Writing this is something of a miracle. I’m an average black girl from the Midwest. I grew up in the affluent town Ann Arbor, Michigan, in a small low-income neighborhood tucked away on the northside of town.

Our community didn’t expect much of us, they were merely doing their civic duty of increasing “diversity” and providing affordable housing. Growing up in a place like this creates a lot of confusion, insecurity, and a sense of not belonging.

On the flip side, what it did provide, was exposure to different ways of life and opportunities. I talk often about the catalyst for life as I know it in my other works. In short, my first ever international journey was with my high school choir to a choir competition in Italy. This experience led me to eventually study abroad in England, which helped me build the framework for the life I lead to this day.

THE BEGINNING

My first 18 countries I did on a whim. I didn’t know much about the world, I just bravely threw myself into every opportunity without understanding the impact. While I studied in England I literally almost starved myself to use my extra money to spend my weekends and holidays traveling around Europe & North Africa.

Once I returned back home, not being able to explore like I did when I lived in Europe, sent me into what I now know is re-entry shock, and eventually into depression. During this period of time I was challenged with trying to figure out what kind of life I wanted to live.

I worked at a hotel to save money to travel more places, I volunteered in Mexico and took a 36 hour bus ride from Detroit to Monterrey; I was desperate for new experiences. I had been exposed to so much in just a few years, and it was so overwhelming, that I quit school and started a job as a flight attendant.

THE NOMADIC PERIOD

I moved to Philadelphia filled with wanderlust and heartache. On a very limited salary, but amazing flight benefits, I traveled as far and wide as humanly possible. I couchsurfed in Israel, spent almost two weeks in Ethiopia with a girl I met through the former Travel Noire online community TN District, and took a 10 day vacation to Southeast Asia with two girls from work that I met in a Facebook group.

Much like the early days, I traveled on a whim, but armed with nearly free flights, I spent most of this time just looking at the map and deciding which places I could travel without a visa or immunizations. I used my work trips as inspiration for new destinations and spent many sleepless days and nights high on caffeine getting lost in cities and meeting kind strangers in hostels.

After two years of aimlessly flying around the world, I started to feel the weight of my choice to live more selfishly. I felt disconnected from friends and family, I felt the weight of being in customer service and knowing that I was capable of going back to school and accomplishing what I thought were more tangible things. Although I had made it to 30 countries by my 25th birthday, I felt that there was something bigger for me and my purpose was yet to be actualized.

THREE YEAR LULL

This period marks many changes in my life, including a 3-year period where I didn’t visit any new countries. I was in a serious relationship, in school finishing my bachelors in International Affairs, and spending more time building locally.

On breaks from school I started taking friends and family to countries that I’d visited before and re-visiting places that I loved like Brazil and Thailand. There was a huge shift that happened during this period where I wanted to start sharing travel with people that I actually knew, instead of always traveling with strangers.

I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without the random strangers I’ve encountered on the road, but I also felt a responsibility to share it with people who mattered the most to me. It’s also incredibly lonely experiencing such dynamic experiences outside of close and intimate connections.

THE ROAD TO FORTY

I finished school and entered the world just like any other college grad; armed with optimism and not enough experience in my field. This period led to me focusing my efforts on entrepreneurship and re-igniting my thirst for adventure – but this time with purpose.

My final 10 countries, some were for work purposes, but most of them were purpose-driven. I studied Spanish in the mountains of Guatemala, visited Estonia with one of my closest friends, and finally got to eat my beloved Korean food in Korea!

REFLECTION

As I reflect, I’ve returned to a few experiences that made this all possible. I would not have been able to do any of my beginning travels had it not been for my mother and her unwavering belief that “where there is a will, there is a way.”

I am forever grateful for the nights and weekends that my mother spent working as a custodian at a middle school to send me money while I was in England, all while going without at home. I was also awarded a need-based scholarship for my first trip to Italy through my high school music department, worked at the PTO Thrift Shop, and received support from the choir faculty.

Studying abroad in England for a year was the most important year of my life. I met my travel sensei and good friend Riikka, who helped me navigate cheap flights, hostels, and was crazy enough to try Couchsurfing and hitchhiking with me, and also continues to support and inspire me.

I’ve learned that even with the odds stacked against me, my curiosity, courage, and flexibility have allowed me in more spaces that I could have ever imagined. The common thread in my entire life is that I have, even when it was hard, fearlessly went after the life that I wanted.

I chose to do what made me happy. I chose to learn and explore. I feverishly and creatively found solutions to my problems. I didn’t let time, money, or anyone get in my way. I learned that I am the architect of my own life. I cannot hold anyone else accountable for my healing, adventure, or my happiness.

Most importantly, I learned that our world is so big, but we are more connected than we are disconnected. I’ve visited cities and villages on every corner of our world, and at the end of the day, everyone wants the same fundamental things: a feeling of belonging, safety, personal achievement, family & community, and the chance to live life on their own terms.

From here & beyond I am committed to traveling with purpose. I am committed to continue to share with my travel family, through my work at And Travel Company and the Our World Foundation, and my forthcoming podcast Take Something With You. I know now that I’ve gotten this far to pay it forward and because I deserve it.

You’ll find me somewhere between Philadelphia & Detroit, between Asia & Africa, but know that I’m going to continue to share & learn & grow & follow my passion wherever it leads me.

Brittany Floyd is the Founder & Owner of And Travel Co., a bespoke group travel & lifestyle company. She was born and raised in Ann Arbor, MI, and is now based in Philadelphia, PA.  She wants to help everyday people see how beautiful and accessible our world is, while creating a community around responsible travel. You can follow her on Instagram: @BrittanyGlobal