Recently I have had a lot of questions about how I make traveling so often possible. I'm in school full time, work, and have several other responsibilities, so more often than not, trying to schedule and budget in order to make a trip possible feels out of reach. Nonetheless, since high school, I've made traveling a priority and before I reveal my smart travel techniques, I would like to share how my love of traveling came to be.
I'm blessed to say, since I can remember, my parents also made traveling a priority. My parents orchestrated dozens of trips for my sisters and me. From cross country road trips, to mission trips, they believed it crucial to expand our horizons. These experiences opened my eyes to what I could potentially do and see in my future. My past travels taught me that opportunities can feel out of reach, but nothing is impossible. Traveling has become core to my sense of self. I’m almost positive it's sketched into my DNA. I crave adventure, and not the kind of adventure where you jump out of planes or bungee jump off a cliff. (Count me out.) I crave the kind of adventure where you let your guard down, and become open, even vulnerable, to the lessons that new places, cultures, and people can teach you. I can't put into words the way traveling to an unknown place makes me feel. It's not about the glitz and glamour that you see Instagram influencers and bloggers posting about. It's so much more than that. I'm not disregarding people in the media who travel glamorously; I’m a blogger too and I hope one day to be successful enough to do the same. However, when you're sitting on your phone, scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, it's important to realize that traveling has a much deeper meaning than posting chic and attractive pictures for ads. The only way I can put it is this: Once you see and experience new, unfamiliar part of the world for yourself, you then can realize it doesn't revolve around you. It's difficult to explain because I never thought the world revolved around me, although, after an eyeopening trip, I found myself wondering why we let ourselves get so distressed over the most minuscule obstacles and circumstances.
A few years ago my family and I went on a mission trip to Guatemala. There was one exchange that will be embedded in my memory forever. We had gone to a village in the mountains to install a stove at a single mothers home. It was an extremely modest dwelling. The floors were dirt, the walls were faded fabrics, and the ceiling was constructed out of mismatched wood planks. I was truly in disbelief. While the men installed the wood burning stove, I felt encouraged to sit with the children and attempt to put a smile on their faces. It was at this point, I had the opportunity to give one little girl in particular a baby doll, a coloring book, and crayons. Her face lit up like it was Christmas morning. And in that moment I knew that traveling around the world was more than what the media lets on. It's about people connecting with each other, despite deep, even difficult differences, and discovering our commonalties. I was able to give this beautiful little girl a little bit of joy, and she gave me joy in return. The language barrier didn't hinder the engagement, the social statuses felt unimportant, and our national and racial differences seemed far from everyone's mind. Even thought those things are "real", so too is human connection and human generosity. Because of moments like this, almost every day I find myself daydreaming about everything I've yet to experience, and feel an intense curiosity and hope about what lies in my future. And with this urge, I know one day I'll probably be living out of a suitcase, traveling from one country to another, hopefully while bringing joy to others in any way that I can.
Becoming acquainted with a Guatemalan family is not the only kind of travel experience that can remind one the world does not revolve around them. While I was on a flight from Stockholm, Sweden, to Chicago, I sat next to a beautiful woman who seemed to be in her 60's. She was quick to talk, and I was quick to embrace the conversation. I could tell she simply wanted someone to talk to, and to anyone who was willing to listen. I learned that her and her family are from the Middle East, and their experiences before coming to the United States was anything but easy. However, now she's living in Kansas City, and one of her sons is living in Stockholm, living out his dream of being a photographer. Again in this moment, I remembered why meeting new people is truly one of my favorite aspects of traveling. There are so many individuals in this world, and everyone has their own story to share, full of drama, comedy, sorrow, and joy, just like you. And if you're willing to listen, the possibilities to learn and understand are endless. Explore. Discover. Share. Share your experiences, your history, your LIFE with other people. There are individuals in this world ready to listen. Just because others may have it harder than you and I, doesn't mean our struggles are disregarded or belittled. Everyone has a story, and that's the beauty behind exploring and discovering. You can share, and others can too. These days, when it feels like there is so much division in the world, these seemingly small acts of listening, being open and curious, and also being willing to share your own story, can actually be life-altering.
Now, to the question dozens of people ask me. How do you travel so frequently? I would love to be able to say I have money to blow to travel glamorously. However more times than not, I'm sitting in the last row of the plane and staying with friends and family. I will include some tips at the bottom of this entry on how to travel on a budget as well! While I'm home in Lexington, I'm working. And almost every dollar I make goes towards plane tickets, train tickets, and hotel rooms. I'm not traveling first class, and I rarely stay in 5 star resorts and hotels. But the way you travel isn't what's important. It's the places you visit, the ones you travel with, the individuals you meet, the food you eat, and the cultures you immerse yourself in that create an experience that is invaluable.
I want to be candid with this post because traveling is so close to my heart. It may look like all fun and games, but it can be draining and actually frightening. Sleeping in airports, standing in line for what seems like hours, SPRINTING to make your flight while "Emma Smith, last chance to board to Copenhagen” is repeated over and over throughout the Chicago O'Hare Airport, losing luggage, your credit card getting declined while you're in a foreign country with absolutely none of their currency, getting questioned at customs, and lastly, spending hundreds of dollars on airport food in the last year because a bag of pretzels is $6.99. (HA). ALL of these things have happened to me. Yes, I might have been crying or blowing up my parents phones to calm me down, but every challenging experience I've dealt with while traveling has added a little bit of wisdom to this head of mine. I'm not complaining, believe me. I put myself in these situations because it's what I want. And I feel like every trial and tribulation is worth it. I’m in no way shape or form an expert on traveling. I haven’t been to even a fraction of the places that I want to go - after all, I’m only 21 years old. Nonetheless, I feel as if I have experienced enough in my 21 years to form my own opinions on the idea of traveling, and how it can be distorted in people’s minds. I’m thankful for my experiences and encounters. And I can’t wait to check everywhere off of my travel wish list. However, as of right now, my body needs a break. And that's why I'm staying put, right here in Lexington, until Spring Break. But as my incredibly smart and sarcastic mother said to me a few days ago.. "We'll see how that goes."
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." -Mark Twain
Tips for Traveling on a Budget:
I hope this post and these tips gave you great insight on how you can experience the world, and all it has to offer, on a budget. If you ever have any questions don't hesitate to ask! Happy traveling!
I'm Emma Kay
A girl from Kentucky with high hopes and big dreams. I love all things fashion, travel, and long sessions of retail therapy.