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More than just a Vacation

More than just a Vacation

There are a limited number of things that I would use with the word “Lucky” to describe when it comes to me. I have been through a lot, I know some people have been through worse, and some won’t even have to go through ½ of what I’ve been through by the age of 26 in their entire lives. It’s just how the world is, unfortunately. One of the few things I call myself truly lucky and even very blessed with is my adventures/travels or as some call it Vacations. 

From a very young age, I have always wanted to travel and see the world. After reading stories, seeing movies, looking at travel magazines, and even the internet. I always knew I wanted to see what the world had to offer. I have been very lucky and grateful to be able to do that; Be in my own backyard of the United States to traveling abroad all over Europe. Going on adventures has always been something I look forward to, get excited to plan, and even get excited to see the same place again. I mean the chances of things happening the exact way again are like 0.0001% and I even think that rate is super high. Travel to me is so much more than trying to find the perfect Instagram spot/photo, going to someplace because it is on sale, or even because people say it’s a great place to travel. When I travel I focus on a few things:

  1. Experience: What can I do or see at this place that I can’t look or do at any other place?
  2. Culture: What foods, traditions, environment, or customs can I learn/eat/do and appreciate while I am visiting to truly experience a place?
  3. Education: What can I learn from this location that can expand my knowledge from school or even teach me something I never knew? 
  4. Adventure: What can I do so that I can tell my friends about it for years to come? What is going to make my adrenaline go crazy and my eyes got big in excitement?

By making sure any trip I plan, agree to attend, and the book has all 4 of these elements I know it’s going to be a once and a lifetime experience every single time (I still take trips to chill on the beach too). And because of this list, I owe a lot of who I am to what I have done and learned on my adventures.

Now I know you may be asking how on earth did you ever come up with this list and why? And if you’re not asking well I’m going to tell you anyway. My mom always believed that our (my siblings and I) textbooks left out some very valuable information. She also wanted us to realize there was more than just NY and the beaches our friends vacationed to every summer, and that all people, even kids need a reset on life. My dad, a huge history buff, hates and I mean HATES sitting doing nothing. If he is going to travel he wants to see it all. Together the two of them had always made sure we expanded our knowledge, experienced new things, had adventures, and even learned about the culture. Because of them my siblings and I have been able to have some of the most amazing memories and experiences that some people never even dreamed about. 

I wish I could talk about every adventure and encourage you to save money and your vacation or sick days to go out and do it too; unfortunately you would be reading about my adventures for the next 100 years. So instead I’ll share one of my favorite stories for each of the 4 points. Not because I want to brag but because I want you to be encouraged to make the absolute most out of your trips/adventures/vacations; because there is so much more to places than what you see on Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook or whatever. 

Experience: 

  • Iceland was a place that had been on my travel bucket list for a long time, like most people I know. When I went to Iceland I did not go to the blue lagoon; I drove past it but I did not stop and take a dip at the infamous spa. Instead, my family and I drove 1 maybe 2 hours (I fell asleep…) to what looked and felt like the middle of nowhere Iceland.  Where we hopped on this custom Monster truck and got to take a tour of a glacier. Not just any tour but we actually got to go inside of it and walk around. (This tour is called into the Glacier in Borgarbyggd) I actually got to walk through an LED tunnel in the middle of a glacier; it was freezing and it was f*cking awesome. There is no other place in the world (as far as I am aware) that I could have experienced walking through a glacier. Did I miss out on the blue lagoon sure but I think my experience was so much better than the typical tourist spot of Iceland? 

Culture: 

  • A lot of the cultural aspects have truly stuck with me but the biggest one by far was when I was out in Arizona and got the chance to watch Indigenous people (Native Americans) perform their traditional dances in their traditional attire. They also sat down with us and explained more about what they were wearing, what each dance represented, and why it was so important to them and their culture. Getting the chance and being able to sit down and talk to someone and truly learn and understand was the most amazing cultural experience for me. I remember walking away from that night with so much respect, pride, awe, and so many other emotions towards them for their strength and culture. (I am also extremely extremely sorry if I said anything wrong or the wrong name) 

Education: 

(Please note this one is a sad one but important)

  • I think learning about history helps people learn from the past. One of the things I told myself I needed to do was because I felt like I did not know all the information, so to learn I went and visited a Concentration camp from World War Two while in Germany. I took only one photo, but I read every pamphlet, every wall sign, I paid my respects at the memorials, and I made sure to listen to every single word my tour guide said. I already knew I was going to walk through that experience and come out with the heaviest heart; I also felt like I had to do it and I still stand by that decision. Mainly because everything I learned about the camps in school didn’t make sense to me. And I felt like not going to learn more was an injustice for all those lives lost, and meant that I wouldn’t learn from it. For example, in school, I was taught prisoners (or concentration camp workers) were told if they worked hard enough they would be granted freedom, however, those who did work hard enough often worked themselves near death and were then put in a gas chamber to die. I knew each camp had its own chamber but didn’t understand why workers would put themselves through that (yes I am well aware of how ignorant and non-educated I sounded but this is what happened from what I was taught in school). While I was on tour I learned that those who worked hard enough so hard they almost died were put on a train and brought to another camp’s gas chamber. This was the camp they worked at, all the workers saw them leave and believed that they had been granted freedom while those on the train realized too late that they were not. It still brings tears to my eyes; as hard as it is and was had I not gone there I would have never had been properly (or better) educated.  I would have nerve gotten the answers I had missed/never learned in school. I’m also able to understand more how the past has changed and shaped the future and how important it is that we never forget. I think it’s important to learn from past mistakes this way we never repeat them in the future.

Adventure: 

  • I have always been and always will be chasing the adrenaline-junky spirit inside of me. Even if it scares me to death I am always going to do it because I would rather die saying at least I did it than wonder what if. One of these experiences was when my family and I rented ATVs and drove them through one of the deserts of Utah. Now before anyone freaks, I have been riding quads since I was 12 and this was when I was 21; so I knew all the safety measures and even wore a helmet (yes there was a roll cage no we did not flip or crash, I had control the whole time my mom even said so after). I loved this adventure because even though I have ridden quads before I never did them in the desert and with my mom, little sister, and a family friend all as passengers. Hearing them cheer me on going fast, feeling the wind, and being able to take the turns and really pick the dust-up still replays in my mind. Being able to head out into the desert with family, friends and a tour guide truly making sure we are all having a good time, testing speed and our limits of comfortability gave a whole new meaning to family bonding time for me. I always think of this adventure not because so many people do it, but because of how unexpected and unplanned it was, and it turned into an amazing part of the trip. Every single person in my ride or in another had an absolute blast; would absolutely do it all over again. 

As I said earlier I owe a lot to travel. It taught me more about myself than I ever knew. It’s opened up so many doors to new passions, cultures, adventures, and crossed off tons of bucket lists items. However, two of the most important things it taught me were the family experience/bonding and also how much living in the moment is so important. And I truly can’t comprehend how important and how much those mean to me. That is why I started an adventure journal after each trip and often during it I record what I did and I include everyone who was a part of it. To this day it is one of my top 5 possessions (and no I never let anyone read it just yet). I started it back in 2016 and since then have over 200 Pages filled with memories, notes, doodles, stamps, and so much more recapping all my adventures and people I have shared or crossed paths with along the way.  It’s kinda cheesy but I can’t wait to let someone in and read all about my adventures, and hopefully maybe one day I’ll be able to share it with my kids or even just myself if my memory starts to go I’ll always have my notes. 

So yes I am extremely lucky, blessed, and probably even spoiled to have been able to go to the places I have been, seen the things I have seen, and do the things I have done. I have never taken any of it for granted, and that’s why I take travel so seriously with my 4 “rules”. Simply because I want to make sure I enjoy it and don’t waste a single second of it. As your unofficial big sis, I hope this inspires you to start thinking about what you want to see, what you want to learn, what you want to experience, and what adventure you should do. Life is short, the world is large, make sure you’re experiencing as much of it as you can. Safe travels and let the adventure begin. -KMH

 

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