Feature Friday | Mary from Tiny Lady Big World
Feature Friday with Future Friends
I strongly believe that people who love to travel are the best kind of people. This series will introduce you to some of the amazing women travelers with whom I have been fortune enough to connect. Women travelers who are overcoming adversity and crushing societal norms are a huge source of inspiration for me and I believe their stories will inspire you as well.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? When and how did you start traveling?
Hey, I’m Mary of Tiny Lady, Big World. I’m 5’2 (~158 cm). You could say I was born for the travel life – when I was two weeks old, my nomadic parents hauled me onto a plane bound for Taiwan, where we’d stay for the next few years. Then it was off to Singapore, and then to Canada – where I’ve lived in three provinces – and then a brief stint in the UK for grad school. I now call Vancouver home – I’m a true Pacific Northwest girl, right down to the moment when I found myself in Lisbon, Portugal gazing at a flannel plaid shirt and had to tell myself “no” quite firmly!
Describe the moment you fell in love with travel in as much detail as possible. Where were you? Who were you with? What did you see, smell, hear? Transport us to that moment.
I started travelling alone at the tender age of 15 – in hindsight, my parents were very permissive! Naturally, I started out with small trips, but it wasn’t until I was 18 and decided to backpack across Canada (I just wanted to see it all! And this country is too damn big) that I really fell in love with solo travel.
This was back when Greyhound had the “Discovery Pass”, which entitled you to a month of unlimited bus travel for around $400 – unfortunately, it no longer exists. Every day was a completely different, absolutely incredible experience. I took the bus, train, hitchhiked, ride-shared, stayed with friends, hostelled, couchsurfed across 9 provinces (and will make it to Newfoundland one day, I promise). Some mornings I’d wake up from an overnight bus ride and see the sun come up over the endless vast prairie and think to myself, “Damn, we live on an incredible planet.”
I had saved for over a year to be able to do this, and it was really a pivotal moment in my life as I gained so much confidence in my ability to hold my own in challenging, stressful or even dangerous situations.
Where is your favorite place in the world? What stands out about this place that makes it your favorite?
This is such a hard question. It’s like asking what my favourite type of dog is (trick question, it’s every dog). There’s no place like home, right? For a third culture kid, I didn’t even know where to call home for the longest time. I really craved that idea of “home” (even though at the same time, I was lucky enough to gain the perspective that everywhere, anywhere could be home).
I’m lucky enough to have been able to choose. Vancouver was kind of fluke, and I really hated it when I first arrived. Now, I honestly can’t imagine living anywhere else. I sometimes consider moving to Iceland/Finland/the Baltics/some other northerly cold-ish place but at the end of the day, back here with the mountains and ocean and really good sushi is where I feel the calmest and happiest.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from traveling? How has learning this lesson helped you in your life?
Society puts all kinds of weird expectations on young women (appearance! behaviour! lean in but not too much otherwise you’re a bitch!), and being able to have that self-confidence that comes from within – the knowledge that you’re a capable, badass lady – is so important.
I was a really self-conscious kid – I had large glasses and chubby cheeks and we moved a lot, so I got made fun of a lot, as the “new girl”. I was also just kind of a weird kid who was obsessed with the Baltics and WWII, so people didn’t really know what to do with me.
Solo travel instilled in me a sense of agency and strength, which allowed me to gain confidence in knowing that I could hold my own in all kinds of challenging or stressful situations. When travelling and hiking, my self-worth comes from my ability, not anyone else’s expectations – and that’s translated into my daily life.
Have you ever traveled solo? If so, what was the best part of the experience? If you haven’t, why not?
With the exception of a few trips, I have only travelled solo. I truly do enjoy being alone, but not lonely – I am never lonely when I travel, and find that I’m so much more open to meeting other rad folks on the road when I’m by myself.
As a hiker, being alone in the wilderness/nature also really gives you this incredible sense of scale and perspective – we are so tiny and so lucky to be living on this planet, and it pushes me to be a better steward of the environment around me.
If you could give one piece of advice, about anything, to a large group of people, what would it be?
Be kind, loving, and nurturing, to others and yourself.
Follow Mary on Instagram, to stay updated on her journeys!
Be sure to check in every Friday to meet other awesome women travel bloggers and future friends! If you follow a female travel blogger that you love, please send suggestions my way so that I can reach out to her! If you are interested in being featured yourself, please shoot me an email: [email protected]