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My Very First International Trip

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on May 22, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the power of a passport. And after our latest conference in Portugal, the topic of second residencies and citizenships came up over and over and over again. With the recent emphasis on “securing our borders” and foreign immigration, this topic has emerged into more of a mainstream conversation that everyday folks are engaging in, not just the ultra-wealthy.  

At the conference, many people showed interest for two primary reasons. One of the most popular reasons, which probably comes to your mind first, is the comfort of having options and flexibility. Flexibility to spend time wherever in the world you want to be, and having options in case you decided to get out of dodge tomorrow.

My Very First International TripMaybe Paris is your next stop?

But that’s not what this article is about. It’s more-so focused on the second reason. And the second reason, in addition to giving yourself options, is that having a passport can literally open the (plane) door to a whole new world. You are introduced to many new facets of life from culture and cuisine to customs and norms. It’s an exhilarating opportunity to grow and hopefully adopt new outlooks on life. Some people grow up traveling the world, and others are trying to figure out how to navigate through a passport application at the age of 65. Either way, once you get started, it’s an addicting and fulfilling lifestyle. Have you started yet? Or are you still trying to determine where to head to next?

When I took my first international trip, I didn’t have a passport – and security still let me on the plane. It’s not because I was a superb negotiator. Or because I had special diplomatic status. I was 6-years-old and I had determined parents. And the reality was that in the 90s, flying was a completely different experience than it is today.

The year was 1997. Shiny tracksuits and platform flip-flops were the fashion trends, Backstreet Boys were taking over the radio, and Titanic just made its notorious debut in the movie theaters. It was also the year my dad was asked to go on an international business trip to Bermuda.

Before my siblings and I realized what was going on, we were dressed head-to-toe in colorful, tropical clothes and our parents were packing us in the crowded station wagon, surrounded by a few big suitcases.

We arrived at JFK international airport for check-in and my parents handed over their passports.  What they didn’t realize was that their 5, 6, and 8-year-old children were also required to have their own navy blue ticket for international travel. But, nonetheless, after a productive conversation with the check-in clerk and lots of pointing at us, the Jensen family was successfully passing through security and boarding a plane to the sandy beaches of Bermuda.

It was a memorable vacation, even at only 6-years-old. The tidbits you remember from your youth are interesting, aren’t they? Some of the most monumental moments slip your mind, while the most minute details linger.

When I think back on Bermuda, I recall that my sister would only eat bologna sandwiches for lunch and would cry if the restaurants didn’t have her sandwich of choice (she is now a vegan).  

My Very First International TripMel found vegan Pad Thai in Thailand.

My brother would not stop doing cannonballs in the beachside pool (he still does).  

And with the help of my mom, I purchased my very own snorkel set (which she recently updated for me this past holiday season – albeit, a few years overdue).  

While my dad was working, the family was having fun. We splashed around the azure waters at the white-sand beaches, swam with the dolphins, and I practiced my snorkeling while wearing Disney-themed arm floaties in the kiddie pool.   

Without even realizing it, the bug entered me while I was in Bermuda. The travel bug that is.  Thereafter, I couldn’t resist the urge to learn about new places. I’d pull encyclopedias down from the shelf and flip through the pages until I landed on a page displaying a new country. I memorized the country flags for fun. In 5th grade, my brother even brought me home a free book from his school library about Russia. To this day, I remember eyeing St. Basil’s Cathedral on the cover and wondering when we were going to visit.

My Very First International TripNot quite St. Basil’s, but a quick shot of the Church of the Savior on Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.

My parents didn’t quite feel the same. Honestly, that trip to Bermuda must’ve worn them out, because we didn’t go on another international family vacation again for a long, long time… and that time, to Mexico, was without my brother. In fact, shortly after Bermuda, my brother refused to leave the USA – claiming he had everything he needed in the States. And at that point, I realized that he and I were day-and-night.

Well, eventually, he came around… over a decade later and after many missed trips. My family decided to visit Seville, Spain, for Thanksgiving while I was there studying abroad.

My Very First International TripThanksgiving dinner at an Irish Pub in Spain.

One evening, after a few days of city exploration while my siblings and I were sitting around a high-table at a bar overlooking La Giralda in Seville, my brother looked at me square in the eyes and in a serious tone said, “Wow, I am so envious that THIS is your life.”  

My Very First International TripMy siblings and me in front of La Giralda in Seville, Spain.

I did a 360, smiled, and nodded. This was his first experience abroad as a young adult, and in his eyes, it was new and exciting. Yes, I agreed, life was pretty darn good.

My Very First International TripMy brother and his wife visiting Belize!

Fast-forward a good number of years and here I am, typing this article from San Pedro, Belize, an incredible paradise that I enjoy (and don’t have to be retired to live in!).

My Very First International TripOur “coastal highway” on the island.

As my bucket list continues to expand with cliché trips, from seeing the northern lights in Iceland to taking safari rides through Africa, I continue to realize the important value of a passport. Your navy-blue ticket grants you permission to discover new places, try authentic cuisine, and interact with others who are just as curious as you are.

My Very First International TripPassport trade-in!

With the uncertainty and nonsense we constantly read about in today’s headlines (SHUTTING DOWN THE Consumer Resource GuideBORDER, BUILDING A WALL, blah blah), having a “Plan B” really just makes sense. Your “why” motivations may be different than mine, but I think we all agree it is prudent to give ourselves options. Even if that reason is just to travel the world. Or perhaps to live abroad. Or perhaps to own real estate in a foreign country. Whatever your reasons are, be adventurous and have fun.

This article was published in the Escape Artist Weekly Newsletter on May 22, 2018. If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, please click here.

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