My Five Most Life Changing Trips

I have spent practically every break I’ve had since 2007 travelling. Winter breaks, spring breaks, Carnaval, long weekends, summers, etc. At this point, I’ve been on a LOT of trips, to say the least. In October I broke 30 countries with my week in Taiwan, which is pretty fucking awesome if I do say so myself! My next planned trips include Vietnam for winter break with some girlfriends, and a stop in Canada next summer for my friends’ wedding.

I thought it would be fun to take a moment and look back, not necessarily at the best trips I’ve done, or the most fun, but the trips that changed me in some way. All trips are an opportunity for growth but some experiences really shake you to your core and settle in your bones, changing you forever. As I was writing up a list of my most life-changing trips, I was trying to limit myself to three, but that didn't work out, so here they are. My five most life-changing trips EVER.

1. First Trip Abroad, Summer 2007
Partners in Crime: Marpessa and Chelsea

This was my first time leaving the United States. I can still remember the sense of excitement in my gut as the plane passed over international waters and eventually landed in Dusseldorf. So THIS is what it feels like to be in a foreign country! Everything was so exotic and magical. I learned a lot on this trip about friendship and socializing, which helped me enormously when I went to university that fall. This trip also confirmed that I needed to live abroad and explore as much of the globe as possible.

Three wild things tearing up Europe 
one beer and boy at a time

2. Backpacking the Balkans, Summer 2009
Partner in Crime: Chris

I grew so much as a traveler on this trip. With no set plans and few reservations booked in advance, this was the summer of going with the flow. I realized how important it was for me to have a partner who was travel compatible as well. The month we spent hopping around various Balkan countries and Greek islands was indescribably perfect. This was the most romantic trip I’ve ever done, and not just because I was young and in love, but everything seemed to fall perfectly into place: dance parties in Santorini hostels, getting invited into Serbian brandy bars after hours, and crashing with local Albanian families and Montenegrin grandmas.

River rafting in Bosnia

Somehow the best picture of us I have from that summer

3. Volunteering in Ecuador, Summer 2010
Partner in Crime: Marpessa and the UBECI crew

My spirit of service all started in the summer of 2010. I spent a month living with a local family and working with the child laborers in the markets of Quito. This was an eye opening experience into the world of poverty and NGOs, and drove me to spend the next summer in Guatemala volunteering for a similar program. I learned a lot about the value of sustainable and ethical non-profits, and was exposed to both the horrors and beauty of life in Latin America.

Marpessa at one of the market programs

Teaching English in Old Town, Quito

4. Birthright Trip to Israel, Summer 2012
Partners in Crime: 40 Jewish Strangers

This trip put me the farthest out of my comfort zone I’ve ever been, but also put me in touch with my heritage and guided me on my path to figuring out my adult identity. Our Birthright group consisted of 40 twenty-something American Jews, seven Israeli soldiers, two staff members (who are now engaged!) and a hot tempered but loveable tour guide. By the end of the trip, our roots ran deep, both with the land and each other. Before the trip I was terrified that I wouldn’t have anything in common with the people on my trip, but I learned quickly not to jump to conclusions and be more open-minded.

Riding camels in the Negev Desert


Our whole group breaking for a photo
during a hot-as-hell hike

5. Scuba Diving Trip in Thailand, October 2013
Partners in Crime: No One!

When I went to Koh Tao for my scuba certification, it was my first extended solo travel trip. I was scared shitless that I would be lonely or it would be dangerous, but in the end I had nothing to worry about. I made friends through my scuba trip, LOVED my little cabana with a beachfront patio, navigated traveling by myself, and felt pretty badass overall. The scuba diving was a ton of fun and I gained a lot of confidence during my week in Thailand.

I'm obviously comfortable in the water :)


My amazing scuba group

Other honorary mentions: My yoga retreat in the Philippines, backpacking Peru with my mom, the Holocaust research trip in Central Europe, an ayahuasca ceremony whilst hitchhiking down the Amazon River on cargo boats, the perfect spring break in Colombia, a summer in Antigua, traveling Ecuador with my brother, and so many more! For this post I limited myself to 5, but of course every trip abroad has a lasting impact in some way.

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