For those of you reading this, it may sound like I’m telling you to join the military. And though, it changed my life for the better and I’m one of its biggest supporters that’s not exactly what I mean.
When I decided to forgo a traditional college experience to join the Air Force Academy, I didn’t think twice. My calling to serve a bigger purpose outweighed my passion to party– simple as that. Fast forward 13 years later, I’ve spent time in 45 states and visited 31 countries. But when I look back on everything, I have to say traveling wasn’t always in my plan. I had no idea that that this one decision would be my ticket to see the world. Not in a million years.
When young women ask my advice on traveling or joining the armed forces, I talk more about an attitude and willingness to be open. I tell them, truthfully, that I stumbled upon my love for travel because at my very core, I was simply willing to contribute to something bigger than myself. And I never looked back.
I’ve walked on Abbey Road, see Platform 9 ¾, explored castles, eaten exotic cuisines, spent Easter in a church built in the 1400s, studied in Spain, worked in Germany, taken day trips to Paris, roamed ancient ruins in Istanbul, and been stationed in Hawaii.
Before my first deployment to Iraq, I was at the bitter end of a toxic relationship. (I was later in Qatar sitting at a bus stop when my divorce was finalized.) With my new found freedom, I spent a lot of time reflecting on who I wanted to be and understanding the importance of just how precious life is. Life is too short to watch other people live it. It’s funny how lying on the ground waiting for rockets and missiles will help with that.
So my advice to you is to get out there. Go and explore. You don’t have to go far, it could cost less than a tank of gas to see something new. Be open and give of yourself. Trust me, you’ll find something or someone that takes your breath away.
Most importantly, whether it’s your family and friends, your community, or your country, if being of service is at the root of all your actions, life will turn right back around and serve you, giving you what you need, when you need it.
Amanda Joy is a Personnel Officer in the United States Air Force. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2008 and has been traveling the world ever since. In 2012, she earned her MBA from Liberty University. She’s traveled to 45 states and 31 countries.
As told to Trishna Patel.