Why did you decide to travel?
For me, travel was almost not a choice, but an internal programming. Since age 4, I would scour encyclopedias and ogle the pictures of ancient Greece and Rome and read anything I could get my hands on about other countries. Cross-country road trips from California to visit the grandmas in Wisconsin helped reinforce the idea that life existed outside your own little self-absorbed world and made me wonder what someone my age in, say, India was doing at that same moment in time. I spent a year in high school as an exchange student to Germany and was profoundly changed as I viewed my own country and everything I had ever learned differently.
I honestly believe that travel is something one either loves or hates. It either gets under your skin and into your blood or leaves you itching for the comforts of your lounge chair and DirectTV remote. At the risk of oversimplifying, I would say there are 3 main classifications of people: 1) Those who spend their lives in pursuit of material possessions, stability, and living "comfortably" 2) Those who feel uncomfortable with stability, who thrive on change and having their notions and ideas stretched, who believe that life is more than material possessions, and spend their lives in pursuit of what they think does matter in life 3) Those who would like to be in either group, but lack the courage to pursue the path.
On the road, I "fit", in mainstream USA, I do not. Ignorance is bliss, but I choose to be educated, and with that comes certain responsibility. I cannot sit back and know that I work for an international bohemoth of a company that presses suppliers to get the best prices for goods without considering what impact they have on labor conditions in the countries where they buy them. I cannot rest at night with the idiosyncracies of taking care of my employees' best needs while ignoring the plight of the people who supply the things they sell. I cannot chew and swallow ethnocentric reactions to US terrorist casualties when those same people have no reaction whatsoever to deaths that US government, military, or policy causes in less fortunate countries. Perhaps if everyone traveled and met people from other countries, more understanding and less fighting would exist. Because of these and countless other things, I believe that it is my duty to be the face of "the other America" in the world. The best compliments I have ever received were that I was "the most non-American American they had ever met." Breaking stereotypes happens one relationship at a time, and every relationship forged makes one perhaps more a citizen of the world and less a citizen of one country in it.
Where has been the most "exotic" place you have ever travelled?
(I don't know that this would really qualify as exotic, but perhaps because it was one of my first travel experiences and to somewhere I had never even thought or desired to go to, it sticks in my mind that way.)
How was this place different from where you are from?
Well, aside from the obvious differences of language, cuisine, and geography (which, by the way were fantastic!), at home no one had ever tried to buy me for 19 camels before!!!
Where have you always wanted to travel but have never gone, and why?
Malaysia: I read up a lot on Malaysia and tried to study abroad there in college (they nixed me; said three times was too many) and I am fascinated by the seemingly peaceful coexistence of otherwise conflicting races and religions. Not to mention all the beautiful natural jungles and islands and amazing diving to be had there! I have never gone because I would like to really devote a lot of time to it and to all of SE Asia, but until now haven't had that time. I planned on going this month, but alas! I didn't consult with the flight gods prior to planning out my entire trip and came to find out it was an extremely popular a.k.a. EXPENSIVE time to try to fly there, so I will have to postpone it til next year!