I’m a freelance travel writer and blogger on a year-long RTW trip. Over the years, I’ve supported myself financially with everything from leading tastings at a winery to overseeing public art programming (and some less glam stuff too, but who likes to read about bookkeeping?). But it’s all been in support of this – my true profession.
What inspires you to travel?
Travel is just who I am. It’s in my blood. My dad grew up as an army brat, even spending a few of his formative years in Thailand. His parents continued traveling for fun well into their 70s, so I grew up with a strong awareness of the world beyond my home. I came by my wanderlust natural, and was very fortunate to have a childhood filled with stories of China, Egypt, and Peru. Travel was never painted as inaccessible to me, which sadly isn’t the case for everyone.
Where is your favorite destination to date?
It’s really impossible to pick just one. I don’t even play the favorites game with books or movies, much less cities. My most visited destination is the south of France, both Provence and the Languedoc. Florence ranks pretty highly in my book. If I had to choose a place to live, I’d probably go with London or Paris. And in the realm of pleasant surprises, I fell head over heels for Ljubljana, Slovenia and Belgrade, Serbia this summer. Two very different cities I never expected to visit. Ljubljana’s charm was instantaneous with a strong café culture, surprisingly good wine, and a clearly high quality of life. Belgrade was slower to warm, but once you get past the communist bloc architecture, the city has such a tremendous spirit and energy.
How do you prefer to travel? Solo or with a group? Why?
I’ve been on some fantastic group tours, but currently I’m a solo traveler through and through. I’m very introverted, which a lot of people mistake for being shy. Not the case. Shyness stems from a fear of rejection. Introversion is a more complex personality type, but essentially it means you have a limited amount of social energy and need alone time to recharge. Traveling solo gives me complete freedom and control over how, when, and with whom I socialize. It keeps me from burning out.
Do you think there is a difference traveling alone as a woman?
Hell yes! There’s a difference doing almost anything as a woman. That’s not because men and women are fundamentally different. We all have more in common than we realize. But a long, long history of people believing in a fundamental difference has led to genders being separated and having different experiences. (Is this too philosophical for the Internet? Sleeping is not allowed at the Athens airport, so I’m writing this at 2am to keep myself awake.)
For a more practical answer, women often have different safety concerns. Travel affects our health differently too because of menstrual cycles. And obviously people around the world react very differently to women traveling alone, even in more “liberal” countries where they think they’re being positive. I get a lot of “Damn girl!” and “Wow, good for you.” No one would find a man traveling alone remarkable, positively or negatively.
How do you plan your trips?
Obsessively. Travel planning is my favorite thing to do. Whenever I had time to kill at home or was procrastinating at my day job, I planned travel. I played with flight itineraries on Skyscanner or Bootsnall Indie and overland itineraries on Rome2Rio. I sketched out maps on post-its and compared daily costs of living. My RTW trip is a journey three years in the making, and I’m still making adjustments as I go. It is a constant process and always on my mind.
A couple of rules of thumb I use when planning a leg of my trip:
I try to travel overland as much as possible, but at the same time, I rarely book a bus or train ride longer than 10 hours. As a result, I often wind up in unexpected places.
I subscribe to Sherry Ott’s “one day on, one day off” model of working while traveling. When I decide to visit a city, I get a rough count of the things I want to do there, guess how many days it would take me to do them, and then double that number for my booking, so I can alternate work days with travel days.
When is your next one?
Who knows? It’s really hard to see beyond the end of my RTW adventure. I expect to return to my hometown at the end of June 2017. I’ll definitely need some time to regroup and save the money for whatever comes next.
The next stretch of my current trip will take me out of Europe for the first time, to India and Nepal, where my boyfriend is meeting me for a two-week Himalayan trek to celebrate his birthday.
Any advice you would like to give your fellow travelers?
Ditch your bucket list! Expectation is the mother of disappointment, and pinning all your hopes of happiness on a place you’ve never been is a risky game to play. I went to Dubrovnik in large part because kayaking around the city walls had been on my bucket list for ages. But thanks to a misleading sales rep and a rude guide, the experience was actually awful. My visits to unexpected corners of the Balkans like Ljubljana, Mostar, and Belgrade were all much more rewarding and enjoyable. I do still take part in “bucket list” activities, but I try to have a much more relaxed attitude about doing so.
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