Feature Friday | Sarah from Paper, Ink, and Passports
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?
My name is Sarah. I’m a 30-year old traveler currently in New Zealand on a working holiday visa. I grew up in the States, the oldest of three and the only one with any interest in traveling. My childhood was spent in suburban Kansas, as far from the ocean as one can get. We traveled through most of my childhood, a couple of times to Europe to see family/explore, and a three week trip to New Zealand when I was 9. I began traveling solo in college – some study abroad trips that segued into backpacking trips – and, when I was 21, moved to Scotland for a Masters degree. After that, I returned to the States for four years. Those four years were depressing and hard for me; I met someone, but I believe (now) that we were never truly happy with each other. I applied to graduate school for architecture, but while on a ten-day trip to Ireland, I realized I didn’t want to be an architect. I deferred, but a year later when they called me to ask if I still wanted my place, I said no. I was not just unhappy: I was struggling with severe anxiety and depression. My relationship was crumbling, but I did not end it. In 2012, I took two trips: one to Istanbul, to attend a friend’s wedding, and to Alaska with my family; sans boyfriend, both of them. It was here that I saw what would make me truly happy. I began working for an expedition cruise ship that took me along the Pacific Coast from Alaska to Panama. I also took the opportunity to travel to the Arctic on another ship during a vacation. My time off was mine alone – a month to go wherever I wanted. I came back to New Zealand for three weeks, I went to Scotland twice. And then, when it looked like I was getting burnt out from my job, I quit. I came to NZ four months later.
What is the hardest thing you have experienced while traveling? What did you learn from this experience?
It can be very hard to be a solo traveler. By this, I mean lonely, depressing, and scary. You don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of, you ride buses alone, fly alone, hike alone, eat alone, explore alone. I am an extroverted-introvert, so I do enjoy being alone, but there are times (New Year’s Eve, weekend nights, long hikes) where I just wish I had a travel companion. I am constantly finding new ways to keep myself occupied when I am traveling – I browse used bookstores, I find new cafes, I take short hikes around the water, etc. I use Facebook and Tinder to meet new people to hang out with, but many of these people are travel companion flings, joining me for a hike or a kayak, only to move on the next day. Another one is getting set up in a new country: learning a new system, a new bank account, new grocery stores. So many people tell me I’m brave for doing this. It’s taught me that I’m stronger than I think – being able to go this alone.
What is the most unique meal or dish you have eaten in a foreign country? What made it so special?
Some of the coolest meals are the ones that you make yourself. A few weeks ago, I joined a former coworker on his sailboat near the Bay of Islands. We had two others with us and we caught snapper and lobster one night; catching them and subsequently eating them was pretty special. Other meals include the ones that happen spontaneously with friends or fellow travelers. The image is from my last night in Lucerne with two of my best friends. They had never met before – one is a good friend from undergrad and the other is a good friend from grad school. We convened in Jon’s flat in Lucerne for a few days, and at the end of it, Jon wanted to make us traditional Swiss fondue. I remember having so much fun sitting there, laughing over stories from the last ten years with both of them. I particularly like the dinners that evolve into late nights of wine and laughter, without the craziness of a night out.
Have you ever traveled solo? If so, what was the best part of the experience? If you haven’t, why not?
I usually travel solo; I’m single and my friends have jobs/families that don’t allow them to travel. Quite honestly, at times, I think no one wants to travel with me! As someone who is living off savings and writing freelance to make money, I can work anywhere in the world. Like I said above, the hardest part of traveling solo is the crushing emptiness at times. But the most rewarding part is conquering a fear. I skydived last year; I also climbed a mountain by myself. In June, I took a cruise by myself because no one else could go. One thing I enjoy about solo travel (sometimes) is not adhering to anyone else’s schedule or plans. I can do what I want, when I want.
In your opinion, what is the biggest misconception that most people have about travelers?
That we are slackers. I came across this a lot in my last job (working on the expedition cruise ship.) Some people assume that backpackers/full-time travelers are dropouts, lazy, not wanting to work hard to live. But in reality, most backpackers I know work harder than anyone. I’ve met some that are taking time off work to travel for four months before returning to a well-paying job at home; others are trying to make it on the road, working remotely or making money as they go from place to place. Others own their own business (and work remotely.) I have met very few (but some) slack packers – people who think that being on the road will solve their problems.
Personally, I am trying to make it as a freelance writer/travel curator. I’ve got a business “plan” and I have other things in the works. I spend several hours each day writing and working, and when I do take time “off” it’s to have experiences that I can write about.
If you could give one piece of advice, about anything, to a large group of people, what would it be?
Get out of your comfort zone. This can be as simple as walking around an unfamiliar city without a map or guide book, or as adrenaline-rushing as bungy-jumping. Take adventures as they come and don’t be afraid to say yes to something that initially sounds crazy.
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]