The Travel Dream, 18 Years Later

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A little over 18 years ago I had saved up money working for a non-profit in New York City while also going to college for my Bachelors in Communications to travel the world once I had gotten my degree.

My degree, I had decided then, was a symbol of pride for my father who had always told me this is what he expected of me as the first in my family to finish college. I envisioned getting it and sending it to my family back home while packing to travel the world. My dream was to backpack through Europe and kiss many men as a statement of personal and sexual freedom.

I had no blogs to inspire me. I had no images or stories of fellow women, let alone fellow Latinas, to motivate me but I was eager and ready. 

Then at the beginning of my last semester before graduation I found out I was pregnant. I remember the moment in full detail. I had been home sick for a day or two recovering from what I thought was a stomach virus. In fact, I had gone to the doctor and he had diagnosed my symptoms as those consistent with stomach flu. I didn’t even realize that the urine sample I had given would be tested for pregnancy, it wasn’t even discussed. But the results came in, I’m sure to the surprise of the office as well as they had already sent me home with meds to relieve the nausea, and the call changed everything.

I never really wanted a baby. It wasn’t something I had envisioned for myself. I actually never wanted to get married either and at 25 I thought I was pretty much set on the choices I had made thus far.

I was on the verge of breaking up with my boyfriend, who I hadn’t been in love with for some time, and I was eager to leave a job that had no new prospects to offer, though their generous contribution to my education and my travel savings funds kept me hanging on till the end.

I knew I had more choices than having a baby, but for reasons I can’t explain, I chose to have mine. I quickly assessed my life, what I thought it could be, how I would make it work on my own. A lot of things changed in those few hours that followed, a lot more changed in the years to come including what travel means to me.

I am really happy that my passion for travel evolved from wanting to kiss many different men (my husband is happy about this too, by the way) to wanting to share the stories of the people I meet, the vulnerability that being immersed in a different culture brings, and most of all, the fun that it is to see the world through my children’s eyes.

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This past weekend marked 18 years since my son came into this world. He reminds me of that time when I decided to do something really crazy and unexpected: become a mom, with no husband and no support. I took on motherhood with the same overly confident, free spirit as I had taken on my travel dreams. Over the years I have become more mature, more grounded, far more humble, a bit more observant, and a lot more grateful.


It could be that I would have eventually become the woman I am now, but it’s hard for me to imagine it without my children helping me to this point. I am a better person and thus a better traveler because of them, even when I travel alone but especially when I travel with them.


18 years later and I see this crazy, awesome, decision that I made smiling right back at me looking out to the world with dreams and hopes of his own. What I have learned from being his mom isn’t something that travel could have ever taught me. He has tested me in ways that travel never has and pushed me to moments of self-reflection that no experience on the road ever has. I have loved him more than I have ever loved, or ever imagined possible and when he has broken my heart, it has been the most intense sadness I have ever felt in my life. Nowhere I have ever traveled has reached to the depth of my mind, heart, and soul in the way being his mother has and I am so grateful for that.


The fact that my road led me to a life in travel with no real focused intention on my part, and with three kids and a husband I never envisioned having, is a sign that regardless of what life throws at us, we will end up where we were meant to be and reminder that at 25 you don’t really know as much as you think you do.


Motherhood isn’t for everyone. I can’t say I have always been great at it myself. But, I get to come home to three awesome boys who love me anyway. Thanks to my son, my first-born, for surviving my growing pains so beautifully, (I had no idea what I was getting into, just that I wanted to love you the best I could), for enriching my life so greatly, and for making travel a lot more wonderful than it could have ever been without you here.


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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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