In preparation for my upcoming trips, especially the one to Paris [not necessarily a business trip – more like a mini vacation].  I have been watching several movies to get prepared for the lovely scenery, cuisine, and atmosphere of Paris.

One movie in particular I have watched recently has been Sabrina. I have both the original movie with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn, but I also have the updated version with Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond.

One quote that Sabrina [played by Julia Ormond] that struck out to me in this remake was how she described Paris. She talked about how her friend “found herself in Paris.” This got me thinking – has there ever been a place I have been where I found myself?

The answer of course is yes, but for me, it has not been one place – but many that make up various aspects of who I am as a person. Every place I lived or traveled to has shaped me into the person I am today.

Here are just some of the highlights of my travels and what I found out about myself along these incredible adventures:

  • Curiosity: I have to thank Mom and Dad for allowing my sisters and I to travel and experience our first international travel to Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, Fiji, and Raratonga (Cook Islands). We experienced so many new elements during this trip that it really sparked my curiosity of the world. I knew even at 10 years old I wanted to see more of the world – not just read about it – but see it in person. The more I travel, the more curious I become of the world and want to explore more of it.
  • Strength: Strength comes in many forms, but I would have to say this is represented in many places I have been to. My time of Florida taught me how to be strong mentally and physically in athletics and academics. I also learned this lesson when I went abroad for the first time by myself. Each of these experiences taught me how strong I was – both mentally and physically.
  • Passion: Passion comes in many forms, but I would have to say that I found passion when I was in several places.  Florida introduced me to my passion in the current field I am right now, PR. Tennessee was the place where I found my passion for teaching and becoming a professor. I found my passion for exploration with every aspect of a culture during my time in South Africa.
  • Community: Being part of the USC Track Team and Annenberg Community in LA for two years taught me the importance of community. Engaging in teamwork and focus towards a common goal was a strong emphasis highlighted for me in both of these categories. To this day, I still have contact with many of my friends at USC and the relationships and connections still remain today.
  • Tradition: My first trip to China really brought this forward to me back in 2008.  The history, cultural elements, and tradition was prominent in every aspect I saw in Beijing. Walking around the Forbidden City and up the Great Wall to oversee the landscape of China was remarkable. Experiencing a traditional Chinese tea ceremony was also another experience that allowed me to not only appreciate tradition, but embrace it as well.
  • Persistence: Track and academics both taught me this, but it was really put to the test during my time in Tennessee and both at Florida and USC. Track was a very rewarding athletic adventure with many highs, but there were some challenges. One of the biggest I had was at the 2004 Olympic Trials. Before the trials, I had a serious back injury which almost made me have to retire from track and field permanently. I had no throwing practice in an actual ring two months before the meet and was second to last to get into the meet. I worked out on my own with my Dad’s virtual coaching from CA. With Dad’s help and my persistence to work out hard to do as well as I could at the trials, I was 6th in the prelims and made the finals at the Olympic Trials to finish 9th.  Also, a PhD program is tough – you don’t see many PhDs for a reason! 🙂
  • Cuisine: Ah, the love of food – of course, I am from a family of foodies! South Africa taught me to explore and open my horizons to wonderful Afrikaan cuisine, Greece showed me the happiness that is brought with food and dancing, Amsterdam taught me about my home roots and appreciation of apple flaps and stroopwaffels, Italy introduced me to cheese and cured meat [and expresso!] along with fabulous fashion in Milan, Brazil opened my eyes to the lovely Brazilian cuisine of meats and amazing desserts.

As you can see, there are many characteristics and attributes I do contribute to my travels and stays in various places around the US as well as internationally.  However, there was one place I know several of my family members and friends mentioned to me that they thought I did change and grow up from this experience. This place was of course South Africa.

Reflecting on top of Table Top Mountain, South Africa [2007]

 Not only did I grow as a professional in the field of PR, but also as a person. This was the first time I ever lived abroad for long periods of time [four months], so this gave me a chance to meet new friends [still friends to this day] as well as experience a wonderful, energetic, and warm culture. I experienced new foods I never had before that I still make to this day as well. I saw with my own eyes the beauty of a culture and landscape. By the end of my time in South Africa, I felt like I always was there, and realized that I did change for the better from the experience – and indeed “found” myself in the process.

While I am just 30 years old, I know I will continue to grow and evolve as a person and professional based on my travels. I will be traveling to Spain, France, and China this summer (actually all in a month’s time – amazing!), so I will most likely have to add these characteristics to the list here as well. I will make sure to note these in my blog as soon as all of my travels this summer are complete to keep you all updated. 🙂

Hope you all are having a great day!

Best Wishes,