1. Where I Grew Up

Growing up in a small town in rural Connecticut, I always resented the quiet. Parties with my friends consisted of bonfires in the woods because the mall and the movie theater were each a half-hour’s drive away; I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be more cows than people; and about the most exciting thing to happen was getting a Dunkin Donuts — our town’s first major chain — but only after I moved away to college. Maybe that old adage is true, but after a year of travel, distance really has made my heart grow fonder. I relish those moments where I can go home again, gather around the dinner table with my family and, yes, enjoy the quiet.

2. Knowing I’m Not a One-(Wo)man-Machine

I’m actually known for being a pretty independent person. I’m one of those people who will do the opposite of what you say to prove there’s another way of doing things (just ask my Mom). I enjoy being by myself. I believe that every woman should live alone at one point in her life, and I’d rather poke myself in the eye than ask for help. But weirdly enough, when I travel, this persona of an “independent woman” goes right out the window. What I mean to say is, it’s always my boyfriend, Matt, who drives.

3. My Sleeping Bag

Earlier this fall, I took a pretty awesome road trip around southern Utah and northern Arizona. I lived out of a rental car and camped — rain or shine — for two weeks straight. Growing up, my family and I never camped; we stayed in Marriotts and four-star resorts. The first time I had been camping for real was this past summer in the Catskills when I stayed up all night, my heart thrumming in my chest, convinced a bear was going to thrash through the woods and eat me — no lie. So yeah. This was an adjustment. But you know what? Throughout the trip I didn’t miss my bed or my apartment once. I reveled in the freedom of carrying my home with me and waking up with the sun. I also grew so completely smitten with my Big Agnes sleeping bag that I “joked” I would sleep in it the first night back in my apartment.

4. My Citizenship

In 2010, I took my first trip to Nicaragua as a delegate for the Albert Schweitzer Institute at Quinnipiac University. It was there, working with students and families less fortunate than I, that I kept hearing the same sentence over and over again: My dream is to go to America. Pretty much since birth, I’ve been programmed to appreciate my American citizenship, but it wasn’t until this trip that the weight of that mantra set in. My citizenship and my passport are like a golden ticket to pretty much anywhere, affording me the opportunity to come and go as I please.

5. Silence

For better or for worse, I’m known among my family and friends as being notoriously unreachable, especially during really serious moments. The more I travel, though, the more obsessed I am with having to tweet and ‘gram all the deets. It’s getting rarer and rarer that I don’t have my phone on a full charge or that I’m not hooked up to WiFi during at least one part of the day. It really is such a blessing to be in areas like Canyonlands National Park or South Africa’s Cederberg Wilderness, where there’s no cell reception. Not only am I able to be in the moment, but I’m able to enjoy face-to-face conversations, time to take in my surroundings and moments that I won’t soon forget.

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