As a young child long before I began travelling and perhaps before I had any idea that a gigantic world existed outside of my immediate space, one of the trinkets in our old California house I was most fond of was a wooden coin jar. Its contents had been collected by various family friends and given to me by my grandparents. The jar had a semi-gloss finish with green and burgundy leaves painted over the finished wood. Its plain wooden top had a coin slit that would allow large coins to fit inside of the jar. I had been interested in neither the jar itself nor the clunk of metal coins as I rattled it around, but finally one day I unscrewed the top to find the variety of coins within the jar and my imagination was finally given space to wonder.
Inside were more than thirty old dirty coins from all around the world – Chile, India, Argentina, Japan, Israel, Peru, and dozens of other countries. The coins had different languages, faces of different ethnicities, and symbols that represented a part of each country’s culture. I had no need for money, especially foreign money, and I probably did not even have a wallet at the time to hold any coins, but something about all the international currency fascinated me. They were all places I had never been, and many were places I had little to no knowledge of; but I knew enough from picture books and my parents to know that each country had different food, geography, and culture.
All of a sudden, I wanted to experience these other corners of the world, and since then that itch has never gone away. At the point of writing this, I am 22 years old and I have visited sixteen countries, but my journey is very far from over. I have learned a lot, but especially I have learned how much of the world I have yet to see, and thus how much I have yet to learn. It could be that something else would have eventually sparked my international interest if it was not for those coins, but when I travel and think of why I am doing it, I always remember the days I spent sorting through that old wooden jar of coins.