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 Brooke Schoenman of Brooke vs. the World. Brooke is a world traveler and current Australia expat. She has been traipsing around the globe since late 2007, and doesn't plan to stop anytime soon.
1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
Even though this is the first question of this interview, I had to come back and do it last because I really don't have a definition. I think anyone that is interested in exploring a place that they haven't been before would be a traveler, and obviously I am that kind of person.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
I enjoy that I've spent a good deal of time in Kyrgyzstan. It's a really unique place with a mixture of cultures (Kyrgyz, Russian, Asian and Turkish) that not many people get to experience, and because of it's closed-off former Soviet history, it can seem a bit scary in general. I found the Kyrgyz people some of the most helpful people in the world (besides those with roles that could potentially warrant them to acquire bribes). I love that I am able to provide an eye into this beautiful place and even convince others to pursue travels there.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
I felt like Superwoman after this experience, but it is really hard to explain. I wanted so, so badly to visit Patrick in Budapest back in 2008 (my now-boyfriend in Australia), but I was working in Ukraine teaching English and had little time off or money, and it was a long distance to cover by train.
After being able to explain to my boss that I needed to have an extra day off work so that I could take a whirlwind trip to Budapest to see the love of my life (well, potential love of my life — it was still early days at that time), I went to buy a ticket from Kiev to Budapest. Only, there was but one direct route to Budapest from Kiev, and it caused me to lose almost a day of my time getting there.
I searched online to see all the possible train connections I could put together to reach Budapest at a quicker rate to finally print off an itinerary and head back to the ticketing office. To my surprise, they couldn't book this ticket for me… only the very first ticket that took me to the border of Ukraine and Hungary. You see, if the train isn't the direct one that they run, then the Ukrainian ticket booths have no connection with ticketing offices for other countries. I simply had to book as I went, but that was not going to be easy with a 12-minute train switch at two different locations, border guards having to check bags, and just being super crap at speaking Russian (and not even knowing Hungarian).
It took me 22 hours on trains, a lot of stress, a bit of conversing with train compartment mates and then some before I made it to Budapest to see my Aussie boyfriend. It was hectic and short-lived, but by doing it my way, I was able to have almost an extra day with him before heading back to Ukraine. That was a proud travel experience!
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?
The only thing I can really think about is New Zealand (don't hate me!). Both times I've gone, it was merely to get my Australia visas sorted, and it was the middle of winter. I botched both attempts by not understanding what I could and could not do flight-wise, which both times resulted in me having to purchase last-minute plane tickets at the airport in a frantic mess. My New Zealand experiences were out of necessity and started off with visa and flight frustrations, and I'm sure if I went under other circumstances I wouldn't feel the same.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
Shower flip-flops. I have a pair of flip-flops that are for shower purposes ONLY. I once got a really, really bad case of tinea after traveling in Europe, so I have been super careful ever since. I wear them only for the amount of time I'm in the shower and then that's it.
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
My laptop. It's an extra headache to think about, carry and deal with. I wish I didn't need to feel connected and could just travel for travel's sake, but I guess I am a product of modern society.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
I'm stronger than I think I am. In normal life, I'm shy and nervous about just about everything, but traveling forces me to be out there.
I almost feel as though I'm never content with where I am, so I can't honestly give you a place that I would live forever. Australia is great, and I am working on my official visa at this moment to stay with my partner, but I'm not opposed to heading out and trying out other countries to live in sometime in the future. When I was younger, I had a dream of living in Italy, but after a few months there, I think that a permanent stay would not be for me. You know the saying: it's a nice to place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
I have a weird obsession with Timbuktu, so I wouldn't mind trying to make my way there at some point.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
When I first started traveling, I wasn't into using social media to meet up with locals or other travelers abroad. Actually, it wasn't until 2010 that I had my first meet-up with people from Twitter. I guess I still had the old mindset that meeting people off the Internet (and especially in other countries) was weird, so I wish I knew how awesome it could make my travel experiences long ago.
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.