Joseph "Joey" Peele, was 16 when he had his first international experience. As Joey describes, this experience changed the way he saw and connected to those around him and instilled in him a deep appreciation for travel and other cultures.
Current Age: 33
Age at the time of travel: 16
Where did you go?
A cruise to The Bahamas
Why was this trip meaningful to you?
Growing up, my parents never took our family on a vacation together. My father became disabled when I was six years old. Over the next 10 years his condition worsened each year. When my father fell terminally ill, he told my mother that his only regret was that we never took a family vacation. My father passed in May 2000, just a couple of months after we uprooted him from his life-long home in Washington, NC to follow my mother's upward career move to better support our family. After my father's passing, she huddled my brother and I together, and decided that the first thing we would do as a family would be to take our first family vacation to honor my father. That November, we flew into Miami (my first flight ever!) to board our first Carnival cruise to The Bahamas. At the time, flying was perhaps my biggest fear, so in order to be with the family, I had to conquer my biggest fear. I know my father would have wanted me to be brave. He fought in Vietnam and is considered a war hero by his fellow soldiers, so to me, I had large expectations to fill. I know the Bahamas isn't a major international trip, but for me and my family, it was a huge turning point in our lives.
What impact do you feel this trip had on you?
This trip was full of so many firsts for me (flying, learning about a passport, family vacay, and many more). This trip also came right on the heels of moving to a new town and a new high school midway through my junior year, and losing my father 6 months later, then transferring to my 3rd high school for my senior year. My life was at a crossroads and life could have gone in any number of ways and I’m thankful that I had someone in my corner that knew there was a world so much bigger than myself outside of North Carolina as I was witnessing first-hand just how fragile, precious, and short, life really is.
Subconsciously, this trip was slowly shifting how I value human relationships.
How do you think this trip effected your sense of self or the world?
The exposure I got from this trip really changed my perception of people, culture, how other people viewed me, but yet how small my life actually was in comparison to the whole world. Geographically, I had no idea where the Bahamas even was on the map. At the time of this trip, I was a high school athlete with a handsome smile. I often felt as if the world revolved around me and everyone else was just a movie extra in my blockbuster. Whew, boy, was I wrong!
Subconsciously, this trip was slowly shifting how I value human relationships. I became fascinated with other cultures, while developing an extraordinary passion to just explore more of the world. It seemed as if we had fell into a whole new dimension, and a whole new way of life, where I was no longer the main character. No one knew who me, my mother, or my brother were, nor did they care. I learned that people are people everywhere you go, and how you treat people will often dictate how you are treated. It also showed me how meeting and making deep connections with people through your travels can unlock so many keys to new doors you never knew were right in front of you. Everyone comes from somewhere different, everyone has a unique story, all cultures have a history. Once you allow yourself to open your mind, be courageous, and challenge your status quo, you will find benefits for your life and your work. This could even mean be by travelling outside of your city and striking up a conversation with someone you've never met before. Some of the people we met on that very cruise are still friends of our family to this day.
What other trips have you taken?
Now, I can say that I have been on three trips to France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Canada three times, South Africa twice, Mexico, and The United Arab Emirates. As I have gotten older, I strongly feel that going outside of the major cities gives you a more authentic feel and a more palatable taste of a country's flavor than that of the inner cities.
What advice would you give to the person you were before you took this journey?
Dream your biggest. Be your greatest.
I would also encourage myself to be present in every experience and opportunity. Being present can change your life, and it's incredibly simple. Learn it, practice it, be it.
What, if anything, would you change about your experience?
The thing I would change about my first few experiences would be to invent camera phones! I would have loved to save and cherish more of those memories from my first experiences. I am sure there are many a stories that have since faded from my memory that I desperately wish I could have back. Now I utilize my cell phone camera and dSLR camera to photo journal and video each journey to make sure I don't lose the lessons I've learned or the friends I've made along the way.
Joey is a native son of North Carolina (Beaufort and Halifax Counties respectively). Joey holds a B.S. degree in Journalism & Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations from North Carolina A&T State University. Upon graduation, Joey worked at the NC General Assembly and with the US Senate before working the with the North Carolina Public Health Foundation as the Rockingham County Catalyst for Healthy Eating and Active Living. Joey's passions are giving public service, and world travel.