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I grew up in central Illinois, and for the first 18 years of my life, I could not wait to escape the world of fast food dinners and small town thinking. My family (parents and one older brother) went on vacations around the United States, but it was through my church that I truly discovered a love for traveling. I went on a summer mission trip to International Falls, Minnesota when I was only six months old (I assume I was a huge help). Nearly every summer after that, I did Bible teaching or construction work in places like Nebraska, Kentucky, New York, and Alaska.
I am an introverted person who craves unique and diverse people and situations. This is an unusual, and occasionally confusing, combination. I need space to think and be alone, but I also want to see something new so that my creativity can be sparked. The best solution to my seemingly opposing desires is: travel. I especially discovered this the first time I left the United States and experienced being a foreigner in Athens, Greece at age sixteen. I was surrounded by voices speaking a language I couldn’t understand, food I couldn’t name, and buildings I didn’t recognize. I was over-saturated with new, but very little was expected of me. I could sit and observe this crazy, wonderful city, taking in the diversity while maintaining my comfort as an introvert.
When I got to college, I began planning my own trips. I am still very fond of my excited phone call to my mom telling her (not asking, for once) that I was going to Turkey during my Christmas break. I graduated with a degree in sociology and psychology, fields that both enhance and are fed by my travel experiences. Unsure exactly what I wanted to do, I volunteered for a five-month mission trip to Senegal. I wasn’t thrilled with the placement in rural, hot West Africa, but those turned out to be five of my favorite months in my life. It turns out there are exciting places to visit outside the European cosmopolitan cities (although I love them too!).
After Senegal, I returned to Illinois and worked as a children’s librarian for two years. (I only recently realized that my love of psychology, traveling, and books stem from a core desire to experience people more deeply.) I developed a habit of living very frugally so that I could afford to leave the country at least once a year. Then I moved to Dallas, TX so that I could get my Master’s in Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary. I graduated in May 2015. I returned to Illinois to spend a few months with my family and friends before my next adventure.
In January 2016, I moved to Athens, Greece, where I work with an organization that provides long-term rehabilitative care and education for women who have been sexually exploited. I am committed to staying through the end of the year, but I plan to stay at least through December of 2017.