Friday, November 29, 2013

Interview (9) - let me introduce you to Megan

I’m Megan.  I’m twenty-three, from Philadelphia, second eldest of five kids, and I live in Thailand.  Well, for now.  I’m an English teacher in Chiang Mai, and spend my weekends and school breaks traveling around Southeast Asia and Thailand.  Previous adventuredom- and the reason I’m pretty broke (I spend all my money on travelling… I’m… impulsive and slightly irrational like that) include attending the South African World Cup with my friend Sara in 2010, studying in Prague in 2011, and backpacking through Eastern Europe that same year.   I’m an avid lover of people, reading, writing, list-making, coffee, beer, and polar bears.  You can follow me on facebook at: www.facebook/nomadicmegan

  1. What was your inspiration or the event/idea that made you want to travel?   In a word, curiosity.  I want to know how other people and countries live. The world is much bigger and more interesting than just where I’m from.  (Though, where I’m from is great too.)
  2. What was your first travel experience? I went to Italy when I was in high school.  It’s a beautiful country with so much character, history, food, and architecture... Italy was definitely a huge motivator and impetus in why I love to travel. I was with a large group though, and it didn’t feel quite so liberating or independent as I wanted.  My next travel experience was backpacking through South Africa for six weeks with just one other female friend.  That was a very momentous period of my life, and really confirmed in me that traveling was all I wanted to be doing, and I wanted to be doing it independently, so I needed to find a way to make that happen.
  3. Have you ever felt lonely travelling solo? Sure, but travelling solo doesn’t to mean being constantly alone. Staying in hostels, couchsurfing, or talking to anybody willing to listen is a great way to break that loneliness.  Most of the time I’ve gone somewhere alone I’ve ended up befriending strangers and travelling with them for a bit. Most of the world is full of friendly and welcoming people, if you show a smile you usually get one in return. (Especially in Thailand, where I currently am!)
  4. Do you have any fun stories of things that happened to you that you realized even at the time, “This never would have happened if I had been traveling with someone else?” I think when you travel alone you are more likely to have personal interactions with local people.  You’re already outside of your comfort zone and don’t have a crew of friends to talk to so you (Or at least I) tend to be more outgoing. Also, locals are more likely to talk to you since you’re just solo as opposed to part of a big group.  When I was on a beach in Thailand alone it started to downpour (It was during monsoon season) and I was rescued by a little old Thai lady who made a fortress from the rain out of a bunch of sun umbrellas and her coconut/beer stand.  I spent the rest of the afternoon sipping beer and eating fruit with her- first beneath her umbrella barricade and then under the sun when the storm passed.  Experiences like that don’t always happen when you’re with a group.  That was a great day.  
  5. What was your worst travel experience? Being stuck for 30 hours on an overly cramped bus from Cape Town to Johannesburg in South Africa.  The bus broke down in the middle of the night… because they ran out of water?  I’m still not entirely sure what happened.  All I know is by the time I was set free I had nearly lost my mind.
  6. What’s the strangest situation you have found yourself in? I once attended a religious festival in which people pierce their faces in order to cleanse their community of sin and give thanks. I was informally adopted by a family attending the parade and we somehow got stuck in the middle of it all. People started taking photos of me (Because I was foreign, I think.) and I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony of being the object of attention when I was flanked by a guy who had a sword through his face and a woman with a skewer piercing her cheek.
  7. Where will you never return to? Hopefully, the immigration office in Bangkok.  That place will zap the happiness right out of you.
  8.  What are your future travel plans? I’m currently on a Brazil World Cup one-track mind.  It occupies all my thoughts. I’m plotting ways to pay for it and get tickets to see Team USA...  It will, and must, happen.
  9. What are your top three tips for women traveling solo?
    1. Don’t let fear inhibit you. Don’t hate yourself for having it, either. Embrace fear, to a certain extent fear is just your instincts kicking in and keeping you from potentially too dangerous of a situation.
    2. Opt for transport with other people on it (buses, trains, etc.).  Getting into a taxi alone, especially at night, can lead to potentially sketchy situations.
    3. Make friends! Like I said earlier, just because you set out alone doesn’t mean you have to always be alone.   
  10. Couchsurfing..what do you think about that? I’ve done it about ten times and never had an issue.  Actually, it’s been a fantastic experience each time.  Couchsurfing hosts are usually very outgoing and welcoming travelers themselves, and can be a lot of help navigating and getting to know a new place.
  11. How do you pay for a life of travel? Well, currently I’m teaching English abroad for a living.  It’s a wonderful way to see the world and make a living while you do it.  And it’s a job you can pretty much do anywhere around the world.  Which is, as far as I’m concerned, the ideal job. But in general, I think it can be a sort of fallacy that if you travel you need a lot of money or you are rich.  Travelling, done right, can end up being the same cost as your monthly expenses at home-not more.
  12. What is the most breathtaking view you have ever witnessed on your travels The view from my roof that I am lucky enough to see every evening as the sun sets over Doi Suthep Mountain in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  
  13. What item will you always carry in your backpack? A good book and a journal
  14. Who was the kindest or most generous person you met on your travels, and what did they do?  When I was in South Africa we befriended a guy who let us crash at his place for over a week.  He gave us tours of his city every day, cooked us a traditional braii (BBQ), taught us “How to be South African” and even gave me his taped copy of a Rugby Championship game between South Africa and New Zealand.  He wouldn’t accept any gifts in return.  Instead he told us that people had been that generous with him in his travels and we could return his generosity by being that helpful to travelers we meet in our own hometowns.
  15. What have you learned from travelling? How to be perfectly independent, how to keep my cool in sometimes stressful or frustrating situations, how to really appreciate not only where I visit but where I’m from as well, and that the world is a beautiful and multifaceted place.

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