So a little bit about me . . .
Hello & Welcome to Rob Around the World !!! Today was probably the day that I knew I was going to do this round the world thing again. Over the next year I'm hoping to update this blog about once a week, sharing the week's best stories, pictures, and experiences from wherever in the world I may be.
But before that, let me start off by telling you a little bit about myself. I grew up Lockport, New York, which is a small town in Western New York State just outside of Buffalo. I had a normal childhood growing up with two sisters (one older and one younger, and then Katie came along when I was in high school) and we vacationed as a family in Florida (think Disney) about every other year. This was back in the day flying on Eastern Airlines, and my older sister and I "assisted" the flight attendants, earning our wings and getting rewarded with peanuts and a trip to the cockpit while airborne to meet the captain & crew. I loved flying from that point on but really caught the travel bug after going to Spain for a class trip when I was fourteen years old and in ninth grade. My parents used to ask us where we wanted to go on vacation each year and my answer was always safari. Needless to say that didn't happen . . .
After graduating high school I headed off to college at the State University of New York College at Brockport where I earned a Bachelor's degree in Recreation Management. That degree required two internships, so I moved down to the Florida Keys for a summer (Marathon, Florida specifically) and then for my second internship I moved out west to San Diego, California. From the internship I got a full-time management position that took me back to the east coast, where I worked in Orlando & Hutchinson Island, Florida. Just under a year later I was offered a move back out west to manage college interns in California and accepted the position immediately, staying there for the next two years. From there I moved to the east coast yet again, this time to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to manage hospitality student interns at properties across the beach. Then in December of 2000 I finally got my dream job with the company, to be an International Recruiter based out of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. In the position for the next eighteen months I traveled to colleges and universities across the globe giving presentations and interviewing potential students, racking up frequent flyer miles along the way. Sadly, the events of September 11th made issuing student visas much more challenging/nearly impossible which meant fewer and fewer trips until they stopped completely. This turn of events prompted me to enroll as a full-time student at Coastal Carolina University's Wall School of Business, where I got a degree in finance less than two years later, all while simultaneously waiting tables at TGI Fridays & Outback Steakhouse full-time. During my entire time while back in school I had planned on using my frequent flyer miles to take off for a trip around the world to celebrate my new degree and turning thirty upon graduating. I worked ferociously to achieve that goal and did just that, departing the States on Saturday August 7, 2004.
The trip took me to 37 different countries mainly in Europe & Asia, with visits to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Alaska & Costa Rica as well. Sadly, the website I used as my online journal for that trip no longer exists, but the data I retrieved before it went dark showed me logging a total of 68,576 miles (107,659 kilometers) over 366 days. I left the States with a companion, but after the European leg of the trip and the devastating news of the tsunami literally wiping parts of Asia off the map, she headed back and I carried on. Although somewhat nervous at the prospect of traveling solo for the next seven months I decided to go for it and was handsomely rewarded along the way, still vividly remembering sights, smells, tastes & experiences from that trip like yesterday. And here's the thing: although I was technically traveling solo I was never really alone. You're constantly meeting new people on a daily basis in hostels & guesthouses, on buses & trains, looking to do similar activities, and all of us have one huge thing in common no matter where we're from, traveling.
Highlights from that trip include: attending seven different events at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, spending five months in Europe experiencing so many different languages, sights, landmarks, currencies, foods & people, the Taj Mahal, seeing tigers in the wild via elephant back in India, exploring Vietnam & Laos, Angkor Wat, zip-lining off the Great Wall of China, sleeping under the stars in the Australian Outback, snow skiing, zorbing, whale watching and white water rafting in New Zealand, camping in Denali National Park with Mt. McKinley in the background & getting chased by wild boars in Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica.
Once back in the States it was tough to readjust/settle down/work, so (logically and sensibly) I quietly planned another adventure, taking off just over a year later for four months to Central America. Great times were had there as well, like staying on remote Caribbean islands & living on coffee plantations in Panama, volcano boarding, Laguna de Apoyo & Little Corn Island in Nicaragua, watching sea turtles hatch & find their way to the sea in Costa Rica, white-water rafting & exploring the Mosquitia Coast jungle in Honduras & canyoning and the beaches in El Salvador. But this time when I came back I was nearly out of funds, so I knew the time had come to get back in the workforce and find a job.
Three short months later I moved to Arlington, Virginia and got a job a few blocks from the White House in Washington DC at a law firm. I worked as a paralegal (then promoted to Senior Paralegal and then Paralegal Specialist), and while it wasn't my dream job, it paid the bills and offered me seven weeks of paid vacation per year. I used my time off wisely, and when all is said and done when I leave the job in April of 2015, during my nearly eight years there I visited seventeen countries, Hawaii twice, Puerto Rico, and took loads of domestic trips too. And now once again with a treasure trove of frequent flyer points & miles to use (+/- 925,000) I'm ready to cash them in once again and let the adventures begin . . .
So that's more or less my story. I'll be updating this blog a few times before taking off on Wednesday 04.22, so stay tuned for the next entry !!!!!!!!!