I never imagined this is where I’d be for my 33rd birthday: in a boat downstream from Iquitos, a city in Peru deep in the Amazon. But there I was.
“When fishing for piranha, you’ve got to let them know you’re there.” This was the advice from Celso, the local guide for our group of 10 travelers, on a tour along the Amazon River. As our bounty grew, my line stayed slack. Suddenly, I felt a tug. I was surprised at what appeared at the end.
Celso helped bring in my line. “A catfish,” he announced. My heart sank. Had I really traveled all the way to the Amazon to catch a catfish?
He looked over at me, as if sensing my disappointment. “This is a full-grown fish. A beauty. They don’t get any bigger—any better—than this.” Celso beamed with pride. Then, I couldn’t help but do the same.
Travel was not always part of my life. I was the first in my family to ever apply for a passport. But after taking the leap, I started traveling the world. Getting the courage to travel afforded me opportunities I only dreamed of experiencing. I take pride in my now-worn passport and all the adventures I’ve had.
After fishing, I celebrated my birthday with my fellow travelers, former strangers who now felt like close friends. We shared a cake the locals made and decorated. We passed the plate of grilled piranha and we toasted our once-in-a-lifetime trip with bottles of Inca Kola.
I think back on it now, and I’m proud a catfish chose to pull at my line—it was a fish that, in those waters, was unique. I couldn’t help but think, “I’m so glad I let the world know I’m here.” That’s what the decision to travel has done for me.