By Sara Gunn
My room is my travelogue. The photos on the walls are from exotic places: museums in Austria, beaches in the Netherlands, ancient ruins in Cambodia and baskets of hot chili peppers in Thailand.
The trinkets on the shelves include candles from Spain, a hat from Ireland, postcards from Italy and keepsakes from Guatemala.
I look at these treasures and think. At 15 I did not know a world outside of St. Louis. Then, my parents won a trip to Scotland and brought my twin sister and me along. We added trips to France and England. Exploring three countries as a teenager widened my perspectives on what the world had to offer. My love of international travel had begun.
As an undergrad at Webster University I was given the opportunity to live abroad. This time, it was a bigger risk. I had never lived outside of St. Louis or traveled on my own. It was not easy to leave home and live in Vienna for four months. However, I knew that by taking advantage of the study abroad opportunities offered by Webster, I would grow independently and learn about myself.
While studying in Austria, I lived in the moment and visited other countries on the weekends. My twin sister and I studied abroad in Thailand the following semester, and I learned to value experiences and people. I fell in love with culture and communication, even more so after completing summer internships in Ghana and Guatemala.
At 23 I moved to the Netherlands for graduate school and realized I had been to 18 countries. That was the moment I set my goal to see 25 countries before the end of my 25th year. November 4th is my 26th birthday and I am grateful to have seen 24 countries: Austria, Belgium, Cambodia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Laos, Luxembourg, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States. This summer I hope to visit my number 25, the beautiful land of Turkey.
Read more about Sara’s travels at www.webster.edu/notabene2012.