This post was contributed by Christine Jones.
Back in early 2018, I met Daniel. I was immediately entranced by his British accent (I’ve always had a thing for British guys), but equally confused that he was taking my order at Chick-fil-A in central Indiana. “Who is this guy, and what is he doing here??” I thought. Being the awkward introvert I am, I memorized his name tag and looked him up on Instagram instead of actually talking to him. I sent him a message, and turns out we both share a passion for art, photography, and travel.
He asked me on our first date a few weeks later.
Right away, I knew I had found someone really special. Somehow, two people who grew up so differently had turned out the same in so many ways. I was a sheltered homeschooled kid who had never been outside the US, and dreamed of going. He had grown up going to private schools all over Africa and Europe, speaking French as a first language, and learning English (the King’s English no less) as a teenager. If there was a definition of “cultured,” he was it. (Still working on my inferiority complex.) But as I got to know him more, he opened my eyes to see America from an outsider’s point of view.
I was dying to travel to Europe. Like, dying. And he kept saying “It’s not as great as you think it is.” “Don’t ruin it for me!” I would say. We both really wanted to travel, but the problem was, he doesn’t have his green card. So even if we could afford a trip to Europe, he can’t go. But then one day early this year, I saw an ad on Instagram. “Sign up for the Southwest card and get companion pass today”. Companion pass allows one passenger to fly with you for free on any flight you purchase. I signed up, and within a couple months we were taking our first trip together.
With the companion pass only lasting for the year, we decided if we couldn’t go to Europe together, we’d spend this time seeing as much of the US as we could. First we relaxed on a peaceful beach in Navarre, FL. Then San Antonio, TX to see Riverwalk and the Alamo, and for me to meet Daniel’s family. Then Joshua Tree National Park in southern California, and finally New York City to see “Phantom of the Opera” on broadway (he loves broadway too, like how did I find this guy??). All the while taking photos, making art, and just doing what we loved, together.
Thing is, neither of us are rich. He works at Chick-fil-A, and I work odd jobs doing freelance video and photography. But we realized that if travel and experiences are important to us, all we need to do is make it a priority. And after earning enough points, we managed to get companion pass for next year as well, and are now looking forward to trips to Hawaii and Alaska.
Daniel helped me realize that America has so much to offer that I was taking for granted. I didn’t need to sit there, idolizing and saving for an expensive trip to Europe before I tried traveling in my own country. So what are you waiting for? Even if you only travel in your own city or country, amazing experiences are out there waiting if you make it a priority. Just Shut Up and Go!