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 Edna of Expat Edna. Originally from Pennsylvania, Edna is a serial expat who first moved abroad at 18. Since then, she has worked in journalism in Shanghai, on an Asian reality television show in Singapore, at international sports events from China to Australia, and traveled to several more countries in between. She is currently based in Paris.
I'm a pretty literal person, so, to me, a traveler is anyone who goes to explore a destination that is not their current home. It doesn't matter if it's a place you've been before, or if you're staying in a fancy hotel or a hostel. If the place isn't home and you've traveled to get there, you're a traveler.
As an expat, it's a little trickier to define who's a traveler and who's not, as expats make new homes in their adopted country. I don't leave Paris that often, so I wouldn't consider myself a traveler at the moment. But I still considered myself a traveler in Singapore; I was going on trips to different countries at least once a month, using my new home as a travel base.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
I know everyone says this, but it's so hard to pick just one! One experience that really stands out in my memory is last New Year's Eve in Sydney. Going there to see the NYE fireworks was one of the highest-ranked items on my bucket list, and was awesome — literally; I was filled with awe.
Everything about that day was perfect. We spent the day at Bondi Beach and had an evening picnic at Observatory Hill park. Afterwards my then-boyfriend (now fiancé) and I managed to find an incredible spot at the Rocks to watch the fireworks light up over the harbor at midnight. With the Opera House on our right and the Harbour Bridge on the left, it was magical, electric, and almost surreal.
Again, SO hard to choose. Working for the Olympics and in international sports media has been a childhood dream come true. Moving to Singapore on a whim was pretty bold. I'm proud I stepped out of my comfort zone to try gaelic football, because I've met great people through this random Irish sport and have had so much fun playing for teams in both Asia and Europe. And, of course, I'm proud to say I met my fiancé while traveling, because so many people say finding a lasting relationship on the road and/or surviving long-distance can't be done.
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've been pretty lucky in that I haven't really had any mishaps (that weren't my own fault, that is — I've come pretty close to missing a few flights!).
The one bad experience I had was getting scammed by a cyclo in Saigon — I even read all the literature that said to beware of them, and my fiancé and I still got fleeced anyway. It didn't affect my views of the place too badly; we were a bit sore about it but there's so much to love about Saigon and Vietnam that we just accepted it as an expensive lesson learnt.
There was also the time I injured my foot while playing gaelic football in China and had to wear a cast for six weeks in winter. It was unfortunate, but I became a beast on crutches! And even at the time, instead of being upset, I just kind of laughed because the whole situation was kind of ridiculous. For example, old ladies would come up to me in public and tell me I should put a sock over the cast; as if having a cold foot was a much worse fate than having a fractured foot.
My camera. Partly because I like to dabble in photography, but also because I have a terrible memory — without the hundreds of photos I take on my trips, I probably wouldn't remember much about them. Wow, how old do I sound?
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
I wish I could travel without running into scam artists and mosquitoes. Minus the cyclo I haven't fallen prey to too many scams (that I know of!), but I am a ridiculous mosquito magnet. My record — I kept track, because the buggers kept me awake for hours — was 63 bites in one night. I even had a mosquito terrorizing me in my flat in the dead of winter in Paris.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
After traveling through Asia, I have a much lower tolerance for “first world problems” and the people who complain about them. The world is too full of amazing people, places, food, and experiences — not to mention people with real problems — to worry about the silly insignificant stuff. Who really cares if your cable broke and you missed the finale of Dancing with the X-Factor Apprentice? Not me — I've got places to be and pad thai to eat.
Shanghai. It's cosmopolitan and vibrant — if you think NYC never sleeps, try Shanghai. But really, it's because Shanghai is my second home (I've visited at least once every year since I've been alive). Sure, I love the energy of the city, but I really love being in the French Concession and remembering my childhood days of wandering through the market, or being able to visit my relatives for a home-cooked Shanghainese dinner. I also think Shanghai dialect is one of the most beautiful languages to listen to; it's completely different to Mandarin, far less tonal and much more rapidly spoken. I find no other language so soothing or relaxing.
My great love for the city is why I'm not living there at the moment. I know if I go back, I might never leave. So I'll finish gallivanting around the world first, but then I'll probably end up in Shanghai.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
The Northern Lights, without a doubt. Preferably in a Scandinavian country.
Start writing it all down NOW, and be consistent with it. I started blogging about my travels in 2008, but it was never regular or focused. Now I'm working through years of backlog, my memories aren't as clear; and I'm dealing with a much more saturated travel blog market.
But really, it's the memories thing that gets me most. If you start now, five years in the future you'll look back on those diary/blog entries and be surprised at how many details you've forgotten — and then you'll be glad you wrote it all down.
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.