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1. Thailand. I don’t know if this counts as a trip or not. Technically, it was my home for 12 years, but every visit I make back to the place I grew up influences me in a different way. I am in love with and inspired by this country. It is never the same and always the same. It’s a land of paradoxes and the culture, the people, the sites, and the food have helped to shape who I am today.

Me and two of my childhood best friends waiting for the sky train in Bangkok

2. Paris, France. What an amazing city. It’s every bit as enchanting as everyone says it is. I figured out the metro system (which was top notch), saw as much as I possibly could, made friends with Parisian college students and other students studying abroad, ate some fantastic food, and shopped way too much. It was an amazing trip and one that I won’t forget.

walking at the Louvre in Paris

3. Russia. This was not one of my favorite trips by any means. In fact, it was probably one of my least favorites. I went with my mom and grandparents to teach English at a Russian University in Moscow. We also saw St. Petersburg. Now that I am older, I would like to go because I think I would have a better appreciation and understanding of the country. But at the time, for me, Russia was a bit of a culture shock. The students and people were all so lovely, but there is a sadness about Russia that I can’t quite put my finger on. The country has an extensive, often tragic, violent, and turbulent history and it felt as though the people were still struggling to get past it in some ways. I put it in my top most influential trips because I am still very grateful for the eye opening experience that it was and I am grateful for all the wonderful people I met.

4. Tijuana & Ensenada, Mexico. I have been to Tijuana twice and Ensenada once. All three times I traveled to Mexico on a church trip to build homes for the homeless. If you have ever been on a similar kind of trip, where the purpose is solely to help someone else, you know why this is influential. It changes you. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the joy on a family’s face when you give them a key to a house, when just a week ago they had no place to live. I will never forget the people I met there or the change I felt spiritually and emotionally during the trip.

Our team in front of the house we built in a week

5. Greece. My husband and I went to Mykonos, Crete and Athens on our honeymoon. It was a blissful, perfect trip. Yes, the beaches are beautiful, the water is crystal clear, and the hotels are phenomenal, but Greece is more than just a honeymooner’s paradise. Greece is a country filled with rich history and incredible depth. I found myself constantly day dreaming of who, in years past, had walked the streets I was now walking. So, not only was it the first trip I took with my husband, but it was also a very informative and inspiring trip. There are few places that have as much historical depth to offer as Greece does.

Me and the Aegean Sea – on the island of Crete

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