When I am in a bad mood, I watch movies about people picking up their lives and starting over. Under the Tuscan Sun, Eat, Pray, Love, The Holiday. These are movies about taking chances. These women saw something in their life that wasn’t working and they decided to change it. They moved somewhere new, they pursued their dreams… if that idea isn’t inspiring on a cold, winter day in the office, I don’t know what is.
Kate McCulley is one of these inspirational women. At 26, Kate decided to leave her job and pursue her passions – traveling and writing. She saved money and spent six months traveling Southeast Asia. While traveling, she started Adventurous Kate, a solo female travel blog, and has been documenting her travels and life ever since.
I have known Kate for a few years, meeting her through her sister, a good friend of mine from college. I have been a fan and avid reader of Adventurous Kate since first glance and got to catch up with Kate in the beginning of February.
Dylan: So, to start off, where are you writing to us from right now?
Kate: I’m in New York City! I’ve had a very busy fall, with trips to South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Scotland and France. It’s nice to spend time at home with my family and catch my breath for a few weeks.
D: And where are you heading next?
K: At the end of the month, I’m heading back to London, where I’m now based and where I spend roughly half my time. This spring, I’ll be spending time in Berlin and the Netherlands for the first time, and will possibly be returning to Spain and Ireland as well.
D: Before starting Adventurous Kate, had you traveled a lot?
K: By American standards, quite a bit. I started the blog writing about my past experiences: a semester abroad in Florence, a few more trips to Europe, a solo trip to Buenos Aires, and several trips in the US, Canada, and Mexico. By European or Australian or South African standards, however, that would be around average or perhaps even a bit low. The traveling culture is so different outside North America. Taking a gap year to travel the world — whether before or after college, or even mid-career — is regarded as a standard rite of passage in many other countries.
D: I know you’ve talked a lot about leaving your job and starting this blog at 26 – in my eyes, living the dream. Can you talk more about this decision? Was there a specific moment when you knew you had to leave your job and travel the world?
K: I was 22-year-old recent college graduate when I first heard about a man who traveled around the world for a year in his mid-20s. I was smitten with the idea of a trip like this for myself and immediately began planning and saving. But as time went on, I started spending my savings elsewhere, especially on trips to Vegas with my friends. My dream seemed far away. Then in January 2010, at the age of 25, things unexpectedly fell into place. Within a span of two weeks, I lost my job, I lost a freelance job, my relationship ended, and a certain Massachusetts election did not turn out in my favor. I took it as a sign: it was time to leave Boston. The problem? There was no way I could afford my dream yearlong trip around the world! So I changed my priorities: I decided to travel the wonderful, fascinating, and dirt-cheap region of Southeast Asia for seven months instead. I saved $13,000 in seven months and left that October. During that time, my blog took off, and from the advertising and sponsorship, plus supplementing that with freelance writing and consulting, I began making enough money to live off it full-time. I haven’t gone back to a “real job” since!
D: Have you ever regretted that decision?
K: Not for a moment.
D: You’ve traveled all over the world? What has been your favorite trip and why?
K: Last year, I went to the Shetland Islands, northeast of Scotland, for Up Helly Aa, a Viking celebration of fire. It was incredible — Vikings in traditional dress built a beautiful boat and paraded it around with flaming torches before setting it ablaze. After that, we danced all night to traditional Celtic music and watched costumed Shetlanders perform wacky, hilarious dance routines to songs like Party Rock Anthem and Moves Like Jagger. Before and after the festival, we explored Shetland — a barren, stark, and breathtakingly beautiful place that doesn’t get a lot of visitors.
D: I want to talk to you about an article that I recently read by Sarah Hepola. It talks about the importance of every woman traveling alone at one point. Do you agree, Should every woman should try traveling solo?
K: I love traveling solo, and I think it can be confidence-boosting, therapeutic, and even life-changing for so many women. But the truth is, solo traveling isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of women out there who would hate it, and plenty more who would rather hide in their hotel room the entire time than venture out on their own. I try to encourage women, if not necessarily to travel solo, to venture out of their comfort zone. If you’ve always traveled to beach resorts in Florida or Mexico, why not go to Costa Rica for a bit of rainforest adventure mixed in with your beach time?
D: As a female solo-travel blogger, what has been the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered?
K: Two years ago, I was in a shipwreck in Indonesia. Our boat hit a reef in the middle of the night and began sinking. Not only that — of all the islands in the world, we wrecked off the coast of Komodo Island, filled with man-eating Komodo dragons! As I swam to shore, the waves slamming me into rocks, I realized that being solo put me at a scary disadvantage — I didn’t have a partner who would be looking for me. The first thing I did when I crawled onto land was to make sure the other three solo travelers on the boat had made it.
D: What would your one piece of advice be to someone traveling alone for the first time?
K: Try things you never thought you’d do. Eat strange foods, chat with strangers, sign up for an activity that sounds crazy. When you travel solo, you’re not playing to anyone’s preconceived notions. This is a chance to unlock a hidden part of your personality that you never knew existed before!
D: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me, Kate. What is in store for Adventurous Kate in 2013?
K: Quite a bit! I’m starting another trip around the world this summer and plan to visit several new countries, including Egypt, Japan, and China. On the business end, I plan on launching a few new exciting products. It’s going to be amazing!
If you haven’t about read Kate McCulley’s incredible adventures, check out Adventurous Kate. It’s an awe-inspiring account of a twenty-somthing’s travel around the world. And if you already have an itch to travel… this might be the push you need to take the plunge.
Featured image via Adventurous Kate.