TM Travel Blog: Cayla
Cayla is a board member at Traveling Mercy and currently works as a COO.
Tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you and why do you like to travel?
I’m from a tiny town in rural Northeast Alabama. I’m currently the COO of a few companies under my family’s business umbrella. Growing up in a small town, I wasn’t exposed to a lot – especially people from different backgrounds. My first real exposure to people that didn’t look/think/act like me was when I left home at 18 to attend George Washington University. GW was the start of me seeing the world through a different lens. That’s what travel does. It opens peoples' eyes and gives the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.
Where was the last place you traveled?
I actually just got back from Jamaica! It was just a short trip to escape for a few days, but I loved the people and vibe there.
How many countries have you been to?
11 so far and I’ll be making it 12 this summer with a visit to Germany!
Where do you want to visit that you haven’t been to?
I would love to go to Egypt. I am fascinated by their culture and history. When I lived in India, I roomed with some people from different parts of Egypt, and I would love to see them again.
Which place/adventure was your favorite?
As I mentioned above, I lived in India for a few months back in 2012. While there, I shared an apartment with 25+ people from around the world. We were all there to work for one nonprofit organization or another. Some of us worked for women's rights groups, others with orphanages, etc. We wanted to help bring about positive change in India. I don’t think we realized how much India changed us. We joked that we were a mini United Nations because we represented so many different parts of the globe. We talked about issues facing our communities and how to fix them. We talked about what it was like growing up Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, etc. We listened and learned from each other in a completely safe space. Our time together is an experience I will never forget.
Why would you recommend this place/adventure to a fellow traveler?
India is one of the most extreme places I’ve ever visited and I mean that in the best way. It’s a beautiful, vibrant country, but you have to open your eyes and mind to see it. It will change the way you view the world.
What is your best advice for travel? Do you have any interesting tips/tricks?
Be open to new experiences. Coming from a rural town, I didn’t fully understand how different some parts of the world are from my own home. It took me a while to appreciate and understand how just because people do something different than how I grew up doing it, doesn’t make it wrong. Also in a more practical sense, don’t overpack. My favorite trick for packing necklaces is to wrap them around Q-tips to keep them from getting tangled!
Favorite activity while traveling?
Meeting new people! Everyone has a story.
Where are you planning to go next?
Germany for a 90th birthday party! I’m really excited to see Germany with locals and not just hit the tourist spots.
What do you believe most about the power of travel? How does travel benefit you as a member of marginalized community and/or why is travel important for marginalized groups?
I know firsthand the uncertainty that is associated with the unknown from growing up in my small community. When you learn about where people come from, you understand them in a more complete way. Travel gives people the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective if they open their eyes and minds. I truly believe that is what makes travel the key to building bridges and not walls.