We are talking all things travel this week on She Talks and I am really excited for you to get into the conversation between an amazing human being, Matilda and I! Matilda is a college student at American University in Washington, D.C. who is LIVING HER ABSOLUTE BEST LIFE exploring the world! She is an avid traveler who has been to almost 20 different places outside of the country! If you are interested in traveling but may be hesitant KEEP READING. If you are someone who loves to travel, ALSO KEEP READING! Let’s dive right into this:
Q: Where have you traveled to?
1. London, England (x4)
2. Paris, France (x2)
3. Nantes, France
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
5. Rotterdam, Netherlands
6. Brussels, Belgium
7. Iceland (mostly around the south)
8. Kenya (Nairobi, Mombasa, Malindi, Maasai Mara, Naivasha, Nakuru, Laikipia, Turkana)
9. Nice, France
10. Barcelona, Spain
11. Krakow, Poland
12. Zadar, Croatia
13. Split, Croatia
14. Venice, Italy
15. Athens, Greece
16. My next trip is going to be Australia! (leaving July 17, 2019)
Q: What opportunities have you been afforded when traveling abroad and/or within the states?
A: The fact that I have even been able to travel at all has been the greatest opportunity and blessing of my life. I was raised in a family that is not afraid of the world and that has an insatiable curiosity for the great unknown which has really driven me to get out there and explore.
My most immediate connection to the big ol’ world is that I was born into a multi-racial family. My dad was born and raised in Kenya and he and my mom met when he came to the US for college. I grew up hearing stories about Kenya and was aware from a young age that Africa and really the rest of the world was not ugly or scary but an adventure waiting to happen.
In addition to being the daughter of a Kenyan, I also have my fearless, curious, and adventurous mother to thank for my world travels. My mom is well-traveled and moved around a lot as a child. Her parents (my grandparents), still around today, were teachers and worked on a global scale. My mom was lucky enough to have lived in Europe for a few years and in several different cities in the US. She loves to travel and has almost quite literally pushed me out of our front door to go experience the world.
I mentioned my maternal grandparents were teachers. An example of what they did was back in the 1960’s, right around the end of British colonialism in East Africa, my grandparents taught in a school in Tanzania. During colonialism Black East Africans were not allowed to be teachers and so when colonialism was over there was a big scramble to educate black locals so that they could become teachers. In order to keep schools open while this transition was occurring, my grandparents taught math and history (I believe) in a school in Tanzania for a few years. They went on to teach in schools all over the globe and I grew up hearing stories of their cars getting stuck in mud in the middle of the Serengeti or of them motor-biking around Europe which, from a young age, fueled my sense of adventure.
The generations of travelers in my family extends even further: My great-grandfather on my mom’s side (my grandmother’s father) was a Presbyterian minister and did a lot of work in the Middle-East. My understanding is that he was not there to convert Muslims to Christianity or force any other beliefs on locals but rather to learn more about Islam and provide any kind of resources that he could. Because of this, my grandmother (still on my mom’s side, the same one who taught in Tanzania) grew up living over the Middle-East in places like Lebanon, Iran, and so forth.
So, yes, I come from generations of world-travelers and I feel as though one of the greatest opportunities I have had is a family and extended family who supports and understands my thirst to see the world. I have endless resources of advice, history, and stories coming from my mother, father, grandmother, and grandfather who all got advice, history, and stories from their parents and grandparents.
Of course there is also the factor of financial opportunity as well. I would be lying to myself and to anyone reading this if I did not even mention this aspect. My dad has a great job and works extremely hard every day. I have never wanted anything that I could not have. The downside is that my dad travels a lot for his job. Like a lot a lot. He is gone 2/3 of the year to Europe or Asia or South America which has always been super tough. The benefits of this job, though, are millions of airline points, hotel points, and a disposable income. These have allowed us to travel around the world as a family, to eat at nice restaurants, stay in fancy hotels, and fly in Business Class.
A lot of people are not this fortunate. Travel is EXPENSIVE (as I learned when I paid for my entire 3-week trip around Europe myself) and most people cannot afford to leave the US or to take time off of work. So yes, I come from generations of travelers and a multi-cultural family, but at the end of the day the biggest opportunity that I have had with travel is the ability to financially afford to do so.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge or challenges while traveling?
A: One of my biggest challenges with travel has been anxiety. I always feel like I am not doing it right or that I am not doing enough or that I am not wearing the right clothes or that all of the locals hate me for being there and so much more. I get in my head way too much when I am in another city or country and it sometimes gets in my way of fully enjoying myself.
Q: What can you say is your biggest takeaway about traveling in your 20s?
A: Two things on a similar vein: 1. Going out of your comfort zone is the only way to learn and grow and 2. Facing your fears is the only way to get over them.
Going to Kenya was DEFINITELY out of my comfort zone. It is a totally different world over there and it took me several weeks and maybe even months to figure out how to exist there. I learned how to navigate the city without all of the comforts that I have navigating around cities at home. I learned how to make myself blend in (even though my skin color never really let myself blend in). I learned a new language, a new culture, a new way of existing. I finally had an understanding of the place where my family grew up and the role that I wanted this country and its culture to play in my life. I became more resilient, more flexible and less afraid of failure. I became a better version of myself.
Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who wanted to travel?
A: In the great words of the multi-billion-dollar athletic apparel corporation Nike: “Just do it.” Just go on that trip. Your twenties are the absolute best time to take risks and we should be taking advantage of that freedom. Why force yourself into a desk job right out of college when you are going to be doing that for the next 40 years of your life? Go out and be a student of the world. Take advantage of your school’s study abroad program. Want to go to grad school? Do it in Europe or Asia or literally anywhere that’s not the same place you’ve lived your whole life. Apply for fellowships in other countries. Make. It. Happen.
Ever since I’ve gotten back from my six-month trip abroad, people, usually in their 40s or 50s, have confided in me about how they’ve always wanted to go to Africa or Australia or Europe or any other place under the sun but “life just happened.” Well, yeah, life does indeed happen. But you can control whether you are in charge of how it happens. You are the only person who can make your dreams come true, whether you are 20 or 100 or anywhere in between, you are capable of changing the course of your life. As my dad always says, You are the master of your own destiny and the captain of your own ship. Sail that ship and follow your heart.
I absolutely loved everything Matilda had to say, especially her best advice that she would give that her father gave her, which was, “You are the master of your own destiny and the captain of your own ship. Sail that ship and follow your heart” (shout to Matilda’s dad). Now, this blew me away!
We do possess and have the ability to control our lives and our destinies. It is up to each and every one of us to create and sometimes recreate the narratives that were once told to us. With that being said, TRAVEL if your heart desires it!
I do want to be completely honest, just as Matilda expressed as her biggest challenge, there may be anxious feelings, thoughts and emotions when traveling. That’s okay, that’s fine. Own that. Feel that. It is completely normal to have those feelings even if it is your first or hundredth time traveling outside of the country or even within the states.
Traveling comes with a lot of different feelings, thoughts, and emotions. One minute you could be on top of the world and the next minute you can be exhausted and homesick. It’s normal. It comes with the territory of traveling and being pushed outside of your comfort zone.
It can also have you feeling like you are on the edge of a cliff, but in the end, it is all worth it! There are so many opportunities to explore this world. Start small, whether that be in your hometown or one state over. Start somewhere, then take a leap and branch out to different countries! Experiencing different cultures, customs, and people make you a FOREVER student! You learn so much when you pop that little bubble, you call home.
Book a trip to Europe and backpack for two weeks or study abroad with your university! There is a way to travel outside of your area code, trust me! You have to want it the same way you want the new iPhone that comes out nearly every year.
Save your COINS sis. Every penny, nickel, dime, counts! Look for grants, scholarships, and programs that will fund your travels. They are out there! You do not have to be a college student to travel the world and have some of your funds covered.
One thing, I would add about traveling, especially for US women is to travel SMART. Make sure you are always prepared with the right electrical outlets/plugs and extra CASH (whatever currency) on hand. DO NOT go to another country with JUST ENOUGH money to last your trip, go with enough money to last you for a month or two, maybe even more. It all really depends on how long you will be staying. RESEARCH RESEARCH the countries, cities, and towns that you will be going too, as it is important to know about the culture, the people, the customs, etc. as you do not want to stick out like a sore thumb. There are a plethora of blogs and resources out there that can point you in the right direction.
I hope you walk away from today’s AMAZING read, with this in mind: DARE TO LIVE and DO NOT allow any situation and/or circumstance financially, physically, mentally, or otherwise to limit your ability to see this BEAUTIFUL WORLD! If you have the opportunity to travel and see the world, GO FOR IT, FULL FORCE! No looking back! DARE TO LIVE! DARE TO BE BOLD! DARE TO EXPLORE!
Oh, and do not forget to HAVE FUN!
Connect with Matilda over on her Instagram! Follow her next adventure to Australia!