I just finished applying to renew my passport. I couldn't help but sing as I pranced my way from the Post Office. Getting my passport renewed feels better than even getting my passport for the first time. I guess that I now know what's in store: adventures on top of adventures, freedom and soaring and infinite possibilities! Well, I guess that's my interpretation of travel moreso than having a passport.
I got my first passport nearly 10 years ago... 8 days shy of my 19th birthday, and just a week or two before my third trip out of the country. I got a passport in preparation for my summer study abroad course at L'Universite de Bourgogne (Burgundy University). I was headed to Dijon, France for four weeks--the capital of not only Dijon mustard, but most importantly, big red Burgundy wines from France's Burgundy region. It wasn't my first trip out of the country. My first trip had been three years prior when I spent three weeks in Guadeloupe visiting our former summer exchange student, Cin-dy (emphasis on the dy). I had also gone to the Bahamas. But, I was a minor--and traveled with just my birth certificate in those pre-9/11 days.
That first stamp from France in 2004 hallmarked the beginning of my francophilia. I wasn't planning on majoring in French or pursuing any French courses outside of the required "3 semesters," but I was hooked. As soon as I got home from France that summer, I changed my major from "Health and Humanity, Pre-Med" to a double major in psychology and French.
Many stamps (and Visas) from France--and many other places--soon followed. I've traversed the Sahara on camelback and waded through rivers in Jamaica. Ate tapas in Barcelona and had adventures befitting the quirkiest indie film. I've visited Norway in the winter and Mexico in the summer. I've seen the winter olympics in Torino, learned to make handmade pasta from an Italian nonna in Verona, and made croissants at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. I've snorkeled in the Caribbean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. I am so incredibly grateful for all of the international travel and experiences that I have been blessed to embark on in the past 10 years!
I have traveled for a variety of reasons--work, school, and play. But mostly, self-enlightenment. I vividly remembering sitting on my balcony in Paris's 15th arrondissement--watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle, as it does at night. And I had an epiphany or two. First, I realized, I have to dream bigger. In a strange way, I felt rather fulfilled at age 20. My dreams needed to grow just as I was.
I also had the epiphany that we're all the same. Us people, I mean. We may speak different languages and have different customs and religions, live in different countries with different climates and natural disasters. We may have different facial features, heights, and amounts of melanin in our skin. We even may express emotions in different ways. But there is far more that unites us than what separates us. And what unites us are the things that are really important and make us human--we all have goals and dreams, wishes and desires. We all want the best for our children and the best for ourselves. We all have pride and anger--envy and disappointment. These are the most important lessons I carry with me when I return home.
Maybe it's for those reasons of self-enlightenment that I crave travel. Or maybe it's far more simple. Maybe I'm just looking for the next adventure, or I want to challenge myself by visiting a francophone country where I can intensely listen to the nuances of various dialects--and my brain stays active. Maybe I just want to feel fully alive.
The simple act of renewing my passport has flooded me with emotions. Maybe this is why being born again is more important than being born at all. Or why concepts such as Rebirth and Renaissance carry more weight than simply "birth."
I can't pinpoint any particular reason for why I must travel. But, I know certainly, I travel, therefore I am.