Five years ago this week, a very stressed out freshman college student received her passport in the mail. She had only a few days before she left for five weeks in Perugia, Italy as part of a summer study abroad program. The process for obtaining a passport was snarled beyond belief in the summer of 2007; the US government had only recently deemed it necessary to have one to travel to Mexico and Canada that year. The waiting time had ballooned from the usual 4-6 weeks to an ungodly 10-12 weeks, and after much lost sleep the passport arrived barely in time to get on the first plane she ever took alone.
That stressed out college student was me. I was such a newbie traveller that even a 20 minutes ride to the next town over was terrifying. I was so stressed by airport security that I left my favourite belt of all time in the bin. I felt nauseous for a few days after arriving in Perugia, jetlag or anxiety working foul magic on my tummy. Who would have ever thought that I would become a seasoned traveller? I’m not certain that I did. My pristine passport seemed to suggest no.
I’ve only been a traveller for five years. Even though my family and I travelled a lot within the US and once outside it when I was a child, as an adult travel has become my lifestyle, my goal, my history, and my future. I spend a great deal of time on the road every year. I found new homes across the globe. I made and spent a large amount of money (though I’m breaking even at this point). Almost one year ago, I met an amazing man with whom to share this transitional, transnational life. My passport is now thoroughly disgusting yet an interesting read, after years of being carried in a money belt.
I began humbly, but has expanded into awesome feats of travel. Perhaps the biggest will come tomorrow, when our own version of Around the World in 80 Days will conclude with a flight home to Denver. If you want to find out why this is so special, I’m afraid you’ll have to read the rest of this post first. Here they are, in no order of magnitude.
Coleen’s Amazing Feats of Travel!
Swimming in the geysers at El Tatito in the Atacama
One of the highest geyser fields in the world, El Tatito is a bitch to get to but totally worth it. We got up at 3AM in SanPedro de Atacama and drove for two hours to arrive at the field before sunrise. The air temperature was around -17 C (1 F). The geysers themselves are beautiful, but most are too hot to take a dip. Toward the end of the trip we were able to swim in a naturally heated pool that lies at 4200 meter s(13,780 feet) above sea level, making it possibly the highest hot spring pool in the world.
Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia
When I lived in Chilean Patagonia for several months, my friends and I spent Easter weekend in Tierra del Fuego. It was an 18 hour bus trip for me from Putero Natales to the Southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia. At 54°48′S 68°18′W, the city of around 60,000 is a beautiful and remarkably comfortable place given its remoteness. I would have loved to stay longer.
A 14er in Colorado
Within a week of returning from South America, I decided to walk up a 14,000 ft. mountain. Alone. This was perhaps not one of my smartest moments in travel, but it turned out to be a great experience due to the many other hikers on the trail at Mt. Bierstadt. It was a late-season climb, with freezing temperatures at the summit and patchy clouds blowing through constantly. This summer, I can’t wait to try another!
Five continents in four years
North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and (technically) Antarctica. Since 2009, I’ve lived for at least six months on four different continents. Thanks to my visit to Ushuaia, I’ve also technically-but-maybe-not-but-maybe set foot on Antarctica. I’m calling it close enough, since I will probably never have the ovaries or the cash to cross the Drake Passage. I’m well on my way to my soft goal of living on each continent before I turn 30.
Eight Trains in 12 hours
One of my first true travel adventures was a ten day trip in the spring of 2009 around Italy, France, and Switzerland. I went alone for half the trip, and managed to get from Napoli to Geneva by train. Despite swine flu’s outbreak being declared a pandemic while I was right next to the WHO’s headquarters and talks of closing borders, I managed to make it from Lauterbrunnen to Ferrara in a single go. It took eight trains and twelve hours, and at the end of it my phone had died and I had no cash. I got to walk home across town at about 11 o’ clock at night, feeling like a hardcore traveller for the first time.
Circumnavigation of the Globe
Roughly 14,204.9 miles. Six countries. 170 days. The map above shows the route that my boyfriend and I took to go all the way around the world, for the very first time. This is a big one. I feel like we are in a different league of traveller now, or rather that we will be once our flight to Denver gets in. Considering where I began five years ago, circumnavigating the globe feels like a major life achievement.
Now begins the next five years of travel on this passport. May they be as exciting and wonderful as the first five.