If you've ever travelled before, you'll understand the impact that first trip has on your life. That sudden sense of freedom, but also that terrifying feeling of doing something completely unknown. Sweaty palms, self-doubt, tears - you'll experience it all, but in return you'll be gifted with confidence, friendships, and happiness.
But of course we’re bound to say that, right? I mean, travel is what we do, it’s who we are.
So to show you the power of travel, we teamed up with a shit hot director by the name of Tom Gould, to create a film around one travellers experience of leaving home for the very first time, to fly almost 7000kms across the ocean, to Croatia. That traveller was Jose Baez, and this is what he had to say about his first ever trip to Europe…
Has travel always been a dream of yours?
Traveling has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. Growing up I was always enamoured with living a life of adventure and traveling – a desire that was grown from watching movies set in places I could only imagine going to. But, now I know, (especially because of this trip) that I want to travel the world and do something with that information, not only for me but for someone else too.
What has stopped you from traveling up to this point?
There have been a lot of reasons, but the strongest reason is because most of my family are migrants from Dominican Republic (including myself) so most of my life, my family had to strive to find financial stability. I think this was my parents main focus – to provide and kind of survive. But now being a young adult, all I aspire to do is travel.
What has life been like growing up in New York City?
Growing up in NY is absolutely awesome and I wouldn’t trade for the world. Living in NYC has developed a lot of the core aspects of who I am. There is something about New Yorkers that is very different. The urban culture of NY influences my attitude.
You can see NY in my style of dress and in the way I dance, to the way I talk to people, see people, and love people. I love more openly and am very accepting and encouraging to all my friends who are from all walks of life.
Just in this one city I have met so many people from different religions, races, ethnicities, creeds, and background’s that I can’t even begin to count. I know in some way that these people are a part of my journey and I know that this can ONLY happen in a place like NY.
What role does dance play in your life?
Dance means salvation and passion for me. Dance plays an active role in my life and I feel like it keeps me alive. Through the pains and joys of my life, dance has always been a constant.
Growing up I was bullied a lot because of it, but I still did it and stuck with it.
As I am now transitioning into my professional career I’ve realized how much of a catalyst dance has been for me. It has made me truly see what it means to plant a seed, water it, and watch it grow. It has taught me unconditional love I am still growing and maturing, in hopes of flourishing. I have a long way to go. But I love where I’ve been and I’m ecstatic about where I’m going.
How did it feel when you found out you were going on this trip with Contiki? Were you nervous, excited?
When I first found out that I got this opportunity I was kind of numb. I literally couldn’t believe it, as I was on the phone with one of my best friends, Careese. It was still kind of unrealistic for me up until I was in the airport checking in. I think that’s when I was utterly in shock that I was going to Europe.
RELATED: IN CONVERSATION WITH TOM GOULD
What did you learn from the people of the places you visited?
What I’ve realized about the people in these different places is that when people (including myself) continuously idolize these different countries, you forget that these are actual homes of people. That these countries with actual cities and towns, consist of everyday people like us. So, when speaking to vendors and elderly ladies on the street I was so intrigued by how they felt about living in these extremely tourist led places and their experiences.
How did this trip push you mentally?
I think part of the reason this trip is so remarkable for me was because of how much I’ve grown since the trip. I know at least once every day on the trip I thought about how small I was in comparison to the world.
Were you surprised by how easy it was to make friends with people?
I was never scared that I wouldn’t make any friends because I’ve always been outgoing and willing to meet new people. However, before the trip I had convictions about meeting people that were from completely different sides of the Earth.
Usually all my friends live in America and even within those groups I’m the different one. So, I was wondering where an Afro-Latino New Yorker like me would fit on this trip. But as it turned out, I fit really well!
How do you think this trip has changed you? What have you learnt about yourself?
There are immediate answers to how this trip has evolved me. I can say many things like, it’s made me more cultured, more aware and open, and has made see things in new perspectives. But, coming back to NY I felt so different. And I don’t know what that different actually means. So, in many ways, the way this trip has challenged me are kind of unknown. I like that I don’t necessarily know all the effects of this trip because I know like seeds these changes are growing inside me. Zora Neale Hurston once said, “there are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
But what I do know is that this trip has taught me that I have the power to do anything. It’s granted me a new found strength and belief in myself, and things I can do in my lifetime. I’ve learned that If I give to the universe, the universe will give back. I’ve learned that I am resilient, that I am a fighter, but I am also primarily a lover.
Why do you think it is so important to travel?
Traveling, especially to different countries, offers unparalleled experiences that can never be experienced at home.
These unique experiences enrich your soul with knowledge of humanity, and observing and sometimes even living other people’s realties that are “other” to your own, is transcendental.
It’s beyond human understanding. You’ll often discover many shared customs and experiences with people from different places that you thought were only close to you, but that right there is magic. It’s magic because it reveals to you that we are all interconnected as humans. It makes you more open, empathetic, compassionate, and observant of the world around you.