When I was a small fry, my dad surprised our family one Christmas with a Macintosh Classic II computer. None of us expected it (I was pining for neon scrunchies). This was the late-1980s; a time when at-home desktop computers were just breaking into popular culture.

The screen was the size of my hand and the keys clicked like crickets. I’d only worked on one these magical boxes at my elementary school in a once-a-week computer lab session during which I learned typing and music composition, so I wasn’t sure if my parents were grooming me to become a 9-to-5’er or the next Beethoven.

Growing up into the world’s next iconic composer did not work out, but, the family computer did succeed at awakening another educational pursuit: Travel. Along with the magical box, my dad got us Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego, a geography- and adventure-themed computer game in which kids could follow a female heroine (Carmen) as she trekked from Toronto to Tokyo—all while wearing her signature trench coat and wide-brimmed hat. 

Looking back, this is my first memory of the width, breadth, and depth of the Earth. After Carmen, I gleaned our planet is so much more than the pull-down map suspended over the green chalk board in my third-grade class. I realized it is a real place begging to be explored. 

Chasing Carmen in Seattle

Life of Carmen

To say I wanted Carmen’s life is an understatement. I played the inaugural game religiously until my parents bought me the next edition. I wanted to travel on planes, trains, and jumbo jets. I wanted to scale the Eiffel Tower and descend into the depths of the Grand Canyon. I wanted to get to know the world as a savvy super hero.

A few years later, tween life set in and I became more concerned with which frosted lip shade I’d wear than my nightly meet-up with Carmen and her henchmen. Gradually, my normal-teen experiences began to incorporate international travel, taking me to rural Mexico to build a much-needed clinic (captured in this Find Your Calling Expedia video), as well as to New York, the Dominican Republic, and China for study-abroad university classes.

Armed with a touch of post-graduation income from my first job in marketing, I realized my faux-wood desk would never grow jet propulsion engines or dole out fresh-baked croissants, so I quit and went to Paris (twice). A stint working on a cruise ship followed. Finally, my travel dance card was inching closer to Carmen status. 

A storybook story

In early 2014, Expedia launched its “storybook” campaign centred around turning travel ideas into reality. In conjunction with this, each of the Expedia Viewfinders was asked “What’s your travel storybook?”

I thought about the answer for a long time—even toyed with recreating the scene where I fell in love with my husband on the Great Wall of China (true story!). Then it hit me. I had to give credence to Carmen, since she played an early role in my wanderlust.

Following in her footsteps, I made a video (with my own signature twist on Carmen’s classic chapeau). The short reel recreates my early years of “Carm-chair travel,” showing how my love of the game propelled me into a life of “trip-styling.” It then charts some of my recent adventures to San Francisco, Napa, Cannon Beach, Seattle, Canada’s Sunshine Coast, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, and Mexico.

The video is about as personal as I get. While travel has a different impact on each wanderer, if I distill my cross-cultural adventures into one truth, it’s this: Carmen-style curiosity is not quenched in a single country or trip, but in the stories we live along the way. A magical box, a game, and my parents’ wise move to forgo the neon scrunchies I put on my list for Christmas 1989 (in lieu of a computer) are part of my travel story. What memories or artifacts are part of yours? 

Trip-Styled travel

The last scene of the video is shot in Mexico’s Riviera Maya at one of my favorite hotels, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, an all-villa resort where each abode comes with its own private plunge pool. Having had my eye on this resort for the past five years, I wanted to share the love with the world explorer in all of us. Hop over to TripStyler.com, my travel blog, to see how you can enter to win a three-night getaway to the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, plus a US$750 flight voucher toward your trip from Expedia.com.

What early influences inspired your fire for travel?