Hvar, Croatia

I'm writing this article as I sit in the middle seat of a cramped long-haul economy flight…and it's exhilarating. 

I've worked as the head of content for ShermansTravel for the past two-plus years, and to say that this period of time has been a challenge would be a serious understatement. I took my last working trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in Jan of 2020 and never imagined that two short months later, we'd be wading through a global pandemic. My husband, who works in healthcare, spent 12-hour shifts in a New York City COVID unit. But we're the lucky ones – the ones who are healthy and have jobs. And because of that, I have never been more grateful to get back on an airplane, even if it is the middle seat and the person to my right has now removed their shoes…and socks. 

I grew up in the Ozarks, and my family took a yearly weekend vacation to a nearby Branson motel. I look fondly upon those times, when my grandparents were young enough to do cannonballs off the diving board. When we got to drink soda. And, if we were lucky, we'd go to the waterpark. For many, this would be considered far from exotic – but to us, it was the epitome of an escape that fueled something in my brain for adventure. 

I got my first passport when I was 24 years old to take a road trip through Ireland with my brand-new husband. If I had to define poignant moments in life, it was not the new husband, but my first international trip. We bought a paper map from AAA, rented a car, and just took off, having not planned a route or booked a single hotel. We stopped when we pleased – to eat briny oysters by the sea or sip hot toddies near a warm pub fire. We made friends with locals, took pictures with our disposable camera at the Cliffs of Moher, and got lost too many times to count. As a planner by nature, this took me out of my comfort zone; but it was the unknown that made the memories. 

That trip and the newfound feeling it brought forth triggered a desire to travel. It planted a little voice in my head that told me to see the world, do something new, and meet people who live differently than me. The following year, we went to Europe, and while we knew just a speck about traveling overseas, we managed to make a million mistakes. We're still amused about the time the airline went on strike – while we were in the air. Or when we went to an internet cafe to buy train tickets, but the website was in French and, instead of seats, I purchased tickets in the cargo. Those mistakes are the best memories.

These days, I'd probably consider myself a seasoned traveler. I've been to over 50 countries; I can pack for a month-long trip with a carry-on bag; I have travel editors who tip me off to the best places to eat and stay. Being equipped with this experience means fewer missteps – and after two years of not being able to travel, I've realized that it's this that I miss the most.

I'm currently on my way to Croatia – my first trip outside of the Western Hemisphere since 2020. This is a vacation, not a work trip, and I'm with my husband. For the first time in years, we've not made plans, booked restaurants, or made a to-do list. We bought a real paper map and are ready to just take off. I hope we learn new things. I want to try new foods. And I want to get lost. I want to make mistakes. But most of all, I'm ready to make memories again.

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