Thursday Traveler: Ariana of And Here We Are…

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 Ariana of And Here We Are…. Ariana started her travel career at a young age (8 years old) when her family moved to the Philippines. She loved the adventure and new experiences that came with living between two countries. Although she returned to the US to go to college and live out her adult life in her “home” country, she still longed to experience more of the world. When the opportunity arose for her young family to move to Europe, she did not hesitate. Her family has been living in Europe (England and Germany) for two years now, and she blogs about the adventures and discoveries that come with being an expat family.

1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?

I would consider a traveler someone who regularly travels outside of their own geographical comfort zone, with an interest in the world around them. Although we spend most of our time near home in England, when we do venture out, we are always looking through travelers' eyes, hoping to glimpse something interesting or unexpected, or to better understand the culture around us.

2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?

For me, a good travel experience is always about connection. We took an impromptu trip to Belgium a few months back, and happened to meet a really nice family in a town we visited based on a reader's recommendation. We only spent maybe an hour or two with them, but as we were leaving, they invited us to come stay in their beach house the next time we were in Belgium. When we returned a couple months later, we really connected with them (more than with anyone we have met here in England so far!) and they asked us to return for their wedding. It was special to be part of a significant event in their lives, and was such a beautiful example of serendipity — we all felt so lucky that we had found each other, and look forward to the next time we can meet. Maybe they'll come here next!

3. How about your proudest travel moment?

I've done some cool stuff and gone to a lot of interesting places (trekking in the Himalayas, staying for two weeks with a family I met in Honduras, living on a house boat on Dal Lake, Kashmir), but the first thing that really comes to mind is my six year old daughter. I am really, really proud of the way that she embraces travel — she is so interested in everything around her, is extremely flexible with the parts about travel that can even make an adult throw a tantrum, and she is always making connections with the people around her.

When we were visiting Paris last year, we somehow spent almost half of our time there on the subway trains. Most of the people around us were scowling, and avoiding eye contact. Amelia saw an older man sitting a couple rows away that looked particularly grumpy. She went over to his seat, and sat next to him. He ignored her. Then she nonchalantly slipped her arm over his shoulder, around his neck, and smiled at him. He couldn't help grinning, and everyone around us was also smiling quietly. That is what life in this world is all about, and I could not have been more proud.

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?

You know, I cannot think of any really bad travel experiences. I have almost been pick-pocketed a few times, but because I grew up in the Philippines, I am just really used to guarding against that sort of thing, and I am also really wary about getting swindled by people who take advantage of foreigners. I will say, though, that I prefer to travel in places where I can blend in — I don't like sticking out like a sore thumb! I do my best to try to look like I know what I'm doing, or like I belong wherever I am.  That would be much harder to do certain parts of the world, and I am less eager to travel to those places.

5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.

My camera (which also means lots of extra batteries and my computer to put my photos onto). I still regret all of the travel I did without a camera — did I really spend a month in India, with only a few pictures to show for it? How could I?! Now, it's a battle for me to still enjoy myself when something goes wrong (dead batteries, full memory card, forgotten camera) and I can't snap pictures of all that's around me. I just know I won't remember it all, and I want to not only hold onto it, but share what I see with my blog readers.

6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.

Food allergies! My husband and my daughter both have a short list of things they can't eat (including gluten) which are in so many foods wherever we go. It would be SO convenient if we could just stop for whatever is cheap and easy where we are at. But it takes quite a bit of planning, and usually more money to feed us. On the flip side, we have had some really terrific meals, and eating in Europe outside of the UK is actually easier than it would be in the USA. If only we could get fish and chips, life here would be easier!

7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?

All of my travel, up until eight years ago, was in developing nations: The Philippines, Thailand, India, and Central America. Seeing standard living conditions in these countries definitely informed my world view. I learned that anyone born into a relatively stable environment, with food, shelter, and opportunity for education, is one of the lucky ones. I have a really hard time with people who mope about their lives because they don't have a bigger house or the kind of car they want, or little problems that steal their joy. I have learned to be very, very thankful for the small things in my life, and not to sweat the challenges ahead of me — they are all minor, when I think about the basic challenge for survival in many places all over the world.

8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I have only visited Spain once, but I am pretty convinced that I would be very, very happy living on the Southern Coast, with all of that sunshine, seafood, and cuisine influenced by North Africa. I am naturally wired to thrive in warm, sunny climes, and food is extremely important to me. I think sunny locations with a love of food naturally produce really warm, friendly people. These are a some elements that are missing from my life in England, and so I do think a lot about what it might be like to live in Jerez, or Malaga.

9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.

Greece. Every picture I see of Greece — the white-washed buildings, deep-blue seas, vibrant bougainvilla blossoms, and mouth-watering food — fills my heart with longing. That is my goal right now, to come up with ways to earn/set aside as much money as I can through this year, to get me and my family over there, at long last!

10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?

To record it all. There are important people I met on those early trips that I don't even have pictures of. I know exciting things happened, and that I learned so much — but I'm not totally sure how it all went down, since I wasn't writing it down or capturing it on film. In some cases, I wish that I had realized that I might not make it back there — when I was younger, travel felt so easy and sure, and I took it for granted. We still get to travel a lot, but I wish I had appreciated the early adventures more. Now, I view every trip through the lens of life's uncertainty. I need to be very present in each moment, because I really don't know how my life could change tomorrow, and the ability to travel and see the world is a huge gift.

Visit Ariana's site: And Here We Are…
“Like” Ariana on Facebook: And Here We Are
Follow Ariana on Pinterest: And Here We Are (Ariana Mullins)

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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.

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