Hi, my name is Maria and I’m a 30-ish American with an insatiable love for travel. I was born and raised in Virginia Beach, VA and my dad was an aviator in the U.S. Navy. I remember, from an early age, him coming home after months away and talking about all the amazing places he had been. Although I wasn’t much of an international kid growing up, even our stateside family road trips were exciting for me. Not just the thought of ending up in a new location, but the idea of the transportation itself. My dad is always one to add time to a trip so we can ride a ferry instead of sitting on a highway, go over the new bridge that just opened, or for simply taking the scenic route. Although when you are 14 years old, late for dance class and he must take the scenic route out of the neighborhood that is a little bit far, but I love the man who I’ll credit with my love for all things transportation and travel.
As a young child I always dreamed about following in my father’s footsteps and being a naval aviator, not only for the thrill of flying but as a way to get paid to see the world just like my Dad. My dreams were cut short (literally) when my height stalled at 4’11” in about 7th grade and I realized pretty quick that my dreams weren’t going to become reality. I never really knew what I wanted to do after that, in fact I’m still not 100% sure I know what I want to be when I grow up, all I know is that where I live or whatever job I’m working it has to allow me to travel and see the world.
In 2010 I got the opportunity to travel to South Korea for 10 weeks for a business trip. I was terrified. I’d been to Canada, Mexico, and Spain, but always with friends & family. Flying to South Korea, a completely unknown country and by myself seemed daunting to say the least. The nerves and excitement of the unknown created a feeling that I had never felt, and about 30 minutes after landing in Incheon and getting my bearings I realized it was all going to be ok. By day two of my 10 week stint I was already volunteering to the local project manager to move there permanently as soon as a position was available. Not only did Korea grab me by the heart and never let go, but I saw the endless possibilities for living outside of my comfort zone, trying new foods, trying really hard to get by in a foreign language and soaking in this great culture that mesmerized me from day one. I was sad to leave at the end of my trip, but vowed to get back there. Another eight week business trip to South Korea in 2011 solidified my ideas that I was bound to live there one day and in September 2012 my patience and hard work paid off and I got the call to relocate to South Korea.
Not only is living abroad an amazing opportunity, but being in a hub location on a whole different side of the world opens up so many possibilities. I was living in Seattle, WA for four years prior to my move to the far East. During that time a weekend away meant flying to San Francisco. Now all of a sudden a weekend trip could take me to Hong Kong, Thailand, or Japan. The first month I lived in Korea I had a long weekend from work and at the last minute decided to book a trip to Phuket, Thailand. I had flown many times alone, but always meeting people at the destination. I had never gone somewhere completely alone. That short weekend in Thailand changed me, the way that going to Korea in 2010 had. Traveling had always been a passion, but now I knew I could do it at a moments notice, alone, and on a tight budget and still have an amazing time and experience.
Whether it’s business travel, a quick weekend away, or a long sabbatical…travel is for the masses, and there is nothing that money can buy that can match the experiences you can have with nothing more than a passport and a little planning. I hope my passion for travel inspires you and others to do the same. Get that passport, and go beyond the stamps to really experience the world!