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Reader Recs: Life-Changing Childhood Trips

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We can all remember the first trip we took that opened our eyes to the wonder and beauty of the world. Here, ten readers share their stories. (Photograph by Stephen Simpson, Getty)

Traveling at a young age can be a transformative experience that leads to a lifetime of wanderlust. To celebrate the power of travel (and perhaps inspire a few parents out there), we asked our @NatGeoTravel Facebook fans to tell us about trips that made a lasting impression on them during their early years.

Travel back in time with ten stories of life-changing childhood trips:

At the age of 17, Linda S. traveled to Europe to visit her brother and sister-in-law, who were stationed in Naples. “I spent one week in Naples, soaking up the culture of living there, then two weeks traveling all over Italy and six more countries,” she writes. “I saw my ancestral homeland village in Switzerland, the great art and architecture of Italy and Germany, Roman and Greek ruins, and raw natural beauty. All I’ve wanted to do since that time is travel as much as possible, to see new landscapes, and learn about other cultures as well.”

For Samantha S., a trip to Redwood National Forest, where she stayed in a log cabin “literally built in the trees,” made a lasting impression. “It was amazing. We went horseback riding through the Shasta Mountains, [hiked] through Redwood National Forest, and walked the rock beaches of northern California,” she says. “I have always said when I have kids we will make this trip.”

Julie F. fondly recalls driving to Thames, New Zealand, on the North Island’s Coromandel Peninsulawith her parents. “I was old enough then to be allowed to walk to the shop to buy ice-blocks and lollies,” she writes. “I learned independence on that holiday, which I have taken on many adventures [since].”

Sing O. took her first inspirational trip when she was 19. “I went to Japan Japan with a Japanese school friend for three weeks. Coming from Australia, where culture isn’t exactly a strong point, I was introduced to Japan the same way a child is born,” she says. “Japan is…extremely old and extremely new, historical, and futuristic, [with] fascinating customs, trends, food, technology, beliefs, formalities, and personalities. It increased my thirst for culture beyond Japan.”

Judy W. also recalls Japan fondly after having spent five weeks there as a teenager while visiting the family of an exchange student she and her parents had hosted. “It was my first trip abroad, and from that moment forward I knew I would spend my life traveling,” she writes. In the course of exploring Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, the group “went to festivals where we danced in the streets with dragons and drummers, visited temples and religious sites, and had many more adventures. Japan opened my eyes to a whole new world…I felt alive in a way I never had before.”

Mark H. enjoyed an American road trip from Michigan to the Grand Canyon as a child. “We were able to see so much of our country,” he says. “It inspired in me a love of the outdoors and hiking in it.” Crystal T. had a similar experience on a road trip from Alaska to Florida. “[The experience of] looking out the window of the RV and seeing nothing but cliffside and blue Pacific Ocean is clear as day to me still,” she writes.

Annelie G. has fond memories of a train trip from Cape Town to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) that she took with her family when she was 13, which included stops at Bulawayo, Wankie Game Reserve (now Hwange National Park), and Victoria Falls. “We stayed on a relative’s farm outside the bush, where you had to walk through the veld (uncultivated grasslands) to [get to] the outside toilet! At night we heard lions and saw cheetahs. [It was a] real jungle experience.”

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The Blue Angels roar over San Francisco Bay in precision form. (Photograph by ah zut, Flicker)

Brittany G. was a high school senior when she embarked on a three-week trek through Western Europe. “This was my first big trip, so a success or failure could really determine whether I would want to travel again in the future,” she says. “The sights were, of course, amazing, but my favorite part of the trip was getting to wander through a city that was so different from my own.”

Cleveland native Cara M. waxed nostalgic about a trip she took with her grandparents to San Francisco when she was in ninth grade. “The night we arrived there was a cultural parade…[and later we] got to see the [U.S. Navy’s] Blue Angels do a demonstration,” she writes.” Every Labor Day weekend I go to the air show in Cleveland, but my first encounter with the Blue Angels is a memory that repeats itself when the planes roar by. It brings back the child in me.”

Megan Heltzel is an associate producer on National Geographic Travel’s digital team. Follow her on Twitter @MeganHeltzel.

Did a childhood trip make a lasting impression on you? Share your story in the comments section.

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