As some of you might have read in previous posts, a few friends from all around the globe and I got together for the book project „The Trip That Changed My Life“. This is a compilation of stories from over 70 amazing travelers who tell their own personal story of how traveling has changed their lives.
The project which was initiated and organized by the amazing Hung Thai from the blog „Up Up And Bear“ has already raised more than 3.400 $ in proceeds for the organization Unbound through crowdfunding. The book is now also available on Amazon.
To give you an idea of what the book is all about, here is my story of the trip that changed my life:
The Trip That Changed My Life
“I can’t remember the last time I swung this high!” she shrieked joyously. He smiled at her from below.
Actually, she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been on a swing at all. For some strange reason she felt as if she had never been as happy as in that moment. She breathed in the clean, warm air and felt as though she could lift off into the clouds any moment now.
She felt a mixture of familiarity, love, excitement and a feeling of happiness that could hardly be put into words, just a tingle that emanated from the pit of her stomach and her heart. She didn’t yet know in which way that feeling of love, inspiration and art would change her, but she knew that it definitely would.
You might have experienced them, too: those few moments in life when you instinctively knew that something inside you was about to change. Those truly meaningful and incisive experiences that, when reminiscing later in life, make you say, “Yup, that’s when it all changed.” My first-ever camping trip to the South of France was one such moment.
Up until that camping trip, every vacation I’ve gone on included staying in a hotel, going to the beach and/or visiting Walt Disney World. Now, don’t get me wrong – those trips were always great, especially as a kid going with her family, but they never triggered that joyous feeling I now experience whenever I travel.
I was set to go on my first camping trip ever at the ripe young age of 19. My boyfriend at the time and his family invited me to join them. Believe me, there were definitely some things that freaked me out about this particular trip: sleeping outside, bugs, having to eat with my ex’s family (the entire family was vegetarian, and I was totally NOT) and hiking.
Setting off from our hometown in Germany, we took the train to Paris, which, coincidentally, was the first time I was there. I’ve been to Paris before but only for the attractions at Disneyland. I was very much an American kid; my dad was from the US. From there, we headed down to Clermont-Ferrand where my ex’s family picked us up in their camper. Nervousness set in, but after arriving at our first camping spot and noticing the Entrecôte-enabled restaurant, one of my many fears was alleviated: at least… meat!
Waking up the first morning in that tent to the sound of birds chirping and the heat of the sun was the coolest thing. I especially loved having breakfast together in the sunshine.
That first day we set our sights on a place called Florac. That was the most incredible drive I’ve ever had. Cruising down steep slopes, at times with the van’s door wide open, and taking in the most incredible views of mountains tall and valleys deep, I felt a tingly sensation. I believe it was freedom. It was an incredible sensation, and one that I feel now every time I find myself on the road.
Florac was one of the first places I really fell in love with. It’s a beautiful little French town in the middle of the Cévennes and surrounded by natural wonders. Our camping spot was along the Tarn River, right outside of quaint Florac.
One of the most memorable moments of my life happened during those first few days in Florac. After taking a nice dip in the river, we walked along the bank until we reached a rocky area with small cliffs jutting into the water. Of course we climbed on top. I remembered my boyfriend daring me to jump into the river. It might have been 5 meters high (not the most awe-inspiring drop, but hey, come on, it was still scary!). I thought about it for about 3 seconds. Yes, I’m doing this! I started running and, reaching the edge, took a leap of faith into the cool water below. At that very moment, I felt like a different version of me was freed.
Back in town, we found ourselves in the middle of a local festival. I was immediately captivated by the exhilarating scene: people dancing, most of them barefoot, wearing the most colorful outfits; hippies, travelers, vacationers and locals all playing music, singing and laughing. They were filled with such joy. Their happiness was something I haven’t seen in the people I knew back home. It was just incredible.
In this place I found my inspiration. Everything was pure beauty and magic. It changed something in me. It opened my eyes to what was out there: interesting people, beautiful places, and out-of-the-norm experiences. I’ve been on many trips since then, and while they changed me, my life, and taught me a lot about myself, this trip to the South of France gave me that first push in the right direction. It made me who I am today. It put me where I am now and has fundamentally and radically changed my outlook on life. And for that, I am truly grateful.
That’s the beauty of traveling: You push yourself to your limits and give yourself the chance to see what you are actually capable of and find out who you really are.
Is there a trip that has changed your life in a similar way? Where did you go and what was so life-changing about the trip?