FDLFNT Contest: Danielle’s First Trip Abroad


Me: “I got in!! I have a room aboard the Semester at Sea ship! I’M SO EXCITED!!!!”

Mom: “Huh?”

Me: “You know, that program I applied for?? They put you on a huge ship with teachers and a bunch of other college students and send you around the world for a few months…remember? I applied a couple months ago…”

Mom: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Turns out my Dad thought I’d told my mom and I’d thought he told her. Oops! Poor Mom was left in the dark. Maybe it was for the better though, because her first reaction wasn’t so positive. She wanted all the details and, like any good protective mother, she thought there were definitely places on the itinerary that were too dangerous for her only child to visit unsupervised. Why couldn’t I just study abroad in Europe?

I couldn’t explain exactly why I needed to do this program as opposed to all other ones. I just knew with every fiber of my being that I needed to be on that ship. I’d heard about it freshman year at university and came home trying to sell my family on the idea while back for Thanksgiving. I guess nobody paid too much attention to my ramblings because the family was pretty surprised when I announced my plan at the end of my sophomore year.

I had never really considered myself infected with wanderlust, nor did I really picture myself as a world traveler. All I knew was that instead of having to choose one country to go to, I could visit Japan, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Burma, India, Egypt, Turkey, Croatia, and Spain. And I loved the idea of teachers from many different universities coming together on one floating vessel to teach students gathered from an even greater number of universities.

My semester abroad was my first travel experience outside of the U.S. as an adult and it changed my life. It opened up doors I never even knew existed. All of the sudden our huge planet felt small and accessible. I discovered for myself that the world actually feels quite flat even though it is indeed very round (this fact was very much confirmed once we ported in Florida after having originally sailed west from Mexico three months earlier).

Perhaps one of the greatest things I took away from that semester wasn’t something I learned in one of the ship’s classrooms, but something I gathered slowly from each port we docked in. It sunk in that the world is filled with travelers and ex-pats. I needn’t limit myself to the U.S. for the rest of my life and just leave for one-week vacations. I could actually live abroad or travel for extended periods of time. And thus, my full-fledged love affair with travel began.

Asia had been calling my name and I answered that call almost as soon as I graduated from university. I’d grown confident about travel but I still didn’t consider myself a world traveler. As kumbaya as this may sound, I kind of just thought of myself as a citizen of the world and considered any country I could find on a map accessible, not that I was ready to jump into war zones or anything.

I had become hooked on the unknowns that come with travel.

Where will you be next week? I don’t know. Depends what bus, train, or even plane I can catch.

Where are you staying? I don’t know. I’ll find something when I get there.

Who will you travel with? I don’t know. I’ll meet some folks along the way.

The spontaneity is exhilarating. As is the thrill of exploring the world without anybody knowing where I am exactly, at any given moment. I could be en route to Laos or having Thai tea in Bangkok. The simple little things I learn along the way are probably my favorite part. From determining how to use a squatter toilet in Japan to figuring out how to cross the street in Vietnam; it was all exciting, even though mundane for the locals. I also became intrigued by how much easier it is to learn about a country’s history by visiting instead of reading about it in book. It becomes so much more real when you see the effects of war first hand, or talk to a local about current politics. Travel is truly the best education.

After my first little taste of travel I was hooked. I needed more – more travel and more learning experiences. I can’t explain my first inspiration to travel as an adult. All I can say is that I knew I needed to do it.

Written by Danielle Koffler, a regular contributor to Do It While You’re Young, who also publishes her own blog, Wake Up and Dance.

Know someone who desires their first trip overseas? Nominate them to win a free trip in Contiki and Do It While You’re Young’s Friends Don’t Let Friends Not Travel contest. Enter by April 8, 2012 on the DIWYY website.   


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