Growing up on a farm in central Manitoba didn’t give me many opportunities to travel the world. Our main concerns were keeping the struggling farm business strong enough to afford food and heat through the upcoming winter, saving money for international travel was not on the radar. But despite that, my family always encouraged me to take up any opportunity that presented itself. So when I started university at the age of 16 and met an exchange student from the Dominican Republic, I jumped at the opportunity when she invited me to come and visit her in her home country.
My first overseas trip was in 2003 and it’s amazing at how much I have changed since then.
I didn’t know how to pack
Back then I didn’t know anything about travel. I didn’t even own a suitcase. I had to borrow one from a friend. I also didn’t know about packing and therefore probably had one of the heaviest suitcases known to man.
Back then there were not tight restrictions on how heavy your bag could be, so I was luck in that regard.
I didn’t know how to plan
In 2003 I didn’t know what a guidebook was. I actually didn’t even know they existed. I know, shocking right. I remember my very first encounter with a guidebook. It was on my last day in the Dominican Republic (good timing right?). I noticed a ragged book in the corner of the bookshelf and pulled it out. It was something I had never seen before… it was a book all about the history, culture, and THINGS TO DO in the Dominican Republic. I remember flipping through in awe and thinking “wait…you mean there was all this cool stuff to do and I had no idea!?!?!”
I didn’t even know that you could use the internet to plan travel. I mean, I knew about the internet. But it’s main purpose for a 16 year old in 2003 was instant messaging, and that was pretty much it. I’m sure I could have tracked down some of the earliest travel blogs back then if I had put my mind to it, but I honestly didn’t even consider it as a possibility.
These days, I always pack a guide book. Although I love using the internet and blogs to plan my travel now, I am still a big fan of actually having a real life book made out of paper in my backpack. I even prefer paper guide books over e-books, one day I was write my full reasons why.
I still had my adventurous spirit
Even thought I had no idea how to pack, or what there was to do in the Dominican, I was still fairly adventurous. I spent my days wandering the beach and forest. I even took a bus by myself to a local tourist hub area to meet up with other travelers and do some shopping. I wasn’t afraid to try new things, even though I did miss out on a lot…
One day I will have to go back to where it all began… the Dominican Republic. Now that I am armed with the internet and my favourite guide book, I should have a more successful adventure. Next time I go I will know about the amazing waterfalls near Cabarete, I will know where to find the best beaches, and I will be able to compare the different resorts in the Punta Cana Dominican Republic region when I need some down time and R&R after some busy days of exploring.
Where was your first international trip? What would you do differently? Let me know in the comments!