Colleen’s florescent smile lights up the already bright room. Her long black hair rolls down her face, framing its warmth. Before answering each of my questions she takes a long and excited breath. Her dark eyebrows vibrate with intensity after each of her sentences.
1. Why did you decide to travel abroad?
I decided to travel abroad in the hopes of seeing as much as I could of the world and the different people in it. At first, I was particularly curious about different landscapes and architecture around the world, I wanted to get a chance to see it all. After traveling more, particularly in Asia, I became more interested in seeing people and discovering how they live and how they resemble and differ from my own life.
2. How long have you been abroad, and where have you been?
I have lived abroad twice, one year in Germany, one year in Singapore. I have traveled in Eastern Canada, a little bit in the United States (Vermont, New York), in Western Europe, often on my own(Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Norway) and in Asia, mostly with others (India, China, Japan, S. Korea, Cambodia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines). I have generally visited mostly big cities instead of wandering in smaller places, and did not stay more than 5-6 days in one place. Given what I’ve gotten to see and learn, I would like to change that.
3. What do you do when you travel?
While traveling, I often visit important monuments or cultural quarters that are very specific to a location. I do a lot of tourist activities and try to learn a lot about the culture and history, mostly through museums. I particularly like eating local food. Increasingly as I have traveled, I have found it more interesting to meet local people when possible and wander off the beaten path.
4. How do you fund your travels?
Most of my travels have been done while living abroad, before which I made money working in my hometown and saved up for at least a year. My living expenses at home have been very low so far so it has been fairly easy to save up money. I also do not travel very expensively and only spend more money on activities I feel are of particular value, as opposed to spending money on comfort.
5. How has it changed your life?
Traveling has altered the way I see my daily life, but not in a way that affects me every day. I frequently forget lessons I’ve learned while traveling. I care more about and am less afraid of the world. I began studying history as a minor in order to learn about all these places I knew nothing about previously. I have met people from places I’ve never been and discovered how amazingly similar many people are to me. It has made me more aware and interested in other people’s background, and allowed me to have more interesting conversations with people in my own hometown in which there are many different and large immigrant groups. I have also learned to be less worried about unexpected turns of events as I realized how many people in the world are ready to assist me without knowing me (though occasionally with hopes of some money in return)
6. Any problems with your travel?
So far, travel has gone very smoothly. I have never lost anything of importance or been injured. I have been sick while traveling, but not so much that I needed assistance from local people. One great difficulty has been accepting being treated as a source of money by poorer people in countries like India in particular. There was a lot of harassment by touts and tuktuk drivers which could get very upsetting at times. On the other hand, many people were often there to help us out.
7. How do you feel about the people you meet?
I often meet very friendly people, which gives me renewed hope in the kindness of people around the world who take time to help complete strangers. I meet tourists from various countries I’ve never even thought of going to, which I find very exciting. Many tourists I like and respect, and have gotten good advice from, but others display behavior I find embarrassing and disrespectful for the place and people we visit. Some travelers have too much to say and do not listen enough, while others have fascinating stories and give me a lot to think about. Couch surfers have been particularly great to meet, as they have frequently been full of energy, friendliness and very generous with their time, space and knowledge. They provide a brand new perspective of the place I am visiting. I have a lot of respect for many people I have met while traveling.
8. Do you plan to travel more?
Without a doubt, I want to continue traveling around the world and learning how to be a better traveler and make the most of these experiences. I would like to learn from my previous experiences and from other travelers, and discover my own preferred way of traveling and discovering new places.
Want to know more about world travelers, check out The Travelers Project, http://www.yourworldyourhome.com/category/tp/ It is full of interviews with different kinds of world travelers.