My name is Taylor Demonbreun, and I love to travel.
I'm 22-years-old, from Tuscaloosa, Alabama (Roll Tide), and am about to graduate from Vanderbilt University with a double major in Economics and Public Policy. I have spent my entire life, or at least the majority of the years that I can remember, as a student. From early on, I pushed myself to study and excel in school. In elementary and middle school I had to make all As (by my own standard) and in high school I had to make perfect grades and excel in extracurriculars to get into a top college. Once in college I had to continue to push myself to get good grades with difficult majors in order to get a great job.
My fall semester of junior year of college was spent networking day-in and day-out in an attempt to gain a prestigious summer internship at an investment bank. If you ask my roommates, they will tell you that I was non-existent that entire semester. I sent hundreds of cold emails and spent days on informal interview calls. This all helped me to land my "dream internship". But to get there, I sacrificed many things that were important to me: friendships, grades, family, exercise, etc. To tell you the truth, I don't even know why I wanted the internship to begin with. It was prestigious, the pay was insane, and it was what everyone else seemed to be doing. While I don't regret the experience that I had, I do wish I had given more thought to what I really wanted to do before rushing into what was ultimately not a great career path for me.
I've done everything by the book my entire life. I have spent the majority of the past ten years with my head in a textbook, studying until 2am. But the spring semester of my junior year, my life changed forever. I studied abroad in London at University College London, and while taking a full course load also traveled to 20 countries throughout Europe over the course of four months. I have never enjoyed a four month period of my life more. It was like I finally woke up. Instead of having my head in a textbook, I was fully immersed in the places about which I had read. I visited a majority of the countries on my own. I was able to learn more about both the world and myself through travel than I had through all of my previous studies.
After exploring a continent by myself for four months, I reached a new level of self-awareness. As an introvert, a lesson that did not come easily was asking questions, but a.) I had no choice and b.) most everyone I met was willing to help. As I reached out to others, I was able to more fully engage with a culture instead of just passing through. But perhaps most importantly, I discovered how pushing yourself to your limits allows you to more fully know yourself. While my experiences abroad were the most I have ever been out of my comfort zone, they were also the most fulfilling. I think this is an opportunity everyone should experience.
Coming home from these adventures to my summer internship at an investment bank was quite the turn of events. Each day of my internship stood in stark contrast to the past four months, where I had spent most days waking up to go explore a new city.
In my mind I just kept going back to my time abroad. As my escape from the menial, I began to research and plan trips that I could take. The list of countries continued to grow and at some point, it hit me: why not visit every country? One of the most interesting parts of my time abroad was visiting countries so diametrically opposed to each other (flights from Denmark to Portugal or Italy to Hungary stand out). I knew that eventually I would want to visit as many new places as possible, so why not visit them all? Leave no stone unturned, right? The idea has only grown from there.
Have you ever had an idea hit you so hard that you just knew it was what you were supposed to do? That's how I have felt from the very beginning with TrekWithTaylor. I believe without a doubt that I can visit every country and break the world records. But why do I want to break records? All of my life I’ve been trying to fit myself into the same box as everyone else. Good grades? Check. Great college? Check. Prestigious internship? Check. But now, I’m ready to smash that box open. I've played by the rules my entire life, but I'm excited to go against the grain and pursue what I’m truly passionate about.
Like most people, I have let my dreams lay dormant, finding every excuse not to take the first step, whether it be money, time, or inevitable responsibilities. In pursuing this trek, I want to prove that people have more agency than they think - that they have more power over their path than society may lead them to believe. In taking my first step, I hope that it will inspire others to take theirs, whatever that may look like. As I trek, I also hope to spread a love of travel with the goal that more people are able to have life changing experiences that allow them to realize what is really important to them in life. I hope you'll join me!