I have always wanted to travel but growing up in a low-income family meant travelling has always been far more of an unattainable dream than a reality.
Even as a child, I understood that it would not be a good idea to ask my mother for impossible things that would be financially crippling to my family. I did not want to burden my single mother with requesting what I knew she could not afford. Nor did I want to see her disappointed in herself because she could not provide me with the likes of plane tickets and vacations.
Travelling was something that I would have to do for myself, in my own way.
To begin with, this meant preparing myself for the world of travel. As a middle school student, I began doing everything possible to equip myself with the necessary tools for travelling the world. I took advantage of the resources of my educational system and I began Spanish classes, which then transitioned to Japanese classes once I entered high school. I knew that learning different languages would be key to ensuring that I would be able to communicate with others during my travels as an adult. College followed soon after and I was just one step closer to my dreams of travelling, so I began studying Mandarin Chinese and briefly changed my college major to international studies, all in preparation for my career as a professional explorer.
But like most college graduates, I left school with a heaping amount of ambition and a bank account that did not match. Travelling became even more of an impossibility.
I became very upset with myself for not being able to do the one thing that I had been working towards since I was a child. I labelled myself as a failure and each day became a little more difficult to get through. I watched YouTube videos of all of these people who were able to travel around the world and how happy they looked, and I became even more dissatisfied that I could not be among them.
At my lowest point, I called my mother and I explained to her how I felt that I let myself down because I wasn’t able to accomplish the goals that I had set for myself as a child. Like many mothers she shared her wise words that pulled me out of sulking and straight back onto my quest to travel …
“Just get up and go"
It was true that I could not afford to go far, but I began by putting on my backpack and walking one block, then two, and then miles through the city of Richmond, Virginia. I was able to discover things that I never would have been able to see if I had continued to get upset and annoyed. The more I stayed outside of my tiny apartment, the more opportunities I had to meet people and discover new places.
I explored abandoned warehouses along the river that were covered in wonderful graffiti, local caverns, new and old buildings with unique architecture, and attended local student art shows where I met people who invited me to cool themed restaurants, including a local vampire bar.
I was also invited to conventions which were a short bus trip away. I began attending quirky and artsy events everywhere in my local city where the experiences were rich in content but free in terms of price.
To prove that I had finally taken my mother’s words to “Just get up and go” I began sending her pictures of all my new discoveries, and conventions, most of which were also new to her.
Now every week she asks me if I’ve found any place new and exciting for her to explore. Of course Richmond, Virginia is not Brazil or China, but it’s a start!