When I was younger, I had a dream of visiting 30 countries by 30 years old. To be honest, over the years, I completely forgot about said goal until yesterday when I landed in Mexico City. At the age of 14, this airport was my first ever experience outside of the US, and I was reminded of my initial 30 x 30 challenge. As I started to count the countries (which I had never done before), I was in complete awe. I am about to hit 30 x 30 exactly. My 30th year is coming to a close soon and today, I woke up in Nicaragua, my 30th country (and last country before I turn 31). I never made any set plans to hit 30 countries, but sometimes when you passionately put your hopes and dreams out into the universe, life has a way of bringing them back to you.
Traveling, for me, isn't about checking things off a list or hitting a quota. It's about experiences that move me, people that inspire me, cultures that captivate me, and moments that leave me humbled and breathless. I've worked extremely hard, pulled many all nighters, saved every penny, sacrificed a lot, and never lost sight of what I valued for my own life. It took many years, lots of flights, subways, trains, buses, and countless sleepless nights in airports. I've worked and lived in slums from Africa to Chile, hiked Machu Pichu, survived India’s trains, taken in the Himalayas, cried over the beauty of my first glacier, salsa danced in Argentina, walked through Japan’s bamboo forest, ridden camels in the Sahara, and countless other moments for which I wake up every day so grateful.
Today, I give immense thanks for every moment and with a deep sense of gratitude I pass on my story in hopes of inspiring others to pursue their own dreams and never give up. We live in a beautiful world filled with amazing people. Go out, see the world, experience humanity, develop a deep sense of empathy, and do good wherever you go. And may the most defining stories of your life exist between the pages of your passport.