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 Susan Shain of Travel Junkette. Susann has been working ungrownup seasonal jobs and traveling the world for the past four years. Follow her quest to take the perfect jumpy picture on every continent.
A “traveler” is someone who leaves the familiar to venture into the unknown. Though this is typically in the physical sense, I also think it's possible to travel without actually going anywhere. I know that, as a kid, I traveled all around the world through books. (And, like you, Amanda, through Carmen Sandiego!) I consider myself a traveler because I am constantly in search of the unfamiliar. Arriving in a new country, city, or even a new restaurant is a natural high for me… and one to which I am very addicted!
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
Wow, this is tough! The two that immediately come to mind are hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (magical) and attending elephant mahout training camp in Thailand. I'm kind of obsessed with elephants, so that was a dream come true for me.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
My proudest travel moment may have been at the Cartagena airport, which I know, sounds ultra lame. But, hear me out. Pretty much, it was an airline bungling of epic proportions, and I spent all day negotiating with airline employees, talking to travel agencies, and calling alternate transportation companies on the phone. It was a very stressful day, and I barely had time to think. When we were finally on our flight to Panama, I realized that I had accomplished all of it… in Spanish. I really enjoy learning new languages, so that was a huge accomplishment for me.
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?
What is travel if not mishaps? I have had too many mishaps to count, and though probably cranky about them at the time, in the end I consider them just part of the experience. They're what make the good stories, right? I did have one bad experience in Chiang Mai, but it hasn't influenced my view of Thailand at all. It could have happened anywhere. Luckily, it was a wake-up call for me. It's unfair, but especially as females, we need to always be aware of our surroundings and not allow ourselves to get overly comfortable.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
Pepto-bismol tablets. They are my crack. I love food, and especially street food. I eat anything and everything I can get my hands on, and when that turns out to be an awful awful idea, Pepto is there to save the day. Usually. Plus, they taste (sort of) like Necco Wafers!
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
My passport. Do you remember that egg-baby challenge they make you do in high-school? Where you have to carry around an egg for a week without breaking it, to make you realize that having a baby is a lot of work? Well, that's how I feel about my passport. I always am worrying about it, wondering where it is, if it is warm and dry, blah blah. I'll have these panicky times where I'm sure I lost it, and will be scrambling around looking for it, and then realize it's on my dresser. Traveling would be so much easier if they could just scan my retinas or something. So please get on that, State Department!
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
While traveling, I am constantly learning. Languages, cultures, self-reflection, it never stops. To be completely cheesy, I think that the most important thing I've learned is that people are the same everywhere. People may look different, speak different languages, eat different things, but, ultimately, what's on the inside is pretty similar. We all love to spend time with our friends and families, eat good food, and laugh with each other. It's beautiful, really.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Anywhere? Inside the Ben & Jerry's ice cream factory. That place is my version of heaven.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
I guess I'm not allowed to say everything, am I? Hmm, I've had this dream trip in my head for a while of backpacking through Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka. Nepal for the trekking, India for the food, and Sri Lanka for the animals — elephants, leopards, and SLOTH BEARS (I don't really know what they are, but they sound awesome). I'm there! Ooh, or diving with whales. That would be absolutely incredible.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
It is not going to be all sunshine and unicorns. Bummer, I know. It is going to be really hard. As douchey as it sounds, there is a big difference between taking a “vacation” and traveling. There are going to be times you really just want to go home and times when you wonder what the hell you were thinking. But, STAY POSITIVE. If you get into a bad mood, treat yourself. Go lie on the beach, eat a nice meal, or, my personal favorite — go to the movies. Take a “vacation” during your travels, and you will soon again feel refreshed and appreciative of all the amazing experiences you're having.
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.