Julia Willard, Falling Off Bicycles, GGI, Girl Gone International

I am fortunate. There’s no doubt about it. I have had extraordinary opportunities in my life and have met interesting people that have taken me on further adventures than I could have ever imagined for myself.

I first caught the travel bug (the undeniable strand, anyway) in 1999 when I first went to France. Prior to that, I had thoroughly enjoyed our family vacations all over the United States and to the UK, but traveling with a group, discovering a completely new culture, and traveling apart from my parents as a teenager was nothing short of life-changing and eye-opening. Ever since then, I have been planning my next trip before my return flight has landed. As you know, it has also led me to live in two other countries, bringing me experiences that have been everything from unspeakably frustrating to the best moments of my life. Seeing beautiful things and visiting new places is indeed glamorous on social media and it is something I’m infinitely grateful for, but make no mistake, I have lugged hundreds of pounds of baggage around airports, train stations, and up narrow flights of French stairs more times than I care to count. A life with insatiable curiosity about the world can be both a blessing and a curse; it separates you from the familiar, from those you love and have long-standing relationships with, and it causes you to evaluate everything you’ve come to belief about yourself and the world. But despite all the pulled muscles and bruises and mental taxation from trying to do it all on my own (think escalator- and elevator-free Parisian metro stations), my life abroad is one of the things I am most grateful for in my life.