Essay by Arlinda C.

A travel experience that I hold close to my heart is when I was a child and my family and I went to my mother’s home country of Antigua.  I experienced so many new things there that it has a special place in my heart. It was not my first time traveling but it is the first experience that I can vividly remember. Having been born and raised in New York, the first thing I noticed looking through the airplane window, was how short and spaced out the buildings were. Everything seemed so flat in comparison to what I was used to in the city. The next thing I remember is how fresh the air smelled. It was clean and crisp with no lingering smell of exhaust. To me, it was like we were completely teleported to a whole new world.

We stayed with some of my aunts, uncles and their children in one big house. Pulling up to the house in my uncle’s car, I distinctly remember all the chickens that lived underneath it and the huge rooster that seemed to guard them all. I desperately wanted to pet one but my mother cautioned me against it. I had so many wonderful experiences there that I never would have experienced if we didn’t travel. I got to see people literally catch the food that they ate, and people trade for things that they needed in a close knit community. I also had the chance to experience carnival season and I got to see some of the many parades that take place at that time. My favorite parade was the children’s parade. I loved their costumes and the wings that the children got to wear. It’s like the whole island changes during this time. There is live music and celebration everywhere.

Since we were traveling abroad my mother made double sure that we were prepared in case of anything and that everything was in order. What she did everyone should do as they prepare to travel, especially if they are planning to go somewhere away from their home country. Apply or renew your passport at least 2 months before your trip to make sure you will have ample time to receive it. Know where your country’s embassy is located  and have their number with you in case of an emergency. Now this tip my family learned the hard way, make sure you notify your bank and credit card Company of your travel, or they may cut off your card right when you need it. Plus at the start of your trip, the last thing you want to do is have to sit on the phone with your bank.

It is also a good idea to bring some money in that country’s currency with you if possible. Sometimes banks can be far away from where you are staying. If you or someone with you needs to take medication for any reason, make sure that you bring more than enough for your trip with you. Bring the prescription with you too if you can, you never know what could happen. It is also important that you have emergency contacts handy and that other people like friends of family know you are going on a trip. This next tip may not seem as important as the rest, but when you’re planning to travel, especially overseas, you need to think about how you plan to get around that country. If you are going to a place like Antigua that has lots of mountain roads with no guard rails or road markings, it would be much safer for you to take a taxi driven by a native of the island than rent a car and drive yourself.

These tips may seem like a lot of work but they can be easily done with a little effort and what you gain from traveling is well worth it. My experience of traveling to my mother’s home country let me experience first-hand some of the stories she use to tell me about what it was like for her growing up back home. How my grandfather would go out in the morning and collect eggs for breakfast, or go out and catch a bunch of lobsters or crab for dinner. How they didn’t have much but they always had what they needed through their community or their own ingenuity. It allowed me to expand my point of view by experiencing a different culture and way of life. I became a more open person because of it. I encourage others to travel and see the world for themselves whether within their home country or outside it. I believe that through travel we can gain a better understanding of other cultures. It also gives you the chance to make new friends who may be a little different from you and give you a new story to tell.

By Arlinda C.