I remember my first time on an airplane. As any six year old would be, I was initially filled with jittery, excited energy. This feeling soon faded away after it dawned on me that I would have to stay contained in a confined space for six long hours. As my nervousness and restlessness slowly drifted away, I discovered a more mellow side of myself.
I remember feeling like the plane and all of its passengers were stuck in time as I pressed my hands against the airplane window and watched as we soared over clouds. When we finally arrived in New York City, my eyes grew large, mesmerized by bright billboards and towering skyscrapers that loomed over the millions of busy people. It was a wonder to see.
Before that trip, I had only been exposed to suburban life on the outskirts of Los Angeles, so the stark contrast of alluring urban life intrigued a younger me and fueled my desire to explore. Since then, I have had my fair share of adventures across the country and around the world; I have fallen in love with the calm, congenial scenery of Norway, the tropical atmosphere of the Dominican Republic, the vibrant culture of Thailand, as well as many other captivating destinations.
These travels brought color and excitement into my dull, predictable life. Although the vacations themselves tended to last for short periods of time, memories of ziplining over Hawaii or visiting art museums in France would constantly be replayed in my head and reinvigorate me with happiness and motivation. They gave me something to smile about and something to look forward to. That was, until high school arrived.
Balancing workload and extracurriculars was a manageable task but also one that depressed me. I refused to go on any vacations, fearing that they would only distract me from my studies and hinder my productivity. I would not even allow myself to think about traveling because I was well aware of how easy it was to be sucked into the idea of adventures again. I regarded vacations as fantasies that weren’t meant to coexist with school and work life. Sadly, these thoughts were extremely misguided and looking back, I now realize how clouded I was by a workaholic mindset.
I owe it to my mom for helping me rekindle my love for traveling. She ignited a flame when she dragged me onto a trip to Alaska that I had no interest in, and she stoked the embers by planning a week full of exhilarating hikes. The serene, idyllic landscape of Alaska re-opened my eyes to the wonders of our Earth. Miles and miles of trekking on rugged terrain felt arduous and draining, but the reward was absolutely marvelous and worth it. It was there, standing at the mouth of a roaring waterfall, where I felt free and happy.