Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler is Jenny Leonard of Where is Jenny? Jenny is rebooting her life. She dumped her boyfriend, is selling all her possessions, and is leaving everything behind to backpack the world as a digital nomad. She doesn’t know when, where, or if she’s coming home.
1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
I think what defines a traveler is someone who seeks an experience. They don’t just hit a place for a day, see the sights, and just leave. A traveler will stick around longer, get to know the culture, mix with the locals, and try to form an understanding of a place. I consider myself a traveler because I seek to have an experience.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
My favorite travel experience is my volunteer trip to Vanuatu. It was my first time out of the country and I was sooo excited. I had never been that happy in my life. I sailed on a tall ship, which I like to refer to as a pirate ship, for a big portion of the journey. It was an unexpected experience, but I loved every second of it. I could imagine my life being lived on the ocean. I was disconnected from computers and the Internet and I found my true calling. The people in Vanuatu were amazing. 90% of the country lives off the land and they are very poor in what they have, but their quality of life is much much higher. The UK rated them as the happiest country in the world.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
My proudest travel moment came when I survived the Ciudad Perdida (Lost City) trek in Colombia. The trek is only 25 years old and we had the worst rainfall in the history of the trek. It poured rain like I have never seen before. We had to hike in foot-deep mud, 6 inches of water, cross roaring rivers, and climb cliffs. It was dangerous, tested my physical body, my mental power, and my determination. I wanted to quit so many times, but I was too stubborn. I remember being at a point about to give up and I just sat down. I had been soaking wet for 3 full days, was covered in red clay mud, and had another incline to climb and more rivers. I wanted to give up, but giving up wasn’t an option. When I finished the trek, I was so proud of myself for getting through it. It was miserable at the time, but now I look back on it and laugh.
4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?
I got really sick in Colombia. I have to take medication for a health condition and I couldn’t keep anything down for 3 days, including water and my pills. So I went through withdrawls. I was new to the hostel so I didn’t have any friends yet, and I laid in bed for 4 days shivering, puking, and shitting. It was by far my worst 4 days on the road ever. I love Colombia, so I would definitely go back. However, I don’t think I’ll go back to Medellin. There wasn’t anything to do.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
My iPod. Sometimes on long bus rides, I just need to tune out.
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
That I’m really strong both mentally and physically. I can do more things than I think I can if I just put my mind to it. I’ve learned so much about myself by being isolated on long bus rides. You get a lot of time to think and analyze things. Those are the moments you really learn about yourself.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Even though I was robbed in Rio de Janerio… I absolutely love that city. It was the only city that exceeded my expectations when I traveled through South America. It is sooo beautiful and breathtaking.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
It’s so hard to name one… I have a huge bucket list of experiences and places that I can’t wait to cross off.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
Go slow. Don’t plan. Go where the wind takes you. Say yes to every possible opportunity. You never know where it might lead. If you plan too much, you won’t have time to say yes.
Are you a travel blogger who has something to say on these topics? Do you know of somebody really interesting in the travel universe that you’d like to see interviewed? Speak up! The Thursday Traveler needs some interview subjects.