 2 People program, a sort of short term foreign exchange travel program in which I would go all around Australia, seeing the sites and sounds, and also would spent time with a host family and attend school for a day. The entire trip would last about 3 weeks.
Little did I know before I went that, just a week or so in, as I left a message for my parents from a payphone somewhere in the middle of Darwin on a warm evening, I would be having a fantastic time.
Australia was my first travel experience. Previously, all I had done was Toronto with the family, and many trips to Disney World as well. That was it. I didn't think I'd like travel much. Especially in this case, with students not from my school, whisked away from hotel to hotel without my bedroom or my laptop or the comforts of home.
There are things that stick out to me that are slowly fading to time. How the Sydney Opera House is much bigger than you would first think. A beautiful sunset on a beach in Darwin, warm water slowly drifting up to my feet, everyone taking pictures set against the background. Another beautiful sunset after a hike up to a plateau somewhere near the outback, we all stood and sat on the edge looking out over the spread of wilderness before us. I recorded the sunset and literally was talking aloud to myself I was so overcome with the beauty. There was the first time I swam in the ocean, taken aback at just how salty the water tasted on my lips. All I had ever known was swimming in freshwater lakes and pools. There was snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef, coral sharks and fish darting around beneath me, a vast array of colours spread like a bustling metropolis. There was a zip line over a valley and through the forest outside of Sydney. There was laughter on the bus in between cities as I gradually befriended some of my fellow travelers. There was the purchase of a hand-painted didgeridoo that would adorn my bedroom. There was throwing a real boomerang for the first time.
The end result, of course, was a travel bug, and since then, I've found myself in Europe twice, the east coast once, and, fingers crossed, Asia next year. My parents no longer drag me kicking and screaming, but they can say they told me so back then. I hate to imagine where I'd be without it.