The first time we went to Africa I didn’t care for it much. As an 11-year-old girl, I did not appreciate what an incredible opportunity it was to be in Kenya, on safari, in rugged, rural, yet beautiful, landscape. For two weeks, we were up at sunrise, ate food that sometimes hurt my stomach, and did not have all the comforts of home I was used to. I basically kissed the ground when we landed back in Los Angeles. A couple of years later, at the age of 13, my parents announced we would be returning for an even longer trip. My initial panic and denial subsided when they said I could bring a friend, and that it would be an invaluable experience for all of us. That second journey, which included the gorgeous country of Tanzania, made an unbelievable impression on me.
It’s amazing how sometimes we don’t appreciate certain experiences as they are occurring, but they nevertheless impact us in ways we are not aware of as they are happening. My parents took my brothers and me all over the world with them, and believed that the education we received from traveling internationally, was even more important than what we learned in the classroom. Although some of the trips, like Africa, were challenging and uncomfortable while there, the memories have affected me in so many ways, and I learned so much about the world and myself. The value of travel and the sense of wanderlust they instilled in me has influenced me in numerous ways, not to mention the appreciation gained firsthand from exploring other cultures completely different than my own. I am forever grateful to them for making the effort to do this for my growth as a person. It has literally shaped who I am today, and inspired me to create my ideal life.
I reflect on Africa often, both trips, and I can still remember the smells of the early mornings drinking tea at sunrise, waking up to the sounds of the animals howling near our campsite, and still picture so clearly the unbelievable views from the hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara Game Reserve. I hope to return one day as an adult, to relive some of these memories, and to create new ones with a new perspective.