When I was in seventh grade, my parents pulled me and my brother from school for three months to travel through Spain, France, Ireland, Wales and England. We started with a car and a 10-day-long apartment rental in Spain, but from there we allowed our interests to shape our agenda. Memories from that trip include my mom cutting our hair in the Versailles gardens; sleeping in our Renault sedan on nights when we could find no affordable beds; going to school with my French pen pal in a quaint village near Cognac; walking across Paris in the middle of the night after the city had organized a fabulous 100th anniversary Eiffel Tour celebration which ended at 2:00 a.m., but not thought to keep the Metro open after midnight; and playing badminton on my thirteenth birthday in Bath, England. (The photo above is of me and my brother cooling off with our dad in the Louvre reflecting pools.)

That trip instilled in me a love of adventure, a keen interest in learning other languages, and the notion that travel not only can be done affordably, but it’s often more rewarding that way. Having been infected with the travel bug, during one college summer I worked in Northern Ireland with kids affected by “the Troubles,” and then studied in Paris during my junior year. After college, I taught English and journalism in Tanzania (East Africa) for two years, and shortly after that, my husband Tim and I went off to teach in India for two years, eventually returning to India for another two years right after the birth of our eldest son.

One of the delights of our years abroad was bridging my experiences in Tanzania with our home in India by inviting our teenage Tanzanian friend, Modesta, to join us as a student at the Indian international school where we were teaching. Given that Modesta had never left the southern shore of Lake Victoria, let alone flown in an airplane, her decision to join us on another continent was extremely courageous. Tim and I flew to East Africa to accompany Modesta on her first international flight. We knew she had a steep learning curve ahead of her, but we hoped to teach her the ropes of navigating airports and customs during this first journey.

The Christian Science Monitor recently published my essay about that first flight together out of East Africa, a moment when we were on the brink of a major life change but really had no clue what we were getting into. The full essay can be found here.

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I’d love to hear about how you were first infected with the travel (or life abroad) bug, and welcome comments below. Thanks for reading!