Travel Transformations

I have a creepy confession to make: at the beginning of this year, when I was busy not making resolutions, but thinking about what I wanted for the 365 days ahead, I picked one word–travel–and decided to focus on that. Little did I know that it would, in fact, turn out to be the theme for this year.

The Eiffel Tower - July 1992

The Eiffel Tower – July 1992

I have always wanted to travel. When I was 14, I saved my paper route money for nearly a year so I could participate in the high school French Club trip to Paris. $1200 for 10 days in France. Worth every early morning rising; every smudge of newsprint on my hands; every rainy day and icy morning walking the neighborhood; every darn penny. It was a priceless experience, worth far more than I paid, and the only regrets that remain with me to this day are not going to the top of the Eiffel Tower and the crappy camera I used to capture that trip.

July 15, 1992 - Torrington High School French Club trip to Paris and the Loire Valley

July 15, 1992 – the youngest person on the trip, at only 14 years old

After, I hoped to see more of the world. I discussed a more extensive student trip with my French teacher. I investigated spending some of my college studies in France. I had pen pals in Brazil and Germany. I dreamed of Scotland. I never intended to settle in my hometown for life.

It’s funny how things work out.

Last year was the first time I flew anywhere completely on my own. On a whim, I participated in a Twitter chat sponsored by BlogHer and won a conference pass to BlogHer Food Miami. That settled it–I had to attend! Navigating the airport, setting up my ground transportation, checking into the hotel–it was all so exciting!!–and scary. I needed an adult to help me with this, right? Wait. I was an adult. But it was all so overwhelming.

Miami 2014 - Poet in the Pantry's adventures

Miami – May 2014

July brought me to Virginia with the Sabra Tastemakers to tour the Sabra hummus factory. Late September came and I drove myself to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, for Big Harvest Potluck. Then, with nothing short of a miracle, I managed in November to score a highly-coveted ticket to Food Blog Forum Orlando in Disney World. That’s when I knew I was bitten. I needed to see more than just my backyard.

Virginia with Sabra - Poet in the Pantry

Virginia with Sabra – July 2014

So, at the frosty commencement of this year, I set an intention. I wanted 2015 to be the year of travel. I know I already declared 2014 the winner of this designation, but it wasn’t enough: I craved more. I didn’t know how I’d make it happen, but I already had Food Blog Forum booked for February. The rest would fall into place somehow. It had to. And then, unbelievably, it did.

Mags and I at Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Magic Kingdom – February 2015

I reunited with my Sabra Tastemakers friends in New York City in April to check out the Greek Yogurt Dip factory. While I’ve embarked upon many day trips to NYC, staying overnight felt unnecessary: home is only 2.5 hours away. But the City is a different place when you have a base of operations to return to (and leave your stuff at). My last day, as I wandered through Central Park, taking it all in as it unfolded, allowing the experience to wash over me, I found a peace that had been evading me for quite some time. Zen. For one day, I lived in the moment again, and it was awesome.

New York, New York, I love you!

New York City – April 2015

June brought me to Mexico City, a place I never expected to explore, but was delivered to, nonetheless, courtesy of my partnership with The Daily Meal, and the generosity of the folks at The St. Regis Mexico City. There was no one waiting for me on the other end of that flight that I had met before. No familiar faces. No safety net. Only a language I barely recalled–not enough to function on my own–and people who had emailed me, but knew me by reputation only. Surreal at times, this trip was the one that impacted me the most. It made me realize how small I am in the grand scheme. It made me see myself for the woman afraid of life that I had become. It encouraged me to change that. This is what travel should do: turn your world upside down a little, offer you a chance to reflect upon that, and alter your course moving forward. It’s an opportunity rarely afforded, but to be cherished. 2015 isn’t done yet. Thanks to my friends at Sabra, I’m heading to Portland and Seattle in mid-September for IFBC–something I thought was completely out of reach. And November? That’s when I’ll be taking advantage of the trip to Barceló Maya Beach Resort that I won in an Twitter chat earlier this year. 4 days/3 nights of relaxing on the beach, drinks in hand, waves crashing on the sand, and no cares in the world. Finally, I will have my girls’ weekend with my BFF that I’ve been talking about since 2011. Who could ask for more?

Sun and Moon pyramids at Teotihuacan

Teotihuacan – June 2015

I had no idea when I set my mind on travel this year that I’d see so much.

I’m a little afraid of what to target for next year…

But I’m happy. Because I’m in the middle of a transformation now. I’ve realized what’s important to me and I’m focusing on that again. After being somewhat adrift for a few years, I have goals once more, and I have a course charted for achieving them. Travel has been the best thing that could ever happen to me, and I look forward to more of it.

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