Team Swales: Ali Dean Travels the World!

Ali Dean travels the globe!!

My team is filled with some pretty amazing people!  And I thought….What’s BOLDER than traveling around the world?!  Luckily for me, my amazing Ali Dean has done just that.  She may not have been to ALL seven continents but she has been to most!  So – I asked her to share some of her favorite images and stories with you and tell you why having bold, new experiences is so important!

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From Ali Dean….

Sometimes it feels crazy to think I have been to so many incredible places!  I grew up in a very small town and my parents taught me – from a very young age – that if I wanted to do anything, I had to do it myself!  I saved my money and paid for every trip I took – even the earliest ones – and that really made me value my experiences SO much more.  I’ll never be able to do those things again….just pick up and go like I did for so many summers.  Traveling so much has made me who I am and I wouldn’t trade a single moment for anything!

I started traveling when I was thirteen.  For three summers I traveled around the world through the organization People to People.  The summer before my freshman year of high school I went to Italy, Switzerland, Austria and France.  The next summer I traveled to China.  My final trip with People to People was to Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.  That was the summer before my junior year.  Even from my earliest trip, certain things have stuck with me.  Traveling with People to People gave me so many advantages.  I was just a kid and it was really nice not to have to worry about anything.  We never had to think about where we would eat, or stay, or visit and they really gave us an amazing sense of the culture and history of the places we were staying.  They didn’t just show us the happy things.

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In Austria we visited the concentration camp, Mauthausen.  It was devastating to see where so many had suffered.  As hard as it was to take in – especially at thirteen – it was such an important experience for me; to be pushed to understand and deal with that amount of tragedy.  Everything was completely made of stone.  It was dark and foreboding and the way it was constructed was frightening – lots of small narrow passages surrounding larger rooms within rooms.  It was horrible thinking of the people being corralled around inside.  The rest of Austria, though, was gorgeous.  It was my favorite place from that trip.  I’ve always loved the mountains and in Austria I was surrounded with the most stunning landscape – everything was rich and green!

In China, visiting the Great Wall was my favorite experience.  It was breathtaking – even after walking along it, it was still impossible to comprehend.  It’s this colossal structure that, even with modern construction, seems impossible to build. China also gave me some of the strangest experiences of all my travels.  I sometimes wonder how many people’s living rooms I’m in because our whole trip people kept wanting to take pictures with us.  Before I could even respond someone would just hand me their baby and snap a photo.  (I feel like I’m in a lot of living rooms.) 

Fiji was probably the best part of my third trip.  Our time there was basically a vacation!  We stayed at an all-inclusive five-star hotel right on the beach.  The water was crystal clear and there were hundreds bright blue starfish.  It was almost unreal how pristine the water was and the beaches were completely filled with bright white sand.  Everyone was incredibly friendly – that was probably the most interesting thing to experience.  It didn’t matter where you were, if you saw someone they greeted you.  In America it’s kind of taboo to even say hello to someone on the street, especially when you’ve never met them.  In Fiji, EVERYONE said hello.  Everyone was very open and kind to us!

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The summer before my senior year I went, through my high school, to England, Ireland, and Wales.  It was a very fast paced trip, we were only there for ten days, but we still ended up with a lot of free time.  It was the first time I had that amount of down-time – to just be able to travel with all my friends from school and explore another country.  I LOVED Ireland the best!  It was absolutely beautiful with jagged coasts and huge cliffs.  I am, truly, a sucker for landscape.

The summer before my sophomore year of college I won a trip to France (my name was one of only twelve drawn out of a hat!)  We stayed in Dijon, France – which is a REALLY tiny town, but we also went to Paris for the last few days we were there.  Returning to Paris was definitely my favorite part!  I got to see Versailles (which we missed the first time due to a mysterious black duffle bag and subsequent evacuation) and it was SO opulent.  Absolutely stunning!  I also went back to the Eiffel Tower and – since I’d already done it before – I didn’t go up to the top.  Instead my friends and I had a picnic underneath.  We drank wine and watched the colored lights of the tower change.  You can see the entire skyline and we just took it all in.  It was beautiful.

It was nice to have the freedom I did on the trips after People to People.  My last trip, I returned to Italy.  I took a photography class there, through Cornell University, and spent an entire month.  It was probably my favorite trip!  I never felt like a tourist (it actually got to the point where if someone pulled out a map all I could think was, ‘Ugh….Tourists!’).  Every day, around the same time, I would go the market and buy fresh produce.  Eventually the little old woman who ran the stand would have my order ready to go when I came by.  I got to know these people and their city – it felt like I lived there.  And I LOVED the food.  They have a crazy food culture.  You could literally build an entire vacation around the food!

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The BEST advice I could really give someone is travel!  I think that if you stay in the same place, do all the same things, for your whole life you really limit yourself.  New ideas come from new places and I think happiness comes from trying new things.  When everything stays the same you don’t really experience life anymore – it just becomes a blur. 

All the traveling has opened my eyes up to things I couldn’t have experienced otherwise.  I’m not afraid of new things and I’ve learned to be excited for any adventure.  The small town I grew up in is the kind of town where you stay – generations of families that have always lived in the same place, done the same things – and I don’t want to stay.  All the places and cultures I’ve seen have given me the strength and courage to do anything I want in life….to go anywhere!

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Posted byTammy Swales