Design Your Life
The World Is Mine
I’ll never forget my first trip abroad. It was a family summer vacation to St. Maarten. I was a moody teen whose only priority was to be on the beach. Otherwise, my poor mom would be subject to an all day screw-face. On that trip, I made friends with a goat and played Hide-And-Go-Seek in the dark. It was an amazing experience that ultimately became a gateway to my travel addiction.
I returned to high school the following semester and began tinkering with a globe in the school library. I spotted where I lived in New York. Then, traced my finger along to the island I’d visited. Expanding my vision, I began to notice the other places I could potentially visit; places I’d learned of in songs, books, and on TV. Even though LeVar Burton told me countless times on Reading Rainbow that I could go anywhere, it hadn’t registered. These places seemed so abstract in my mind.
I rarely saw advertisements featuring tourists who looked like me visiting unconventional places. Either way, my mind was now shifted. It suddenly occurred to me— “I really could go anywhere!”
I realized the vast gift given to us by the Creator: The ability to explore the world.
I came to realize that it also belonged to me and existed, among other things, for my enjoyment, exploration, and enlightenment. Still yet a teen, I’d sit and create travel itineraries just for fun—knowing full well I didn’t have the means to go anywhere! But, that didn’t matter. I was plotting. Goal-setting. I’d imagine how I’d decorate my future home with all the cool art I’d discover on my future travels. I’d visualize myself in Egypt touching pieces of history and how I’d dance euphorically with tribal natives. And I hadn’t even left Queens!
New family vacations took me across 15 different Caribbean countries. With a little change in my pocket, I was ready for action. An unplanned solo trip to Puerto Rico really sealed the deal. Well, it actually started out with my cousin and I visiting the island together. However, I found myself stranded when he was called away on business and he had to make an early departure. He insisted that I stay out the duration of the trip. I somehow managed to navigate the thick of El Yunque with a paper map and zero Spanish. Triumphantly making it through that, I craved more.
Feeling armed and ready, I set out for Thailand. Then Singapore. Then India, Morocco, France, Italy, Nicaragua, and Guyana! I’d plan trips while on trips! I became unstoppable. The world was my playground. I’d be chasing monks in Bangkok one minute, then swinging from vines in Rivas the next. Life opens up in a new way when you belt out Adele songs in Roman piazzas with complete strangers. Sharing laughter with Mumbai locals as a monkey scurries by is simply mind-altering. It’s the human connection; the unsaid, which gives me deep joy. The world became more familiar.
And, yes. I’m still a brat when I don’t hit the beach. Though, I’m eternally thankful to my mom who had the foresight to show me something new all those years ago. It’s helped me realize possibilities I may have otherwise overlooked. That empowerment seeped into other aspects of my life. I began to feel able. Everything in life seemed more possible once I opened my mind to it. I look forward to exposing my future children to the same possibilities.
But for now, all I can think of is, “Where to next?”
Nikiesha McLennon was born in Germany and raised in Queens. Artist, culturalist, and computer nerd, she's visited more countries than there are subway lines. This Guyanese/Jamaican mix likes her food spicy and her beach water clear. Currently resides in Brooklyn and loves window seats.