I remember my first international trip as a child. It was a hot, sweltering summer day in New York, and my father was driving us to the airport. We were flying to Morocco and I was so excited.
It was my first time visiting my parents’ home country and I couldn’t contain my joy. I loved being on the plane, squealing with delight the entire time during take-off while other children cried. I was born to be a traveler.
At 17, I left my family for another country that I had never been to before. I wasn’t scared or shy. I was dying to explore the world on my own.
At 22, I left again for another destination. I had fun, I made mistakes, I grew more in those 6 months than I had since I was a teenager.
At 25, I wonder where I will go next. I sit in quarantine and dream of the adventures that lie ahead.
I am who I am because I have traveled. My family isn’t defined by blood but by the sharing of food and laughter.
High up on a mountain in the north of Greece, in the most unlikely place, I got to speak my native Moroccan dialect with a young man who had weathered terrible struggles to reach Europe.
All it took me was my passport, a couple hundred euros, and a plane ride, but this man had been on a boat that has capsized and long treks through treacherous terrain. I saw my privilege as a dual citizen and my heart wept not only for him but for all my fellow Moroccans who yearn to flee their country.
In Athens, I have been given safety and shelter as well as unimaginable amounts of love that I am unworthy of, but embrace graciously.
In Oslo, I touched snow after years of living in the desert. I could feel the cold winter in my bones but I refused to go back inside so soon. I had to finish building my snowman.
In Rome, I laid on the hardwood floor of Palazzo Barberini and gazed at the intricate ceiling above me. I still remember the deep smell of the wood and the warmth of the golden sunlight streaming through the huge windows.
In Brazil, I marveled at the crashing waterfall ahead of me and laughed as I took unforgettable pictures with someone who was then a friend. I think of her sometimes as I dig through my hard drive to find those pictures and re-live those times as a clueless 18-year-old.
Who I am today has been gradually pieced together by these experiences as well as thousands more, and I owe so much of my life and lessons learned to travel.
Traveling forces you out of your bubble. It pushes and challenges you to do things you never thought you could.
In Istanbul, I was suddenly homeless one evening and if it weren’t for my colleagues I wouldn’t have had a place to sleep that night. It was a terrifying experience at the time to suddenly lose the reliable shelter you thought you had secured, but I learned the importance of building friendships and asking for help when you need it.
I had always classified myself as an introvert and someone who loves to be alone, but in Amsterdam, I actually felt lonely. I went to a museum on my own for the first time and, while I enjoyed it, wished I had a friend to see all the beautiful art with me.
I have taken many memories, pictures, and lessons back with me from my travels, but I have also left a piece of my heart in every city, town, and village. I’m always confused when someone asks me where I’m from because I am from everywhere I have been.
The beauty of traveling while young, before you’ve made up your mind about things, is that it can open you up to new ways of thinking. You have to leave the familiar to cultivate fresh thoughts and perspectives.
I hope that when all this is over you get to travel far and wide, for it is truly the best way to learn, not only about the world, but about yourself.