My Not-So-Secret Obsession

Most people think I’m obsessed. I beg to differ. Just because I can’t stop talking and thinking about it doesn’t define obsession.

“Obsession: an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.”  – Dictionary.com

Okay… Sure that might be the definition but it’s more than obsession. It’s an uncontrollable love and desire. I spend my days dreaming about the moment I will feel that high again. I’m restless, itching for a taste of freedom and pure bliss. The daily anxiety that consumes me suddenly disappears. It is my release that transports me to my utopia. It is my muse, my drive, my true love in life. I don’t know when I can do it again or where my future lies but all I know is that I need it soon…

Hello, my name is Ashley and I have an obsession passion for traveling.

Ever since I can remember, my dream has been to travel the world. As I’ve grown into my adult years I have realized, it’s not as simple as it may have seemed to seven year old me. My young, naive self did not factor in the large sums of money it would cost to live out these dreams. As a lower middle class young woman, I struggle to escape these endless bills that continuously appear in my mailbox. Even though I am working a full time job, it seems near impossible to save for any grand adventure. However, I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. The end of next year my car will be paid off and will give me the opportunity to embrace my passion once again.

Sometimes I wonder why I couldn’t have chosen a cheaper hobby like knitting, collecting coins or even collecting those creepy porcelain dolls…Alright, I retract that last one. I want a hobby, not nightmares. As I thought deeper into it, I remembered the initial flame that ignited my passion and realized it couldn’t be anything but travel. I couldn’t help but smile and mentally relive that initial feeling.

It started when my dad had orders to PCS (Military acronym for Permanent Change of Station) to Korea when I was about six years old. When my dad came back roughly one year later, he brought me a gift from the Korean Markets. It was a musical jewelry box made from cherry wood with decorative, white, shiny cranes on top. At the time, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. He told me the cranes were made from pearls which only made it that much more special. His second gift was a sandalwood folding fan. The hand painted bright pink cherry blossoms danced across the folds of the fan. I felt beautiful and elegant using that fan.

Over the years my dad continued to bring me gifts from the countries he visited. I received a leather, handmade journal from Hungary, a set of nesting dolls from Germany, and as I became of legal age, shot glasses from Paris and Bangkok. On one of his deployments, he even brought back currency from Afghanistan. Ever since that first jewelry box, I’ve wanted nothing more than to visit these places where all of my beautiful trinkets originated.

Deciding where to go first was going to be difficult. Granted, I had a few years to plan before I would be old enough to go anywhere. I continuously changed my mind of my where my adventure would transpire. England sounded great! There’s Big Ben, parliament, Buckingham Palace with The Queen’s guards outside. Plus, they speak my language so I would be able to communicate with them much easier. It was decided. That is where I’ll go first, England! London, England to be exact. This time I was 100% sure this is where I wanted to go first. Or so I thought.

When I reached seventh grade, Spanish was an option for an elective at my school. I thought it could be beneficial to learn a second language since I want to travel around the world. It also doubled as a bonus since I live in Arizona where it seems like half of the population speaks Spanish. I chose to sign up and continued taking Spanish throughout middle school, all four years of high school and a year in college. As I learned the language, I was also given insight to their culture.

My end of the year Spanish final included picking a country, researching their traditions and write about it in Spanish. Bonus points were given if you made and brought a popular pastry found in that country. Not only was all the food delicious but each country had slight variations within their culture and it was absolutely intriguing. I was fascinated that there are other people walking this earth in a completely different light. I realized that there are thousands of ways to live. Just because it is not your way, doesn’t mean it’s the wrong way. It is just different. I realized that travel isn’t just about seeing pretty scenery, historic buildings or getting the perfect photo. It’s about experiencing and embracing the culture. Learning about the history of the people in the pretty buildingThis peaked my curiosity so I dug deeper. I started watching telenovelas, listening to popular Latino music and eventually singing along.

‘No, Ashley! You can’t change the plan now. It has to be London. You decided London first THEN you will branch out.’ I seemed to be talking myself out of putting London on the back burner to make way for my new pasión; Latin culture. My brain wanted to stay loyal to my London plan, while my heart pulled for Spain, Brazil, Puerto Rico, anywhere that spoke that beautiful tongue. How could I ever plan a trip if countries and destinations are endlessly swirling around in my head? In a world full of options, I would have to make the impossible decision. I was wishing for some type of sign that would help me decide what I should do. I was about to find out the answer to my wish was only a phone call away.

During my junior year in high school, my dad was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany. I got a phone call from him inviting me to spend Christmas break with him in Germany. After years of anticipation and many debates between my heart and brain, I came to the conclusion, it doesn’t matter where I go, just GO! Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

Though I never had much interest in visiting Germany, I would later discover it to be my favorite country thus far. I decided to engulf myself in the culture as much as I could. Not knowing the native dialect, I did some research and purchased a small translation book which listed commonly used phrases and words. I practiced the most important phrase I could think of, “Ich komme aus Amerika. Sprechen sie Englisch?” which translates to, “I am from America. Do you speak English?” I’m not quite sure how many times I must have practiced it alone in my room. It is the only full phrase I can still remember. And remember I did when the time came to use it. That is a story for another day.

I was so intrigued by the minor differences in culture and wanted to learn more. I asked my dad what should I expect? What are some differences that might surprise me? As a person who likes planning and knowing what to anticipate, his response would frustrate me to no end. He responded with, “Adventure awaits around every corner. So instead of me telling you what it’s like, come here and experience it yourself.” I didn’t know it then but that was the best advice anyone has ever given me.

Until next time, get out there and experience your own adventures!

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