"An Introduction to the Life of Laurel" Laurel914's Profile

Who I am

Well, I suppose I should first tell you that my name is Laurel, but I'm sure you could have figured that out just by looking at my user name. I am 25 and finished college in December 2006 and work as an accountant. I got my CPA (Certified Public Accountant) license in April of this year so I'm still thrilled about that. To the Britsh and Indians (and perhaps other nationalities as well) the CPA license is the equivalent of being a chartered accountant. I used to work in an accounting firm doing a combination of tax and audit work, but now I work at a new company exclusively in the area of business tax. Speaking of taxes, I really do enjoy researching issues so if you have any questions whatsoever regarding taxes in the U.S., feel free to send them my way. I really don't mind at all.

Where I've been

I had never been out of the country until after high school. My first trip was to Mexico to visit a friend who had gone home to see his parents for a few months. I was in Guadalajara for 5 days, which wasn't very long at all. My next trip was to Paris. I took a course with my university that went to Paris for three weeks in January. I loved that the lines were more reasonable, but I did miss seeing some things. For example, I went to the Eiffel tower to go ice skating (that was amazing!) but we decided to wait to go up to the top until another day. They closed the Eiffel tower two days later for routine maintenance. It didn't open again until after we left Paris. Of course, that has given me a great reason to "need" to go back. After that was a one day trip to Canada at the end of a hiking trip. My most recent trip was to India in February 2007 for a friend's wedding. The entire two weeks was one of the best experiences of my life.

Last year (May 24th - June 15th) I went to Italy. It was an absolutely amazing place and I wanted to go back the minute I was on the plane back home. None of my friends wanted to go (either not enough time or not enough money) so I decided to go by myself. A lot of people thought I was crazy, but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. There's so many things that can be experience if you travel by yourself.

This past August I was selected to be on the Virtual Tourist team for the Caucasian Challenge. The people that I've met and the places that I've seen will stay with me the rest of my life. And for that I am eternally grateful to VT. Life has gotten in the way of posting tips from that race, but I have very detailed notes that I'll use to post tips once I finally get my pictures organized. 3,147 pictures is a lot of pictures to go through.....

You're going by yourself???

Most people thought I was crazy when I told them that I was going on a three week trip to Italy by myself. I'll admit that I was worried that I would get lonely since I didn't know anyone and didn't know any Italian. I had purchased an audio cd to learn a few basic words before the trip which was really helpful. Traveling by myself really forced me to break out of my shell and talk to people I wouldn't have otherwise. By the end of the trip I had picked up enough Italian to have an entire conversation and understand most of it. I also met new people in every city I went to and consider myself to have friends around the world now. I definitely would have missed out on meeting all of these great people if I was traveling with a friend. If you ever have the chance to take a trip by yourself I would definitely recommend it as an eye opening experience.

Where I'd like to go

I got my passport for my January 2006 trip to Paris. Since then, it's been my goal to get at least one passport stamp every year. This year's stamp will come from Peru. Then in December I'll get another stamp from India when I go back for the Autorickshaw Challenge. 2010 will be the 100th anniversary (or maybe it's the 50th?) for my little brother's choir. They're going to Africa for their annual tour that year and I think it would be great to see my brother perform in Africa. He's currently 14, but is excited that I want to come. If possible, I might go from whereever the concert is to Egypt. I know Africa is rather large, but Egypt has been on my list of places to go for so long. I'd also really like to drive all around the UK and go to China. Those probably won't happen for a few years, but I'll definitely make it to them.

My travel philosophy

I would have to say that I'm somewhere between the person who goes to a country just to add it to the list of places they've been and the person who does nothing but delve deeper into whatever country they're in. I'm definitely envious of the people with 50 + countries visited, but I also think that it doesn't really count if you don't take the time to experience the place. Personally, I've found three weeks to be an ideal amount of time to travel. It's enough time to really get a feel for a place, but not so long that you really start to miss home and the people (and pets!) there. My problem tends to come because I have a hard time restricting myself to one area because I want to see everything. But you get a much better feel for the culture of a place if you take it slow and aren't always in a rush to check a sight off your list of things to be seen or places to go.

Random information

I've been a member since late February of this year and haven't really built my pages yet. Life seems to have gotten in the way of that. Initially the point of joining VT was to get information about Italy to prepare for the trip I took this May/June. I returned home on June 15th, but have been mainly focusing on answering forum postings about Italy or getting to know people through the miscellaneous forums. However, it's high time I buckled down and really focused on building pages full of useful tips. I've found that writing goals where others can see them is the best way to accomplish them because you don't want to let them down. So here it is fellow VTers: I will post one tip every other week starting this weekend. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but it's tax season now and I'm still quite busy with trying to fix up my house.

Looking for adventure?

Completing the Caucasian Challenge with the VT team really opened up my eyes to other ways to see the places you visit. For example, I had so many different experiences on the CC that I wouldn't have had any other way. Just to give you an idea, I wouldn't have had the chance to play soccer (football) with the Georgian border guards just weeks after Russian had invaded. Or to see the remote areas of the countries we passed through, which really gave me a better idea of the 'real' side of each country. Ok, I realize this is turning into my memories of the CC, but here's one more: I wouldn't have seen a house in Bosnia that had been completely ruined by the wars that have happened in recent years. That is the one memory from this trip that I'll never be able to forget. And never want to. The Balkan Wars always seemed very distant to me even though I had seen things on television and read about it in the newspaper. Seeing the damage and destruction with my own eyes made me realize how real those wars really were.

Seeing more things that make a country more real is one of the main reasons that I'm signing up for the Auto Rickshaw Challenge in India. Well, that and the amazing friends I've made. However, all of my friends at home are rather boring people when it comes to travel so I'm looking for a partner for this race. Send me an email if you're interested in joining me for this crazy adventure! Checkout VT Manager Giampiero's page for some great video footage of what you can expect.

  • Intro Updated Feb 10, 2009
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Minnesota, United States of America
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