Exploring Beyond Home: A 16-Year-Old's Travel Story
Updated: Feb 9
Let's start off by saying, this has been a very long time dream of mine. Trying to figure out the "when" of starting travel as a job has been on the back of my mind for years. Although now I am diving in head first, my love affair with travel started many many moons ago. So to start off this blog correctly, what could be more fun than embarrassing myself with pictures of my adolescence?!
I grew up in old Florida where palmettos grow and creeks dart through cow pastures and forests. Most people think of tourists with sunburns and Miami Beach when they think of Florida, but for me, it is the sound of a distance whippoorwill or going to pick fresh oranges off the tree for breakfast. Growing up in the "sticks" as we use to say in school had so many advantages that just now as an adult I am truly learning to appreciate. You connect with nature at such a young age. You grow closer to your family (mostly because we had little to no neighbors for miles..) but having that bond with my siblings and parents is something that I cherish so much. Living in small town U.S.A. does have some disadvantages though and for most of my younger years, I never really thought there would be a chance of roaming the rest of the world. That was until my junior year of high school. I was accepted into the House Page Program working in the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. I still remember getting the application and begging my parents to sign the permission slip allowing me to go live and work in D.C. for the next six months. What a life changing experience it was!
Here comes the first (of I'm sure many) embarrassing photos of me. Young Hannah at 16, with the shortest hair style I have ever rocked and probably in trouble for not having my tie on... I was so naïve to the world and looking back on this photo brings back so much joy and happiness for that young girl who was just starting out on the epic adventure of life. Living in D.C. was such a pivotal time for me because one, it was the first time I traveled outside of my hometown A L O N E!! It also introduced me to young people from all over the country (shout out to my short hall girls!!) and really widen my eyes to all of the potential that was out there waiting for me. We were in D.C. from January to June. It was my first experience with winter, which needless to say as a native Floridian, was not all rainbows and butterflies! But I lucked out being there in the spring because I think it is the most beautiful time to visit D.C. and that is for one main reason, cherry blossoms!
Spring in D.C. is filled with the beautiful cherry blossom blooms, tulips, and flowers on every street corner. The weather is perfect, beautiful blue skies and mild temperatures which make walking around to all of the amazing monuments and museums pleasant. Being 16 at the time, the cash flow was pretty limited so the ability to see so many historical sites (where entry is mostly free!) made for such a rich cultural experience. And we can't forget what really made me fall in love with D.C., the food! I had never seen so many different kind of cuisines in my life! In D.C. you will find world renowned restaurants from all over the world!
Since we were there as part of an organized program, they facilitated trips for us to take regularly which only aided in my curiosity of seeing the world. One weekend, we took a trip to Baltimore, Maryland and got to sail across Chesapeake Bay. That was such a magical experience because being on a boat brought back such a reminder of home. I also thought I wanted to become a sailor for weeks after that!
One weekend, we went on a hike through Shenandoah National Park. The mountain air was so crisp and was a great contrast to the daily city life I was becoming accustomed to. The park entrance is in Harrisburg, Virginia and honestly all I can remember about it was the country buffet we went to after our hike where the was more fried food than I had ever seen in my life!
On another weekend, we set off for New York City (also a first for me). Boy, what an experience! I could probably write an entire blog post about New York City (and maybe one day I will!) It was, without a doubt, one of the biggest culture shocks I have experienced in my life. All of the buildings are taller than your eyes can see and there are people EVERYWHERE! There are smells and sounds constantly attacking you in the best way. We got lost in a street fair, picnicked in Central Park and even went to see a show on Broadway! It was the perfect introduction to a city that I will always enjoy going back to.
The most important thing about my time in D.C. wasn't necessarily the ability to work in government, but more the opportunity to open my eyes to what was waiting out there for me. Meeting so many amazing people and learning about their backgrounds and aspirations always motivated me more than they will ever know. They truly are such a special group of people that I hope to always remain close with.
D.C. was just the beginning for me. From that point on, I knew there was no distance, no boundaries that would limit where I would go. I am so glad you are following along with me on this amazing journey!