The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Juliann

Last month my sweet blogger friend Dianne Gray reminded all of us that sometimes we need the downs in life to appreciate the ups. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, gorgeous humans from all over tell us what makes them in love with life.

Today I’m overjoyed to bring you my lovely blogger pal, Juliann Wetz from Browsing the Atlas. Julie is a mother, wife, and travel guru who I stumbled upon in the blogging universe forever ago. My wanderlust tendencies often bring me into the arms of travel bloggers, but Juliann isn’t like the rest. Her stories of the world are endlessly quirky, humorous, and inspiring. She brings the world to our homes with a down-to-earth spirit that I simply adore. Watch out, Samantha Brown. Because Juliann’s one heck of a traveling Life Enthusiast!

Connect with Juliann on Twitter.

Dazzle us Julie…

I was not a happy teenager. I lived in rural Ohio, endured painful middle school years and would have been content to spend the rest of my days alone in my room with my books.

But something happened to me in high school that changed everything: I won a scholarship to go to Germany as an exchange student. Me. Little old me. I’m not exaggerating when I say it changed my life.

At 15-years-old, I boarded a plane, flew across the ocean by myself and discovered that there were other ways to live. As cliché as it sounds, there was a whole big world out there and suddenly, I realized how ‘small town’ my life had been.

The teen angst I’d experienced at home was put into perspective. Free to be a whole new me in a whole new place and explore a whole new culture was the most liberating experience of my life. Like an alcoholic tasting their first drink, I was hooked. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to replicate that feeling and have had great success in doing so.

Wanderlust is in my blood.

Luckily, traveling is a manageable and healthy sort of addiction. (If you can even call it an addiction at all.) I am as eager to jump in the car and drive 50 miles up the highway as I am to sit in a plane for 27 hours and fly halfway around the world. I know when I reach my destination, I’m going to discover something new, whether it’s a mural painted on the side of a barn, an exotic food that I’ve never tasted, or an entire sub-culture that I didn’t even know existed.

I never know what I’ll discover. That’s what excites me most. There’s a whole big world out there!

Sometimes I am struck by a moment and am awed by the thought that I am standing on a small spot of the world where I never dreamed I’d be. This happened one night at Pemaquid Point in Maine as I stood on a cliff under a lighthouse and saw four more lighthouses in the distance blinking back at me. And behind a shopping mall in Alaska while I waited for a bus and saw the aurora borealis. And again in a tiny, cement church in Nicaragua where little girls in hand-me-down dresses sang to me in Spanish.

These are moments when I want to pinch myself for being so incredibly lucky to realize what a great, big world this is. These are my moments of bliss.

I’ve been very fortunate to find ways to travel with my family. We’ve had amazing experiences in so many different parts of the world and it has fostered true appreciation for other cultures in my children. We’ve all learned things about the world that we’ve brought back with us.

When my daughter’s Current Events class discussed the smog problem in China, she was able to share what she’d learned there. She explained what our driver had told us about the ways they limit the number of vehicles on the road by restricting certain cars on designated days as indicated by their license plate numbers.

china smog

My brother and my son can tell you how to lure South Dakota prairie dogs and chipmunks to you so you can feed them by hand. (Hint: use sunflower seeds.)

prairie dogs

And if you want to imitate Lucy Ricardo and see what it’s like to stomp grapes, my mom and I can fill you in. As it turns out there are dozens of places in Indiana and surrounding states that hold grape-stomping contests in August and September.

Of course, I can probably tell you a little more than my mom since I was actually the champion in Vevay, not her. ☺

stomping grapes

All of these memories make me so happy. My journeys around the world have been journeys of self-discovery as well.

My attitude and enthusiasm for a life of travel was summed up nicely by Marcus Buckingham in Now, Discover Your Strengths:  “…yours is the kind of mind that finds so many things interesting. The world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.” So true, so true. Which is why I feel compelled to see as much of it as I can.

When Britt tagged me to be June’s Life Enthusiast, I was flattered to be among so many other creative, passionate people. I’ve come a long way from the somewhat surly tween stuck in Nowheresville, Ohio.

Now I’m off to see the world and all it has in store for those who open themselves up to the experience of it all. Thanks, Britt!

23 thoughts on “The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Juliann

  1. My love of traveling started when I was a teenager, too, after spending a year as an Au Pair girl in Paris. Learning about other cultures is one of the best ways to keep an open mind. Wonderful post. 🙂

      1. Okay, I won’t, because it definitely wasn’t. 🙂 I wrote a blog post about it a few weeks back, including a pic of the wonderful Turkish toilet I had the luxury of using all year. Oops, I guess I just ruined your fantasy… 😉

  2. This is a wonderful post. Now I feel like jumping on a plane to see the aurora borealis, lighthouses winking at me in the distance and little girls in hand-me-down dresses singing to me in Spanish. What a beautiful life! 😀

    1. Thanks, Dianne! Makes me want to jump on a plane right now, too. Luckily, I can relive these images in my mind. But I look forward to more of those awesome moments in life and am always open to them. Hope you have many of your own. 🙂

  3. You’re so right, Juliann; traveling is a sort of addiction! That excitement when the plane hits the tarmac in a new country and you know you’ll be experiencing all sorts of new adventures…..

    And now I’ll know… when in South Dakota, bring sunflower seeds 🙂

  4. Wow, I would never have been brave enough at the age of 15 to go to the other side of the world and study. But what an incredible way to open up your mind and your outlook! Do you ever wonder what might have become of you if this hadn’t happened? Mind blowing…

    1. I don’t often think about how life would have been different if I hadn’t had that opportunity. What occupied my thoughts more was whether or not I’d be brave enough to send my own children off into the world like that. (Lots of credit to my parents!!) When my son was in high school, I happily sent him to Germany through the same program — twice. He loved it and I think it had great impact on his life and adventuresome spirit, too. Now my daughter is starting high school. She’s studying Spanish. Will I have the guts to let her go to Mexico or Spain alone? Time will tell, but I think I’d like to stowaway with her.

  5. Love Juliann’s back story, suddenly discovering a new world that broke her bonds. And that enthusiasm has remained and comes across remarkably well in her travel blogs – always an eye for a story and a picture and a true happiness in her many discoveries. The likes of me is perfectly happy to stay home and have the big wide world laid out splendidly by lovely people such as Julie.

    1. Every time I hear of a teen who’s depressed or angry, I always wish they had the chance to get away from their lives for a moment and see that there are other ways to live; other options. A much bigger world. I feel like a Pollyanna suggesting that people escape, but even if it’s temporarily, it does give you new perspective.

      1. I know a blogger whose biggest regret is not being able to reassure her cousin of exactly this. Her cousin committed suicide towards the end of high school, just before getting the chance to “escape” to college or beyond.

        Although I think there’s other ways to get new perspective that don’t involve travelling – I like to joke about how blessed I was that my mother went and got cancer just to save me from teen angst. I heard a radio DJ say there’s nothing worse than being a teenager without any real problems.

  6. Gotta second the comment about traveling being sort of like an addiction. I was just telling a friend the other day that I never considered myself too much of a travel person but within these past few years, something has changed and I think a lot of it had to do with my slightly-mental decision to move back to Taiwan after college. When I think back to where I was then to where I am now, so many things have changed and like you said, I also feel infinitely blessed to realize and experience how big this world is. Love this backstory into your traveling and also this entire series! I’m off to read all the other ones. 🙂

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