Most people strive for work-life balance, others throw travel blogging into the mix. It’s not easy finding that perfect life combo, but there are several wanderers, like me, that are doing just that.
But that’s why I wanted to start this series, Part-time Wanderers, to share the love of travelling with other bloggers who are travelling part-time too.
Meet Carrie, a 28-year-old, working for a US environmental advocacy organization. She runs Trains, Planes and Tuk Tuks, a blog about getting off the beaten path and seeing the world.
She’s been to 36 countries and counting, all while travelling part-time. She talks mishaps and travel tips and why you should not freak out if something goes wrong.
What do you do for a living? And how does travel fit into your life?
I work for a US environmental advocacy organization (basically environmental politics). While I love my job, travel will always be a priority for me – I take every opportunity and use every vacation day available to go somewhere new.
When did you take your first “adult” trip? Where did you go? What made this trip special to you?
At age 20, I moved to Beijing for a semester to study. I remember getting on the plane, I was so terrified to go on my own. And then the first 12 hours I was in China were a total mess – my ride from the airport bailed, I couldn’t tell taxi drivers where I was trying to go, the woman who ran my dormitory locked me out, and I couldn’t even figure out how to order a beer at a restaurant. But instead of stressing me out, those experiences made me even more excited to explore the world on my own – I was hooked on travel from the start.
Which trip or place was your favourite and why?
Hands-down, the best trip I’ve ever taken was Ethiopia. It’s just so unlike everywhere else in the world. Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity is one of the most traditional religions in the world, and it coexists peacefully with Islam in a country that’s also home to the third-most important city in Islam (Harar). The music and dance are fascinating. The food is unique (and good). There is so much history to explore – Lalibela really should be one of the ancient wonders of the world. And that’s before you get into the fact that it’s one of the most naturally gifted countries on the planet, with amazing trekking and the opportunity to camp on the rim of an active volcano.
Why did you decide to write and photograph your travels?
I started writing about my travels because it helped me process the experience.
One of the first articles I wrote (though I never actually published it) was about a series of bus breakdowns/mishaps during the border crossing from Guatemala to Honduras. I was annoyed and frustrated about losing a day of my holiday. But when I went to write it down, I realized I wasn’t trying to tell a story about a travel fail – I was trying to tell a story about how helpful and generous the locals were when they encountered a tourist who needed help. Writing that article helped me reframe my feelings about the experience from frustration to gratitude. Today, I still look back on Honduras fondly.
Photography is a newer interest for me, and one I’m still developing. But when I started taking it more seriously, I started noticing the beauty of the places I visit more. I like that it forces me to pay close attention to my surroundings in search of good shots.
How would you describe your travel style? (go-go-go or slow traveller) Why do you travel that way?
I’m go-go-go, but with slow-traveller-style itineraries.
I usually stay at each stop on my itinerary for 1-3 days. If I can only take two weeks off work at a time, I want to maximize what I can see.
At the same time, I hate long bus/train journeys. I don’t want to spend my entire holiday in transit. And since I work in environmental politics, internal flights and their climate-change implications leave me with a serious case of travel guilt. So I try to focus on regional travel and thoroughly see a small area, rather than trying to cover a huge country in just two weeks.
For example, some people try to “see Italy” in one week. I spent a week in Italy on my last trip there, but focused on just Venice and Trieste. That way I got to see a more off-the-beaten-path place and my longest train journey was three hours. At the same time, I had a jam-packed itinerary with very little time for sitting around and doing nothing in each city.
Describe your travel philosophes you may have developed over your travels.
I totally buy into the idea that travel is eye-opening, breaks down barriers, increases your open-minded-ness, and all the other clichés. But I also just think it’s really freaking fun (or it should be, most of the time, at least). If I’m not having a good time, finding new friends to laugh with, or playing outside in nature, what’s the point?
I realize that may sound selfish. But if we take our travels too seriously, we eventually won’t want to keep traveling (travel burnout is real). And then we don’t get any of those other benefits either. So why can’t we enjoy it just for the sake of enjoying it?
Can you share your top travel tip for new travellers?
My biggest tip is: Don’t freak out, everything is going to be fine. Not everything is going to go as planned. Things go wrong. But travel is all about the experiences you weren’t expecting. So rather than letting a missed bus make you miserable, or a dirty hotel get you down, find a way to laugh about it. Take the next bus to a place you weren’t planning to visit. Try to make friends with your hotel owner and gain some insight into local life. If you need help, ask for it – it’s a chance to make a new friend.
That, and it’s really okay to leave the WiFi devices at home for a few days.
What’s one thing you cannot travel without?
Hair ties. It’s the one little luxury I allow myself. If you’ve ever tried to untangle the solid mass of salt that your hair becomes after a day of diving, or brush the knots out after riding two hours down dirt roads in the back of a pickup truck in Nicaragua, you understand.
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