Dear Shut Up and Go Family,
I’m sure you’re wondering why the heck I started this article as if I’m writing you a letter. Truth is, I just wanted to be dramatic because I’m about to dish out a huge milestone announcement with y’all right now. Chances are that as you’re scrolling down this page, I’m heading to my local post office to send in my first maxed out passport.
Yup, that’s right. My little blue book is filled to the brim. As soon as I landed in Orlando a few days ago, I got yelled at one final time by a border control officer who had no idea where to leave his stamp. I initially thought it was a “him problem” and not a “me problem,” (like, get a smaller stamp dude), but then I realized that if I was not an American citizen I might have not been let back into the country. Oops.
In honor of my newly departed paperback friend, I would like to reflect on where my thirst for travel truly began and where I returned to a few days ago after arriving in Orlando – Epcot.
Long before I ever strolled through the aisles of an international long-haul, I strutted through the pavilions of Epcot with my laminated Disney passport.
For those of you who are not familiar, Epcot is a Disney theme park renowned for its World Showcase, a collection of 11 miniature countries spanning around a giant lagoon. Each “country” has been architecturally modeled to resemble its respective nation, features workers from the actual place who speak the national language, and of course includes vendors that sell traditional food, trinkets, and alcoholic beverages.
When I was a tiny 13-year-old, I felt like the biggest badass ever when I entered the Italian pavilion and ordered water in Italian, asked where the baño was in the Mexican pavilion as if I actually needed to use it, and begged my mom to take a Myspace profile picture of me in Morocco (see above). As a child who could not travel on my own volition, I let my imagination run wild through the exhibitions at Epcot. I dreamed that one day I would be able to truly see places like Japan, France, and Norway with my own eyes.
That was me in 2009. Now it’s 2019. Cue the present.
Exhausted from my two days of flying from Turkey, I lug my suitcases to the Red Roof Inn Orlando West. Located only 20 minutes from Disney, this chill budget-friendly hotel with comfy Serta beds, unlimited coffee, and flat-screen TVs allows me to recharge my batteries as I prepare for my nostalgic trip around the Epcot World Showcase. Their formula is basically to offer more for less (perfect for travelers like vous and moi) and their rewards program can score you a free room with only 7,000 points.
As I walk into the gates of Epcot the next day, my heart flutters again like I am a child. However, I see things differently than I did during my first few trips. When I pass by Norway and the United Kingdom, I realize that I was literally in both countries less than 24 hours prior. As I contemplate buying wine in Italy, I realize that I actually live in the real Italy. Once I reach Mexico, I start speaking in fluent Spanish to a lady trying to advise me on which spicy candy to purchase. It was then that it dawned on me. I was living the dreams that I had as a child when I strolled through these pavilions. Epcot has created and nurtured my desire to become a global citizen. Some may consider it to be the “most boring” of the Disney parks, but I still believe it is the most enriching. Epcot continues to inspire millions of children to explore and learn from the world around them. Now as I hand in my passport and reflect on my experiences these past 11 years, I realize that I might have actually have become a global citizen in the process. Epcot, for me, represents my childhood dreams that have turned into reality.
Now, what about you? As a child, what inspired you to pursue travel? Let us know in the comments below!
*This post is sponsored by Red Roof Inn and Red Roof Plus+ hotels.