Travel Is Greater Than College

 

E19- The Heart is a Lonely Wanderer

Michelle and I run off of the same fuel. We are both are brimming with too many ideas, creations, and passions to fill one body. We both want to know everything, which is our blessing and curse. Our thoughts and intensity hid our lack of direction. We are both trying to balance a very delicate emotional ecosystem inside of us, excited and overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities the world holds yet simultaneously  humbled and saddened by our purposelessness, like we are both running out of time because there is too much to do, to many conversations to have, to many books to read, to many places to explore, to many people to love-Michelle and I get lost too quickly.

 

Which is why we both thrive off of travel. It gives us a direction and each turn holds unlimited possibilities, and every choice is ours to make that knocks down the domino paved path of new people, foods, and ideas around the corner. We are our truest selves when we are traveling because it satisfies the goats that we are. I once met an old woman, who I believe was me 50 years into the future, more than just because we shared the same name and horoscope, and she told me that I was a goat. Goats run around mountain tops, whereas cows stay in one spot and eat their grass.  I need to stop and eat my grass. Since our brief clairvoyant interaction, I have tried somewhat to take her advice, but have often failed. And I saw that in Michelle, me 4 years earlier which is why I was thrown off initially. Maybe I wanted to warn her about life as a goat, how the endless list of what you need to learn, do, love, and explore never ends.

I sometimes think that there is a calling for some people, for those of us who choose to leave home and explore. I get this strange pull every once in awhile which is often mistaken/ the only way I can describe is that it is for nostalgia for something that I haven’t experience yet, and I think that Michelle hears that same song. Maybe we listen closely to our somatic marker- the part in your brain where the sensations in your body that tell you if a choice feels wrong or not, your gut feelings or inner rudder. There is a saying that the reason one travels is to run away from something or one is running towards something. I believe that Michelle was caught between the two, foregoing the unquestioned college applications and attendance and an urge to chase something larger, some dream or vision that needed to be born.

Her heart is sometimes too big for this earth.

In this episode, we discuss

  • The costs and benefits of long-term travel
  • What it is like to live abroad
  • Why she chose to live abroad
  • The self-growth she experienced while traveling abroad
  • The challenges she faced while traveling abroad
  • Why she chose to travel instead of go to school
  • What she has learned by traveling
  • What surprised her about traveling
  • How she is a better person now that she has traveled
  • Why women should travel abroad
  • What it is like to be a solo female traveler
  • What it is like to live in Latin America/ South America
  • How she learned Spanish
  • Where her next destination is

 

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Will Travel For Chocolate

Episode 18

Ariqupa, Peru

I met Rachel, the head chocolatier of Chaqchoa, two days after I arrived in Arequipa. I was living with my boss, Javier and sometimes he would have employees come over for lunch. Over a Peruvian meal of purple potatoes, and adobo de chancho I became acquainted with Rachel’s strong Italian character.

We ate together, I didn’t say much because I still need to earn my acceptance into the community. So I just listened and observed the dynamic between Rachel and Javier. Although Javie runs the place, Rachel puts him in his place. She skips small talk and gets right to the chase, overflowing with ideas for the chocolate shop. “Javie, what if we made matcha chocolate bars with dried raspberries, or if we made tarts with white chocolate ganache and figs, or we take tiramisu and put it in a chocolate bar! Ohhhh I love tiramisu.” I was a little intimidated by her force and wasn’t sure if we would become friends.  

It wasn’t until a few days later when she trained me in the coffee shop that we quickly bonded. Rachel is so good at her job that she openly insults customers while serving them the best cappuccino of their lives- she can get away with it. In between helping customers, cutting cakes, and her teaching me how to froth foam like a boss, I found the topics that make her her hard chocolate shell of an exterior melt and reveal the complexity within her. Her internal world is constantly questioning and fighting what traditional Italian society expects from women. It was was fascinating to hear a first-hand experience of tenacious gender roles in the modern Roman world. Her hard exterior shell began to melt at room temperature once we started talking about how women are treated in Italy. “ Women work, we pull a lot of weight, we are emotional supporters, and still get paid less. We still get no credit and are still harassed on the streets.” I started picking her brain about sexual assault in Italy. “It happens everywhere no one has respect for women.” In a survey by United Nations, 14% of Italian women had experienced attempted rape and 2.3% had experienced rape in their lifetimes. The problem with rape is that the vast majority of it goes unreported. A part of me felt saddened and at peace- I too had been a victim of the Italian masculine force. I felt connected to this woman who had an entirely different language, culture, and was raised thousands of miles away from my home- but we shared the same fears about our gender and safely, which kept us up at night under the same moon.

But for the most part, we kept our conversations very food focused.  I have never seen someone who has such an intrinsic understanding of food, kind of like how children just pick up languages; they don’t question the mechanics of it, it just becomes part of their being.  Like most Italians, food goes beyond the gastronomic basics and is a deeper experience, she doesn’t just make food, it is the essence of her being. And like most Italians, family has also shaped who she is, being raised by a mother who didn’t like to cook and a father whose blood is wine, she told me how at a young age she gained independence in the kitchen, while able to question the traditional roles of women in Italian society.

This is another two-parter conversation. Half of it is via Skype a year later and the first part of this conversation in the chocolate factory, a large brick room which would cool us from the Peruvian sun. Excuse the crinkle of the candy wrappers and our boss shouting things in the background, we are in the midst of making chocolate. Here’s her story.

 

 

When I Travel, I Can Breath Again

 

The friends you meet on the road are a special breed- they see you at your most uncomfortable, your most scrappy and sometimes desperate because of the extremeness of living life abroad. While we were living together, Jen got her backpack stolen and I got painfully sick; we experienced each other at more overwhelming points that not even our own mothers would have known how to handle.

When you are abroad, you open yourself up to the curveballs of the world-testing your resourcefulness and perseverance. You don’t even know who you are in these situations or how you will respond. So, when you make friends who witness you at this simultaneously euphoric and tumultuous point in your life- and they still like you afterward- it is a bond like no other. These microwave moments weather your relationship because of experiencing each other in extremes. She understands a part of me that my oldest friends don’t.

Our life in Arequipa was simple and wild, and soft pink. The city is made of beautiful stones harvested from the surrounding volcanoes which are so monumental and close to the city that they remind you every day of their magnitude, and of your minuteness.  

The community that Jen and I became a part of was everything I was looking for. After breaking up with my boyfriend at the beginning of the trip and traveling alone for such a long time, I was looking for a family and I feel like my whole journey was leading me to this place and these people. Jen, in tandem with Rachel from Italy and Michelle from Canada, who are the following episodes, provided me with such a sense of security, at such a precarious time.  

Jen was one of the few I was able to become very close with, we woke each other up, baked together, inspired each other, brought food to the other when they were working late, exchanged small gifts, and helped each other get out of sticky situations.

Jen came to my rescue more than once, the most vivid is coming back home at 4am after having too much fun with some British boys (who happened to work for the mayor of London), and realizing that the house was locked. Not wanting to wake Tia or Javie, I decided maybe I would just stay outside until morning for the next three hours, then a car pulls up.

I thought the taxi driver was going to harass me or worse when Jen comes bounding out of it. “Holy shit,” she said, how long have you been here? “No more than 5 minutes.” As we rang the doorbell I thought about how there are some sisters who have a clairvoyance about accidentally wearing the same clothes, buying each other the same gift, or period cycling together, and I think Jen and I were tapping into that.

Since we last spoke, Jen has docked onto land and continued the chocolate path, currently killin’ it at one of the top chocolate shops in Toronto- but still has some plane tickets burning in her pocket.

How Dangerous is Traveling, Really?

This is an excerpt of our conversation with Graham Hughes where we both get kind of ranty and I wanted to give it its own space now at a time when our thoughts about the world have been challenged. We recorded this conversation pre-Trump and pre-Brexit- so neither of us had the knowledge to know the outcomes of those elections but as you can here we do have the foresight to feel that something was happening. In this mini-episode,  we discuss the elements that have made the world seem more dangerous than ever and the hysteria people have against traveling due to these skewed perceptions.

As someone who was prepared to go out and travel to every country, Graham knew that it wasn’t always going to be drinks on the beach and clubbing, but that he would be experiencing some severe social and economic disparities right at his feet and seeing that throughout the world. But there were things that not even he was prepared to expect, which is where we leave off.

I’m curious as to why people are believing the world is “more dangerous than it has ever been” when greater and greater majority of humanity lives in peace and dies of old age?
Statistically, we are at the safest point in human history on a global scale. Things are still not perfect; however, rates of homicide, dying of diseases, genocide, and war are at an all-time low with an ever-growing global population. The democratization of more nations is increasing and even if they aren’t perfect democracies it is an ideology that is headed in the right direction. Although our global actions are showing us that our bad natures are on the decrease, the news portrays looming risks and possibilities are always right around the corner. And to summarise the political scientist John Mueller mentions in a Slate article, in recent years Americans are more likely to die of deer collisions than terrorist attacks.

We may be dying less of physical ailments by diseases and our fellow humankind- but the psychological torture is like no other. The news magnifies the random acts of terror and violence that happen throughout the world and years ago we would focus more on local news vs. global news so our reach is greater and more global and we are more connected than ever so we can know about every terrible thing that is happening every moment of the day.

We are at a time where physical violence is low but psychological violence, agitation, and hysteria is high. Where we are tricked into believing that our world is more dangerous than it is and it is easier to manipulate people if they are hysterical, agitated or in a state of fear than calm and rational. It taps into our underlying fears of mortality by suggesting “they are coming for you”

When we are hysterical we are less likely to listen to reason and thought our amygdalas or emotional centers in our brains are firing off and block our pre-frontal cortex from saying chill out let’s THINK about this for a section. Our psychology is working against us or working for those who are able to profit off of these contradictions of consciousness.

Violence makes headlines; peace does not.

We have a natural negativity bias, which leads us to pay attention to things that are bad vs. good. And we are more likely to internalize it and affect our mood and perception of the outside world as a whole. We have a tendency to generalize and extrapolate to all similar situations and try to fit events into patterns that we have created and feel comfortable with but might not actually be there.

So, we are dealing with a technology that we are not emotionally maturity to handle coupled with our biological disposition to focus on the negative- we are torturing ourselves and people are making money off of it.

How can we hack our psychology to avoid these downwards spiral thoughts of disaster and immediate doom?

Go outside and talk to your neighbor or a stranger. Notice that when you talk to people who are ostensibly different from you or you allocate to a different tribe that they might be more similar to you than you anticipated.

Graham Hughes and the Four Year Odyssey

Get ready for our biggest episodes yet!

This episode touched upon EVERY country in the world with the man who has been to EVERY country in the world WITHOUT FLYING. We talk to GH who has crossed every border, tasted every cuisine, and said hello in every language without ever getting on a plane.

He holds the Guinness World Record for visiting every united nations recognized country by traveling by land and sea. Like a turtle, Graham carried his home on his back for the better part of four years over every sanctioned United Nations country.

Like the Mansa Musa, Marko Polo, or Zheng He, who only had their feet, a boat, or a few camels to further them on their explorations, Graham’s trips emulate the wonders and lessons of ancient travelers whose slow journeys had them span thousands of miles away from their homes and forced them to engage in other cultures’ ways of life. Graham has seen a lot for someone his age and for someone who has traveled to ALL of the allegedly dangerous countries in the world, he has come out unscathed and with both of his kidneys intact.

In our conversation, Graham and I bypass the superficial aspects of travel and dig right into the deeper questions: is the world as dangerous as it seems, how did it shift his world perspective, and what has travel taught him that stay at home in Liverpool couldn’t? We get a good taste of his historical expertise, political mindfulness, and well-honed storytelling skills.  

If you want to read all about his adventures you can check out his blog but if you want to hold the stories, adventures, and close encounters in your very own hands then you can pre-order  his newest book “ Man of the World” through his website. I can’t wait to get mine!

Ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime? Hell, SEVERAL life times? Then check out this episode!

A Life Made of Great Mistakes

 

I met Deano at the base of a small waterfall in Costa Rica, outside of a small town named Uvita. I had trudged for an hour on a hilly dusty road in punishing heat, the type of humidity that sticks to you in. A thin layer of dust mixing with sweat began cementing itself onto my body I was ready to wash it off. Once I arrived, there were already a few other people in the small, pristine pool at the base of the waterfall. I watched young boys with primate acrobatics climb up the slippery rocks and propel their bodies over the falls. And as I jumped into the cold water, I felt myself become clean again.

As I pulled myself out of the water and onto the dry rocks, and I started packing my bag and dry my hair, this American guy came up to me. He asked if I could take a picture of him in the waterfall and handed me his GoPro, which I did because taking photos for strangers there is a silent understanding in the travel community where everybody asks and everyone does it, and you are always appreciative. Even if you are disappointed with the uninstagramable photo you get back. I gave him his GoPro and started doing a recording, “Hey guys, me again I just wanted to give you guys a quick update. I’m in Uvita, Costa Rica at the base of a tiny waterfall in the middle of the jungle. It’s so magical here.” As he kept talking into the camera, I was like whoooaaaa who is this guy, and I wondered what he was doing this for. As he finished and my body began to prune, he started chatting and I quickly got swept up in his tsunami of words, giving me the details of his trip. He had been bouncing around Central America following his internal compass that changed as quickly as the wind, with no clear direction.  It was one of those interactions were pausing to mention our names would have only slowed us down.

As I started to carry on with the rest of my day he asked,  “ Aren’t you going to jump back in?” in a slight drawl that made me feel welcomed. He had the face of a man who has been through a lot, but still sees each experience like it’s the first time and I felt like I could maybe learn something from him.

I travel out of lonlieness, which is ironic because I am alone most of the time, it is an aspect I have always tried to escape but finds me wherever I am.

“ Well, what are you doing for the rest of the day?” “Well I was going to check out the whale’s tale later” “Can I join you?” He asked. “Sure!” I said. “Ok let me just go to my hostel.” We hitched a ride with a local who brought us higher and deeper into the jungle as we made small talk in our broken American accented Spanish. Once we got out of the car and as I waited for him to retrieve his bags, I walked up to the elevated outside patio, perched up so one could peer into the layers of the jungle. It wasn’t until we were done at his hostel, ready to carry on with our day that I realized we hadn’t even exchanged names yet.

It’s fun to look back at a moment when you meet someone, not knowing the future effect they will have on you, looking at what you know now. Deano and I ended up spending a significant amount of time together, bouncing in and out of each other’s adventures for the next few weeks. I wasn’t able to interview him then, so this is a Skype recording done when we were both back in the states. Here is his story.

Life often tests our resilience- how well can we survive through the unpredictable chaos and unpleasant events we all experience in life? To be able to survive is great,  but that doesn’t always indicate growth. What about those who get broken down and grow even more from those negative experiences?

What would you do if everything you worked for- successful company, healthy body, living in a great city-was suddenly taken away from you? Many survive the setbacks of unpredictable chaos and unpleasant events and are able to return to a normal life. But what about those who not only get back to where they were at but grow even more? Who sees life for the fleeting opportunity that it is and take these setbacks as a challenge to grow? We call those people antifragile. Deano’s story is the quintessential example of being antifragile- living in LA, having a budding tech company, being at physical peak and then all of that was taken away when he got into a horrible accident.

After a year of physical therapy, instead of returning to the grind, he packed his bags and took full advantage of his newfound strength and the opportunity to do what he was never able to before. Deano bought a one-way ticket to Central America, lived abroad, learned Spanish, hiked erupting volcanos, jumped over waterfalls and experienced the robustness life has to offer.

Later that day we ventured out to a corner of the beach where the waves come in at an angle, and the sand juts out into the bay in the shape of a whale’s tail. Seriously, it looks like a giant whale’s tail, it’s so bizarre. It was low tide when we decided to go out to it. An hour passed in what seemed like a few minutes as we walked the line of sand dividing the Pacific shore from the rest of the world.

We walked slowly through the thinning foliage alongside the beach, and the shade from the trees relieved us from the blistering Costa Rican sun. The small talk began to peel away with our clothing. He opened up about how his universe had been thrown into chaos and was taking time to travel and reflect, fulfill some life goals before heading back to the States.

I felt comforted being around someone who felt tugged in lots of directions at the same time, never knowing if they will all someday converge. He also had a few years on me which I thought it was brave for him to go out, at a time when establishing your career is so imperative in the States. It’s always affirming when you meet people who have decided to take themselves out of their element to figure stuff out, who are just as lost…. no I don’t want to say lost….. maybe directionless, or wayward, who are just as wayward as you are and are OK with taking time to figure it out.

Once we were at tip of the whale’s tail—at the point farthest from shore—the tide started to rise. Extreme risk takers are rare, but I felt like my conversation with Deano was helping me figure out what I wanted in life. How much further could I travel? How many more risks could I take before burning out? Was I like Deano—someone who needed chaos to survive, like love or water?

Suddenly the bags we had put down were almost under the ocean, at risk of being swept away as the sea rushed in around us. In the distance, what had once looked like boulders in the sand were now floating pebbles. We hurried back to shore, the tide lapping our calves.

Talking to Deano about how life just sweeps you up sometimes, made me feel focused, and connected, like I had just found a tiny piece of my puzzle. Few people bring that feeling out in me the way he did when we walked back to shore along the edge of the world, ready to fall off.
In this episode, we discuss,

  • How he became an entrepreneur
  • How he got into a motorcycle accident
  • Why he chose to travel to Latin America
  • What it was like to hike volcanoes
  • What he learned from his accident
  • How he perceives his body- post accident
  • Why he wanted to learn Spanish
  • What it was like to travel to Latin America
  • What it was like to live in Latin America
  • What his travels taught him
  • Listen to his stories and adventures while traveling through Latin America
  • His perspective on how the universe tests him
  • How he became anti-fragile

 

How to Weather Long Distance Relationships

I met Gaby while I was volunteering in a hostel in Costa Rica.  Born and raised in San Jose, Gaby thought she was going to go down the traditional path of education right into a career. However, her choice to work in a hostel, just to get some dinero on the side, has unintentionally challenged the way she thinks about her future.

She has formed a new perspective on homeland by seeing it through the eyes of people who are experiencing it for the first time. She has become endlessly inspired by the travelers who wander in and out of her hostel who are far from home and perceive her normal to be vastly different. She strikes up a conversation with everyone, whether it is asking them questions about their explorations or native soil, guiding them to the bus station to their next destination, or cluing them in on where to get the best cup of coffee in San Jose. We would spend hours during the quiet afternoons of the hostel having little music jams while doing the daily chores. She would create a warm and welcoming space for every weary traveler who walked through the doors of Hostel Beku.

This seemingly innocuous job choice has forced her to question everything about what she was doing with her life. She has been given a hidden perspective of the ways travelers live and move on a day to day basis and has inspired her to get out of her comfort zone.   And with the help of her American beau, whom she met through pure random and romantic chance, she now has the motivation and ability to go and reach some of the places that once seemed untouchable.

In this episode, we discuss

  • How she met her American boyfriend
  • How she is able to maintain a long distance relationship
  • The cultural differences between dating someone from America
  • What she went to school for
  • What working at the hostel has taught her
  • Why she wants to travel
  • What it is like to date someone from another country
  • How she gets fly benefits
  • How she learned English
  • What life is like growing up in Costa Rica

The Rewards of Teaching English in Costa Rica

San Jose, Costa Rica

Sara and I also met at the hostel in San Jose, Costa Rica where she was working at a program that teaches English to locals. Sara says exactly what’s on her mind and has a specific pep about her that is emulated by the bounce in her curly red hair.

Although far from Scotland, Costa Rica was not her first rodeo. As a well-traveled woman, she is attuned to the complexities and subtleties of new places and is thrilled by how vastly different locations in the world can share so many similarities, exposing the elegant simplicity of our earth. This love of learning combined with a travel competition she has with her brothers keeps her on the move. She strives for a genuine travel experience and is not interested in seeing a new terrain through a window, she wants to get her feet on the ground, breath the air, and chat up anyone that comes her way. Here is her story.

 

In this podcast episode, we discuss

  • What it is like to work abroad
  • What it is like to teach English abroad
  • What it is like to live in Costa Rica
  • What it is like to live abroad  
  • What it is like to live in a different culture
  • What it is like to have a travel competition with her brothers
  • What it is like and what she has learned to have traveled to 40+ countries
  • What are the similarities and differences between humans she has found by traveling to 40+countries
  • What it is like to travel through the Middle East as a solo female traveler
  • What it is like to be a solo female traveler
  • What it is like to travel far from home

 

If you are from the UK and are interested in teaching English abroad so you can live and work anywhere in the world ( #locationindependencegoals) check out the CELTA course program that Sara did!

http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/teaching-english/teaching-qualifications/celta/

How to Be Location Independent with Sarah

 

I was living in San Jose, Costa Rica working at hostel Beku, and my boss wanted to throw a party and I offered to make a cake. However, I had to use his oven in his apartment next door and he mentioned his roommate might be home. I baked alone that afternoon until I heard the door open. Unaware of my presence, Sarah exclaimed, “ Is that cake I smell?!?” I peered out from the kitchen to see who had joined me and go to explain I was not break into her apartment “Oh we don’t shake hands, we hug” as she roped me into her embrace. “Omg I thought as this stranger was squeezed me, I love this girl,.”

We immediately broke into a long conversation, as if it was unfinished from years ago. Like a hummingbird, flying from one flower to the next Sarah gave a scattered synopsis of what brought her to Costa Rica and how she was leaving in a few weeks. Keeping my feelings to myself, I selfishly got upset at that news because we had just met and there was already too much to talk about.

Later at the party, we sat with her other friend, also named Sarah but from Scotland (who was in the previous episode) whose quick tongue kept up with Sara and I go on the 11th hour of our first conversation. As the hours went by and the cake got smaller, I was told the history of their friendship, which is a beautiful thing to witness, when you watch two people who are so appreciative of the other, and experiencing them recount their favorite or silliest memories from the past, while relishing in their tropical future together. “This cake amazing, can you make it for my going away party?” She said.  I twinged, that was a reminder that she would be leaving soon, but our friendship had just begun.

In this episode, we discuss

  • How she chose to live in Costa Rica
  • Why she left London to travel the world
  • Why she abandoned a publishing career to start her own business
  • What friendship is like when you are away
  • How families handle long distance travel
  • Defining moments of friendship
  • How it is like to make friends abroad
  • How to live abroad for years
  • How she got turned onto diving
  • How she finds community abroad
  • What it is like to explore the ocean
  • How it is like to have your own online business
  • What it is like to live out of the conventional life
  • What it is like to live around the world
  • What it is like to work around the world
  • What it is like to be location independent
  • What it is like to teach English abroad
  • What it is like to be a solo female traveler

Since we parted in Costa Rica she has continued to bounce around the world, going from teaching in New Zealand to being a Divemaster on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, where she was residing when we had this conversation. It reminds me of the planet the Little Prince lives on, taking only 15 minutes to walk around the entire floating piece of land, gently bobbing in the middle of the sea. She has become enamored with the discoveries of the underwater world, one that mirrors the great depth she finding within herself. Here’s her story.

I Ran Away to Become a Yoga Teacher in Guatemala

This interview chose to stay nameless so we will call him David. I met David while visiting Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. He was working as a yoga instructor at a beautiful hostel overlooking the edge of the lake.

I haggardly arrived late at night after a 3-hour whiplash of a ride through the Guatemalan mountains and then nearly missing the last boat out to the lake. I unexpectedly walked into a rambunctious game of trivia, employees vs guests, which I thought I would skip out of. But I somehow got roped onto the employee team, and David’s kinetic energy picked me right back up as we ruthlessly played against the other teams.

I was immediately taken aback by his next level trivia and memory skills. Ostensibly, David comes off with this bouncy, warm energy, like he’s running on 14 cups of coffee. However, meditation and yoga seem to be the perfect activity to channel and ground his ebullience. David has had quite the journey traveling the world, which is lead by his desire to deepen his yoga practice. 

I think the part that made me feel so comfortable so quickly with David was the fact that he also didn’t really know what he was doing, and I felt comfortable enough to speak very openly about my lack of direction with him.

In our interview, he talks about how he has always had an aversion to office jobs, like entering the conventional work force would be his modern day Sisyphus, it being a means to an end. To push up the proverbial rock would have crushed the creativity inside of him.

He searched for different forms of creativity and expression but began to take a toll on his body

So he said fuck it.

I participated in a few of his outside classes, his lesson seemed to absorb the sceneries elements, through motion, we channeled the energy of the volcanos around us, while he simultaneously pushed us to find inner stillness as calm and deep as the lake. As a socially silly person, he takes his yoga classes very seriously.