My travel story began over a thirteen years ago, when I was walking in the hall of my community college and I saw a sign that said STUDY IN ROME. I was on my way to a journalism class. I had absolutely no intentions of traveling anywhere, especially to a place in another country, on another continent! Understand: I am from Memphis, Tennessee — South Memphis; a place that has a reputation of, yes, Elvis, Beale Street, Blues and Barbecue. But it also has a rep for being one of the worst crime-ridden cities in America, with high illiteracy rates, teen-crime, teen-pregnancy, and high poverty. I was bound to be part of those statistics. So to find myself with the audacity to want to go to Italy… It was leap for me, in my own mind! I had no passport. I didn’t know how to pronounce “ciao”. And I was about five months late, applying. There were so many cons and so many reasons that I could tell myself why I couldn’t go. But I was curious — to see what was possible. And that curiosity, from then to now, has served me and my life, well. What does that curiosity look like? It looks like asking, “Hi! What’s this program all about? Can anyone go? Can I go? What does it take?” And then going home and talking with my folks, “Hey! Look what I came across at school. Do you think I should? Can you help me do it?” And then telling every soul I knew, “Guess what? I’m going to Italy! Pray for me! Donate to my fundraiser! Tell someone — anything you can do to be in my corner!” Was I going to Italy? I wasn’t sure, to be honest. But I moved, spoke, saved and made plans like I was.
Five to six short months later, I raised $6,000 to study in Italy for four months. I fundraised, I sold cookies, I wrote letters, I commissioned my parents to share with their coworkers. I hit up family and friends. My church members pitched in. I knocked on doors in my neighborhood. The wonderful, passionate and innovative director of my program, Marsha Anderson, was a catalyst to my success. She lit a fire under my tail to keep going! (You need people like that, in your corner!) And still, when I came up short, the leader of my local church, Mrs. Serita A. Jakes, stood up, stood in the gap, and gave me the push I needed to GO, through a merit scholarship.
Before I write anything else, I want you to know that it starts with a spark. Curiosity. Desire. A want, to go. And then it grows into gathering information, planning and equipping yourself for really taking the leap. Next, faith and a belief that you, both, could go, and should go. Believing is part of your foundation for success. But equally, it ends with putting your faith into action, and DOING something — anything — everything you can. And while it may end there, sometimes, like in my case, doing all you can still won’t amount to enough. That’s when Others who believe in you too, will help you get there. It’s important for me to say this, because my success in taking my first trip, and the many successes I’ve achieved as a woman, an entrepreneur, a world-traveler, an expatriate and as a Mother, were not by accident and they weren’t by chance. They were achieved by combining all those ingredients I listed above.
Ready to GO?!! OK!
Italy was the first country I traveled to, and my college path was Architecture and Literature. Since then, I have made literature, technology and entrepreneurship my vocation. And I have a passion for travel and philanthropy. I have traveled to every country in Europe, North Africa, North America and the Carribean. I have flown airplanes and sailed boats, and I have made lifelong family-friends in Italy and across the world. My biggest achievement has been starting a family in the country that I love. Not only will I get to encourage and empower girls all over this nation and the world to become leaders and change-makers through travel and cultural exposure. I’ll get to start my mission and ministry of empowerment right at home, with my own family.
All of this, is the result of my first study abroad trip, when I was a teenager!
Thinking back to my teenage years, I returned home from Italy, after spending several months for the first time, and I scrapped all the plans I had made for college and life before the trip. Travel changed me that much! I started with a plan, and started small. I picked up freelancer gigs and that morphed into a small business; that morphed into an international business. I was working with people in Asia, Germany, Mexico, Spain! For me, though, Italy was always at the core.
One day, I was sitting at a cafe in a piazza where I had studied all those years ago, and realized it had been a decade! I thought to myself, “Wow! Ten years ago, I was a curious, bright eyed, bushy tailed girl, figuring out the maze-like pathways of Orvieto!” I realized how much time had flown by! For years, I would spend months at a time in Italy and return to the USA. But it was then that I decided Italy would be my home. My extended family reside in the States, my comfort zone was in the States. But my heart was in Italy. And just like that, I began a whole new journey.
My journey would not be complete if I couldn’t make part of my life’s work, a mission to expose girls to the same type of opportunity I had. They don’t have to move across the world. They can choose to travel only once. They can choose to go some place different. There are so many things they can choose and that’s the magic of travel! Chocies! Options! Choices and options that may not otherwise be presented until you break free of your ordinary environment. But, for me, as long as I can show them what’s out there, and they get to see what’s out there, who’s out there, the differnces, the magic, the education, the friends, everything!, for themselves, my mission will be complete.
Learn more about the GIRLGO team and take the leap! Learn about our upcoming trip to Italy this June, and see where curiosity will take you.