For as long as I can remember travel has been a part of my life. As a child, my family often went camping in Prince Edward Island in the summer. I longed for those Island adventures all year and we’d take off on vacation as soon as school finished in June. As I got older my family decided to take a trip to Cuba. I was thrilled. This was my first experience on a plane. I fell in love with experiencing something new and meeting new people. When I hit 12 we ventured off to the Big Apple – my first experience in a ‘real city’, a metropolis. I fell in love with NYC the moment my feet landed on the ground. That city is beautiful, diverse and exudes possibility. I remember how proud I felt being able to tell my parents which subway we needed to take, or navigating the streets back to our apartment, or standing next to the Empire State Building with wide eyes. These experiences so naturally created the foundation upon which my curiosity was built. “What else is out there?”, I thought.
At 18, I moved to Toronto. I needed something fresh and new. I was looking for an experience that scared me in all the best ways, an opportunity to grow. Living in a city much larger than anything I had seen in NS was definitely a step in the right direction. I’ve always felt that I would live in multiple different places throughout my lifetime even if only for short periods. While in Toronto, I dreamed up the plan that I would go Au Pair in Europe during my summer break. My parents were thrilled (just kidding!). It took some convincing.
I found a family that I was interested in Au Pairing for in Spain. They lived in Amposta, two hours south of Barcelona. The father was a police officer and the mother was a teacher. They had one daughter that would be my responsibility. My parents weren’t sure about letting their teenage daughter jet-set to another continent (alone) for the first time. I requested reference letters from both of their places of employment and we skyped a lot before they agreed. I was so excited!
That summer, my travel bug heightened. I realized what true independence and freedom felt like. I cannot express my gratitude for how lucky I was in the selection of my family. We jelled really well and valued the same things including a healthy, active lifestyle. My responsibilities were extremely manageable. I simply played games and read stories in English with the young girl, took her to dance class, occasionally made dinner and tidied up around the house. I had every weekend “off” and my days were free while she was at school. Sometimes I would go pick up groceries but generally, I had my days to explore the little town. I found some cute little coffee shops where I often went to write and I went for runs along the river. I was given a weekly allowance and my room, board, and food were paid for by them. It was a really great deal with an incredible family.
While I was in Spain I had the opportunity to travel with my family to Pamplona, Montserrat, and Barcelona. They were also extremely accommodating and gave me extra days off to meet up with my dad in Ireland. Then, I called my mom and said I was going to Paris for the weekend (alone). Imagine how that went over?! She was excited obviously but also very worried. All she could picture was this little small town girl tacking the bustling city of Paris. But you know what? I did it and loved it! Traveling alone is so important. You should know how to eat in a restaurant alone and enjoy any minute. You should get off at the wrong subway station lost and have to find your way back. You should wander a brand new city and stumble upon adventures that won’t ever be shared on social media. There is something magical about learning how to be alone with yourself and traveling is a great way to do that. Finally, I went to the Canary Islands for a weekend as well. DO IT! Tenerife is absolutely incredible. I saw a volcano, swam in Garachico, and burned my feet on the black sand beaches (worth it).
My experience as an Au Pair was amazing. It solidified my NEED to travel, to see the world and experience the diverse cultures of this beautiful planet. I don’t want to read about them in Nat Geo – I want to experience it all first hand. If you’re thinking about becoming an Au Pair – I highly recommend it. It’s an affordable way to travel but do your research! Check out the family, talk to past Au Pairs, understand exactly what will be expected of you. I know that not everyone has an experience like mine – I feel extremely lucky to have had such a wonderful time. I still keep in contact with my family in Amposta and I actually visited them last year. I really did become a part of their family and they became a part of mine. When Alex dropped me off at the train on my way home that year, I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. I’m so lucky to have met my second family in Catalonia – I will forever be grateful. Thank you.