My Little Blue Book: A Decade of Lessons…Not Stamps

Ten years ago I found my passion.

My passport was due to expire in October, and I’m gearing up for a trip to Panama and Colombia in June, so I had to renew it because it wasn’t valid for six-months post departure.  In doing so, I had a long moment of reflection as I slid my passport into the envelope:

TEN YEARS ago, my life changed forever.

Let’s face it:  I didn’t exactly grow up with a golden spoon in my mouth.  And other than the occasional border-crossings between Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, I never ventured out of the country as a child.  In fact, my first “real” international trip didn’t come until I was 20, when my boyfriend at the time insisted I join him and his family for vacation in Puerto Vallarta.   Honestly, other than a few trips for athletic-related events, I had never really ventured out of Texas.  So I got my passport.

Fast-forward ten years, and I’m sitting here with 3 continents, 20 countries and 42 states under my belt, along with some of the most amazing experiences, pictures, memories and friends.  Highlights include bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls bridge, watching wild hippos fight in Botswana, snorkeling with massive sting-rays and manta-rays in Bora Bora, rafting the great Zambezi river, living on a dive boat for a week in the Bahamas, hiking to boiling lake in Dominica, and seeing the faces of the children in Africa when we handed out desperately needed items.  Basically, I’ve done some really amazing things in the last ten years.

And it’s all been possible because of that little blue book.

It represents freedom.   Adventure.  Passion.  Culture.  Enlightenment.  Humbleness.

In discussing passports, some people say they’re “just stamps.”

Those people have never truly traveled…they’ve vacationed.  And I believe there is a difference between “vacationing” and “traveling”:  Vacationing involves having fun; traveling involves having fun while learning something in the process.

I’ve eaten traditional Sadza with my hands, only to learn I take forks, spoons and knives for granted.

I’ve held the hand of an orphan in an African village, only to learn that I felt extremely guilty I couldn’t save her.

I’ve given the shoes and socks off my feet to locals in exchange for handmade crafts, only to learn some things are valued more than money.

I’ve carried a bucket of water on my head after pumping it from a well, only to learn I am a spoiled first-world brat and could never make it in a rural village.

I’ve felt beyond rich in a country, only to return to America to learn I still have to grind out 60 hour weeks for a middle-class living.

I’ve bought dog food off the shelves of grocery stores around the world to feed to the stray dogs, only to return to my bratty dogs at home turning their noses up at a bone that didn’t interest them; I learned even my dogs are first-world brats.

I’ve traveled.

So don’t tell me they’re “just stamps.”

Because they’re not.  They’re lessons.  Experiences.  Realizations.  And they’re a reminder of the blood, sweat and tears I’ve shed both during my travels and in putting myself in a position to experience the world.  I can open it to any page and tell you a hundred stories, show you a thousand pictures and tell you a laundry list of things I learned from that trip.

Because in holding that little blue book, I have the power to see the world.

It gives me the ability to experience life outside of my every day reality.  It gives me the power to recognize how genuinely small me and my problems are in comparison to the reality of the cruel world.  It gives me the ability to gain first-hand knowledge and insight regarding how truly blessed I am to have the life I do.

So…although I’m closing that particular little blue book after a decade of travel, I’m beginning a new chapter of my life when my next little blue book comes in.

I can only hope it provides everything (and more) than this last decade has.

I didn’t memorialize my first decade in writing, and I regret it.  In starting my new decade of travel, I’ve decided to write about the things I learn, the things I see, the things I experience and the people I meet.

WELCOME TO CHAPTER TWO.

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