#NaNonFicWriMo: Childhood Dreams

Photo by Rana Sawalha on Unsplash

When you’re little, it’s fun having adults always ask you what you want to be when you grow up. Having dreams of an amazing life where you can save lives, or go into space, or be on TV make adulthood seems great. And then you graduate with crushing school debt, live in an apartment with 5 other people, and learn that finding The One can feel more like What Was I Thinking.

#adulting can be a rude awakening but there’s also joy in looking back at the aspirations of your tiny hopeful self and making them reality. One childhood dream that I did achieve? Traveling the world and living abroad. I remember when my fourth grade teacher asked us to write an essay on a dream we had about adulthood. I wrote about traveling the world even though I had never left Texas.

I was always a curious child wanting to know how things worked and ask questions of everyone I met. So my main childhood interests were science and travel, both alike in the voracious appetite for exploration. I got my first passport when I was 20 and the first country that I visited was Italy. I went to Rome, Florence, and Venice in March on a mother-daughter trip. My mom had never left the States either. While she stuck to the plans we made, I tended to wander down side streets and ask questions to translate Italian words I couldn’t figure out. I loved visiting the gorgeous cathedrals and seeing the iconic art that I had only learned about in school.

Fast forward several years and I’ve lived in Mozambique, Argentina, and Brazil and traveled to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Colombia, Uruguay, France, UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Russia, Kenya, South Africa, the Seychelles, China, and Japan. My approach to travel has changed so much from that first trip. I’m much more adventurous; the first trip was an organized tour and now I traveled solo several times. I spent much more time going to the traditional tourist spots in Italy. Now I love going off the beaten path or wandering around new places to stumble across interesting places and people.

The nine year old version of me would have never expected to have explored the world so much. I thought adults who traveled were brave, and all I wanted to do was be brave when I was younger. Traveling so much has challenged my own limits I have for myself. I planned a solo weeklong trip to Minas Gerais while I lived in Brazil in 2010. Two days in, I got incredibly sick and had to upend my travel plan. One 6 hour long precarious bus ride later, I got myself back to Rio and nursed myself back to health.

The nine year old version of me also thought exploring the world was the cure for boredom. I still have that impatience to know more and not sit still for too long. I keep lists of places that I want to go next: crazy sailing voyages, around the world trips, regional experiences full of the arts and culture. I watch for flight deals all the time, so I can use my travel fund to head off to a farflung destination.

Achieving this childhood dream has taught me two lessons. First, it’s important to relish your accomplishments. As someone who tends to be anxious, I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about how the future will shape up. When I travel, I’m completely present because I want to soak up the entire experience. Of course, that still fades with time. Over the years, I’ve done a better job of photographing the places and people I encountered during my travels so I can remember how I felt at the time.

Second, travel motivates me to level up, continuing stretch beyond the limits I have for myself. I could have stopped traveling after that first trip to Italy and moved on. But instead, I studied abroad in Brazil the next year and traveled to Beijing and Hong Kong with a friend. I had a homestay while I was in Brazil, so I learned how to make a new home while wrestling with a new language. I loved having family time while watching the nightly telenovelas with my adopted family. Traveling to Beijing forced me to learn new tricks for making myself understood. I learned a few Chinese words really quickly and figured out that I could use hotel concierges to ask questions and write the Chinese characters for locations that I wanted to visit. I make those lists of dream destinations to remind myself that I have so much more to learn.

I’m writing an unedited personal essay everyday of November for #NaNonFicWriMo, the non-fiction spin on #NaNoWriMo. You can find daily prompts on my Instagram. Want to join in? The only rules are at least 750 words about the daily prompt and tag #NaNonFicWriMo to share.