Jenna and I met in Hamilton. Two adventurous souls that crossed paths. Following her adventures is always inspiring and I am so happy to share her story.
What city do you call home? Burlington, Ontario
What was a defining situation that made you decide to be adventurous? In high school I had an English teacher that was rather unconventional. Clothing and long hair aside, his greatest appeal was his stories about living abroad in the UK and teaching English in Korea. He was the first person I’d ever met that had done these things, and it was the first time I realized that I could do these things. I remember spending many of my subsequent high school lunch hours in the school resource room looking up opportunities through Rotary International, Canada World Youth and Katimavik (nerdy, I know). He inspired me to think beyond a trajectory of university-to-work, and that mindset has stayed with me ever since.
Where have you been/lived? I’ve lived in France and New Zealand. I’ve done brief travel stints in 29 countries, but my longest, most memorable and most immersive travel experiences have been to France, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Morocco, and China.
Can you share a memorable/funny travel story?
I’ve had some amazing travel experiences, but the one I am most proud of was a trip to the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is pretty accessible in certain spots, but during my trip planning I’d discovered this remote section of the Great Wall that was known for the best views and travel photography. I did excessive research to piece together where the location of this place was, painstakingly weaving together what little information I could find on blogs and niche travel websites. We almost didn’t do it for lack of real confidence in where we were going, but my incredibly trusting travel buddy (Iiris) encouraged us to try. In the end we haggled to get on a busy city bus (sitting on the steps because there was no room) traveling for over an hour outside Beijing. From there we caught a taxi for another 30 or so minutes and eventually wandered into a small farming village hoping that the small family hotel we were looking for still existed. The next morning we woke up at 5 a.m. to follow the light of our headlamps up a narrow path in the woods to the top of the Great Wall. As we climbed the last few minutes the morning sun came out and illuminated the hills and stones providing us with the best views of the day. We spent the rest of the day hiking along one of the most beautiful and historical places on earth in complete solitude. I’ll never forget it!
Can you share a story when something did not work out as planned while traveling?
Nothing big that comes to mind, but travel has its highs and lows. Sometimes solo travel can feel incredibly lonely and other times it’s the greatest liberation on earth.
What is left on your ‘to-do’ list?
I haven’t been anywhere in South America or Africa. I also aspire to join the ranks of the Women on Wheels one day. Touring by bike – just biking, camping, exploring (repeat) really appeals to me. I did a short 3 day solo trip up to Lake Huron a few years ago and l loved it. I cycled by day and stayed with welcoming couchsurfing hosts by night. I love the opportunity cycling provides for slow, purposeful travel!
How do you balance work and travel?
So far I’ve struck a fine balance with adventure and travel in various parts of my life. Study abroad during university allowed me to live abroad for 4 months while still completing courses towards my degree. A break between job contracts post-university saw me traveling 2 months across Australia and Thailand. And most recently an approved leave from work provided me with 12 months to travel and work abroad in New Zealand. I think one of the more important lessons in balance though has been learning to find adventure in my own backyard. Hiking, cycling, kayaking – there are so many places to discover nearby that satisfy my need for something new and they don’t need to be half a world away. For a while I was also really involved in my local Hamilton Couchsurfing group, which was great for meeting other travelers. Finally I must say it also helps that I run study abroad programs at McMaster and can live vicariously through my students!
What advice/tips do you have to encourage people who want to travel?
1) Start as early as possible! And if you’ve never traveled before, don’t be afraid to start small. Travel is a cumulative experience. Each trip builds up confidence for the next.
2) Don’t get drawn in by country counts. Visiting 100 countries isn’t impressive if you only spend 2 days in each (and half of that was probably travel time).
3) Make room for the benefits of solo travel. I don’t think I really learned to trust myself until I absolutely had to. 4) Build your travel nest egg. Put away a little each month for your next trip, even if you don’t know what that’s going to be!
Where can people follow your adventures?
Unfortunately I don’t have a public space for people to follow my trips but one day I’d like to!