I love happy accidents. Like running into a friend at a coffee shop, or discovering a long-forgotten five-dollar bill in the pocket of my jeans. Recently, one of those happy little surprises was finding Liz Carlson’s travel blog, Young Adventuress. From reading about her life teaching English in Spain, to her recent travels to the Middle East, I love Liz’s inspiring, funny voice; it’s like listening to your best friend give you the scoop on what it’s really like to live abroad and follow your dreams. Liz was kind enough to take time away from packing for her next adventure to answer some questions.
Why (and when) did you start your blog?
I started Young Adventuress back in 2010 on a spring break trip to Peru. Between trekking in the Andes and sandboarding in the desert, I figured it was high time to jump on the blog bandwagon. I mean, who doesn’t like to talk about themselves? I also might have been procrastinating on college finals.
Blogging here and there, a year later I finally got really into writing articles and sharing my travel stories while I was attempting to teach English in southern Spain. During a long distance relationship and unfortunate breakup, my blog became my solace, something I had worked so hard on and could be proud of; I threw all my energy into writing, tweeting, and traveling. Two years later, and I haven’t looked back.
Where have you traveled? And what country is at the top of your must-see-next list?
Since I’ve called Spain home for three years, I have traveled around most of Europe – it’s so easy and affordable to hop from country to country over there, not to mention Spain has an absurd amount of public holidays leaving me plenty of time to travel.
The one country that has been calling to me for years is New Zealand. Europe is so much closer and cheaper to get to which means I have put off making the journey down under. But since Spain (pretty much) deported me, I think it’s about time to see what these far-flung islands are all about. Over the years, I’ve built up such high expectations for New Zealand in my head, that I’ve convinced myself I need months and months to be able to see everything I want to and to do it justice. Without giving too much away, let’s just say this dream is looking more and more like reality with each passing day.
What is your favorite post you’ve written?
That’s a tough question! Can a mother choose her favorite child? In all seriousness, two posts spring to mind. A while back I opened up and shared a very personal story about how blogging saved me and why I chose to travel (and put myself first) over a relationship – one of the hardest choices I’ve ever had to make. The second one I published just last week about finally quitting my full time job to travel the world. These posts are very personal, where I shared my fears, regrets, and hopes. Hopefully, blogging is about community, and I did it in the hopes that maybe someone can relate to how I was feeling and maybe I could inspire others to follow their dreams. I’m all about inspiration on my blog.
What has been your biggest surprise while traveling?
I think every place I’ve been to has surprised me and shattered pretty much whatever image I had in my head beforehand. The Middle East has definitely surprised me a lot. Recently I’ve spent some time in Egypt and Turkey, and I’m heading to Jordan as we speak. I was surprised how these countries were nothing like what we are brought up to believe in the US. The friendliness of strangers in foreign countries continues to amaze me – I think it’s something we can all learn a lesson from.
What has been your favorite experience? And what would you never do again?
From fighting in a wine battle in Spain to riding in a hot air balloon at dawn over the Valley of the Kings in Egypt to sailing around Croatia, it’s really hard to pick a favorite. Teaching English in Spain for two years has to be the best if I had to chose because it opened so many doors for me, plus it taught me patience and confidence.
You couldn’t pay me to go back to Cairo.
I loved your Sunset photo project. Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate where you are, when you wish you were somewhere else. How have you dealt with being back in the States and taking a break from travel?
While moving home hasn’t been my ideal choice right now, I’ve dealt with it as best I could and am trying to focus on the positive, like being able to drive places and having a dryer for my clothes. It had been well over a year the last time I saw my family, so it has been great getting to spend time with them, and focus on saving money instead of throwing it out the window. Bonus.
Coming home also has been positive in the fact that it has firmly reminded me that I want a life of travel and pretty much the last place I want to be is Washington D.C. I’ve used the past months to build up my travel site, work on improving my writing, and drinking as many chai lattes at Starbucks as humanly possible.
Even though I get insanely jealous seeing fellow travelers’ Instagrams of cool places around the world and delicious looking foreign food, I’ve learned to accept that this is my situation and know that I am working towards my goal of traveling long-term. And when I get super homesick for the rest of the world, I pop in Under the Tuscan Sun and open a bottle of Spanish red.
There’s been a lot of focus lately on women traveling alone. What are your thoughts on that? Do you take any special precautions when you’re traveling solo?
I almost always travel alone (I’m told I am rather difficult to travel with, which I find hard to believe) for many reasons. I think every person, man or woman, should travel alone at least once in their lives; it helps build character, moral fiber, independence, or whatever my mom used to preach at me growing up. Also, I find I get more out of solo travel experiences. I meet more people, and it forces me to be outgoing. You also learn a lot more and become more aware of your surroundings, and it teaches you not to be a codependent ninny and think for yourself, which is always a benefit, right?
I always do a lot of research before traveling alone and talk with people who’ve been there to get an idea of the place. One of my best tips is to travel with a rubber doorstop to shove under your hotel room door, this keeps it from being kicked open or unlocked during the night. Depending where you are, smiling and making eye contact with men can be interpreted as flirting or an invitation, so I try to keep that to a minimum; trust me, it really makes a difference.
Tip time: what’s your all-time best packing/travel tip?
Don’t leave home without earplugs, travel insurance and an open mind. Do leave the high heels at home; unless you are a planning to go club hopping in Rio or shopping in Dubai, they will just take up space at the bottom of your backpack, making you wonder, why the hell did I pack that?
You would be surprised how many people aren’t very open-minded when it comes to traveling. When I hear things like “why don’t they speak English here?” or “why don’t they have pizza on the menu?” it thoroughly galls me. Isn’t the whole point of traveling to experience other places and cultures and broaden your horizons? My best travel tip is to open your mind, accept that good and bad things will happen while traveling, and to roll with the punches. Be open to possibility, be spontaneous. Don’t be afraid to try new things, eat strange food, and chat with locals. I promise it makes the experience so much more rewarding.
I know you’re a fellow quote lover. What’s your favorite travel-related quote?
Owing to the fact that I am a total Tolkien nut, my all-time favorite travel quote is “Not all those who wander are lost.” This message is so meaningful to me that I have it tattooed on my ribs. Many people around me, close friends and family included, continuously question my lifestyle; it’s hard for them to understand my absolute passion for traveling and the sacrifices I’ve made to make it happen.
Sometimes I get lonely, sad or homesick, and I start to wonder if this life I’ve chosen isn’t for me. All I want is to buy a couch or sign a lease, or find a good job in an office with normal people. I just want to nest and settle somewhere and not have to worry about taking malaria pills or fighting with visas, or just hear nice American English. But that’s not what I really want right now. This quote is meaningful in that it’s a reminder to myself not to live for others and to follow my own dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
But whenever I get my credit card bills after a trip, “travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” is my favorite quote.
Finally, any words of advice or encouragement to travelers and wannabe wanderers?
The world is much safer than you think it is. Like so many things in life, taking that first step is the hardest of them all. So many people tell me that they wish they could travel more, but can’t for A, B, or C reasons. Granted, I am sure there are some valid reasons out there, but for the most part, I think that’s total BS. Travel is about sacrifice and priorities. If you really want to travel, you have to make it a priority and most likely make some changes to make it happen. Over the years I have talked to a lot of people, many who have told me they regret not traveling when they were younger. But I have never had a single person tell me they regretted traveling. All I can say is do it while you can.
Thanks to Liz for sharing her insights and thoughts about travel, and good luck to her as she sets off on her next adventure! You can keep up with her travels on her website, Young Adventuress.
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Featured Image from Elizabeth Carlson