Thursday Traveler: Kirsten Alana

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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 Kirsten of KirstenAlana.com. Kirsten's wanderlust makes it hard for her to ever sit still. With the eye of a photographer and the soul of a writer, she views every day as an adventure. Through her travels and using her site, she hopes to share the beauty of everyday life all over the world, even in the most unexpected of places.

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

For me, it's an intense curiosity about the world outside my door and the other people in it; a desire to see and learn and not just to check items off a list — I think that makes a tourist. I consider myself a traveler because there isn't anywhere in the world I don't want to go, there is nothing I am really uninterested in learning. I look forward to experiencing every corner of the globe. Yet, even when I am “at home” I am always exploring — even if it's just going for a walk in my neighborhood but taking a new route. I say all this, realizing the definition is subjective and others may not agree with me!

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

I like to think I haven't yet had my favorite experience! I'll be headed to Paris for the first time in March for two weeks. As it's a place I've been wanting to visit my whole life, I think that's going to have a lot of “favorite” moments.

3. How about your proudest travel moment?

The moment I stepped foot alone in Mexico in 2009 knowing next to no Spanish. I managed to get myself through customs without an immigration form that was in English and without finding any airport employees willing to speak English to me. I called upon what little Spanish I had, made friends with other travelers and just made it work. I got to my resort just fine and while it was an interesting experience, I still made it, largely on my own! Also, that experience motivated me to try harder to learn Spanish (and since then, French too).

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?

My first trip to Mexico as a teenager caused me to hate Mexico. I was accidentally left behind by the tourist group I'd traveled with and, because of my age, I was almost forced to stay in what amounts to a juvenile detention center. They said it would have been for my own good, of course. Yet I wasn't comforted. Luckily for me, another American tourist group was able to negotiate taking responsibility for me and they, in the end, reunited me with the group I belonged to. It's a very long story, one that includes collect calling long distance in the days before cell phones and almost giving my mother her first heart attack! The point is, it soured Mexico for me for a long time. Yet, when I had a chance to go back in 2009. I took the chance because my adventurous nature doesn't like to discount any place or group of people! I'm glad I went back. Now, I love Mexico and never pass up a chance to return!

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

That's a tie. I cannot go anywhere without my Canon dSLR and my iPhone. When I need to be inconspicuous, the camera on the iPhone4 is just dynamite. When I really want to capture a place like a pro, my 5DmII is surgically attached to my hand!

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

My iPhone. I have a hard time “unplugging” and enjoying a place sometimes because I just want to check in with Twitter the whole time! That's when I'm thankful to be in a place that has little to no reception or no WiFi. Then, I am forced to unplug and always grateful for the lack of distraction.

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

I feel like I am repeating myself in every question! But here it is: UNPLUG!! I cannot go to a place only to bury myself in my phone, guidebook or journal the whole time. I cannot blog every day while I travel. I have to BE PRESENT in order to truly enjoy and learn from the experience of traveling.

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

Ideally, I would have two homes. One, would be on a beach or lake within view of mountains. The other would be in an old, airy loft in a city like New York or Paris. I'm literally, equally, a country girl and city girl at heart.

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

Sex in a vineyard in Italy! TMI? Ok, probably scuba diving in Indonesia. Wait, no, I'd like to live as an expat for a year or more in either Sweden or Spain. (See what I mean? There are too many things I want to do. I can never just choose one thing!)

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

START TRAVELING EARLIER!!!

Visit Kirsten's site: Kirsten Alana
Follow Kirsten on Twitter: @kirsten_al
Check out Kirsten's travel prints

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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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