Ugh, I thought to myself as I stepped off the airplane on an afternoon in May, I definitely didn't miss this.
I typically react the same way when I travel back to the hot, steamy Houston weather from the moderate Virginia climate of my parents' homes. However, this time, my heart was jittery with excitement. In a few days, I would leave to travel the world, starting with Guatemala, and then eventually crossing the Pacific to the Philippines, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
A swirling mix of emotions filled my head in the days leading up to my first departure. How would I react to the different cultures? What would I see? What if something happens to me? Although I had traveled numerous times before, I had never imagined what it would be like to stay, long-term, in a developing country much different than my own. At just 19 years old, I didn't know what to expect. I did know, however, that the only way to truly experience the world is to take responsible risks. I kept this in mind as I boarded my plane to Guatemala City just a few days later.
I didn't want my nerves to distract me from my experiences abroad, so on a whim, I bought myself a journal and challenged myself to write, every day, for the next 100 days. In school, I'd learned to write literature reviews, argumentative essays and evaluative papers -- but never really learned how to use writing to document my life for long periods of time. So, starting on the day I left for Guatemala, I picked up my pen and began to write.
I am now on day 39 of my 100-day project, and my entries have covered everything from the cool mountain air of Guatemala to the sticky, sweaty weather of Houston to the sunny beaches of California and, currently, the busy streets of my grandmother's town house in the Philippines. More importantly, however, writing every day has enabled me to capture moments during my travels that I hope to remember for years to come -- little happenings that make a world of difference.
Of course, it hasn't been easy. There have been days when I felt too tired or I was too busy or I had better things to do. But taking 10 minutes to jot down a few quick notes helps me reflect on the day's events and remember certain things I may have otherwise forgotten. And unlike souvenirs, which can be bought or sold or lost, my memories are mine to keep. These daily entries have proven, so far, to be the most rewarding and unique souvenirs.
I still have 61 days to go until I am finished with my personal challenge, but I hope to continue even once school starts. Traveling inspires me more than anything else, and I hope to always use writing to document all of the places I go, the things I see and the people I meet.
On my trip to Malaysia, one of my companions told me that she really admired how I still write my thoughts in a journal rather than typing them onto a computer. I smiled to myself, knowing that no matter where I go, from beautiful Malaysia to rainy London to scorching Houston, my little black journal will always accompany me.