Stephanie Kempker

Meet Stephanie of My Quarter Life Epiphany

What did you see yourself doing when you were a senior in college?

I didn’t really have an idea. The biggest question of the last two years of my college career (when I double majored in Religion and Psychology rather than Psychology and Biology) was “What are you going to DO with that?”I had dreamed of getting a master’s or a PhD in Religion but the job market was basically impossible, so I decided to pursue marketing.

What do you do now?

I’m a freelance content and social media writer who specializes in travel… and I blog on my own travel site.

Why did you decide to leave your job?

I was on my first trip overseas (in Thailand) and first solo trip ever with a plan to travel for 10 days. A few days in, I realized I never wanted to go back to my old life, and I quit my job, canceled my ticket, and took the night train to Koh Tao.

Phra Nang Beach in Railay, Thailand.
Railay is my favorite island-that’s-not-an-island, and Phra Nang is my favorite beach. Can you see why?

Are you glad you made the change?

Yes. I regret the way I went about it, as I burned some bridges which I still feel badly about. But I think if I would have returned home from my trip, I would not have had the guts to go back to Asia. But for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere. In Thailand.

After backpacking for 3 months I got a dream job which I worked in for almost two years (international fertility) before ultimately deciding to focus on writing. These past years since leaving the US have been the best of my life, and I have a better relationship with myself, my family, and my friends because I am truly happy and fulfilled.

What are the challenges of your new lifestyle?

Living so far away from family and old friends is hard. Now that I’m 26, and friends are starting to have kids and get married, I see that I’m losing some lifelong friendships, and that traveling long term can be pretty isolating. I’m nostalgic for relationships with history and a future; being a traveler you meet amazing people but those friendships are transient and even if you stay in touch you rarely see each other. I miss being able to talk to my friends in person, hug them, be there for important life events.

What are the rewards?

Designing your own life, learning lessons from people around the world, having freedom from the desire to have too many possessions (if you move a lot, you can’t have an apartment full of Target trinkets and IKEA junk. It’s minimalism all the way)

What is the coolest place you’ve ever been?

So hard! I’ll say – middle of nowhere Cambodia (near Kratie), on the Mekong River. I was staying in a homestay with a village family, and one of the guys from the village took us out on the Mekong in a little boat and the cut the engine. Next thing I knew, we were surrounded by pink freshwater dolphins.

Mekong River in Cambodia.
Getting off the beaten track and exploring Eastern Cambodia along the Mekong Discovery Trail has been one of my favorite adventures.

What is your craziest travel experience?

In Arraial Do Cabo, Brazil some guys ran a scam on me where they stole my car keys, made me think that I lost them, and then tricked me into buying my car key back for $300 (by saying they’d make a “copy” by using the car door lock). I suspected something was up but it’s Brazil so you can’t go to the police. I was just happy they didn’t steal the whole car!

What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

It’s all about love.

And to trust the process. Everything will work out better than you can imagine.

And stop buying so much stuff!


Fast Facts

Hometown: Lowell, MI

Current City: Rio de Janeiro,  Brazil

Occupation: Writer

College major: BS of Religion, BS of Psychology

Hobbies: Reading, writing, walking (especially with my dog), cooking, budgeting (seriously).. and traveling

Favorite travel book: the Beach

Number one destination on your to-go list: Morocco

Boldest thing on your travel bucket list: Go diving with sharks in a shark cage (I’m afraid of the deep ocean and of sharks)

You never travel without: my Kindle

Favorite festival in the world: Songkran in Thailand

Picture with Batman at Songkran in Thailand.
Water guns, getting soaked, and being smeared with paste are a certainty when celebrating Songkran in Bangkok but you can never tell what else will happen – like running into Batman!

Number one song on your road trip playlist: Lumineers Ho Hey

Mountains or beaches: Beaches

Most overrated city you’ve been to: Penang. UGH

Most underrated city you’ve been to: Traverse City, Michigan (most underrated place, not city, though is Railay, Thailand)

Sunset in Traverse City, Michigan.
While I can travel the world over, some of my favorite sunsets are still in my home state of Michigan.

Personal blog/social media handle: twitter: myqlepiphany ig: stephqlepiphany facebook: Quarter Life Epiphany

Check out Stephanie’s blog at the link above and follow her on social media!  Or leave a comment or question below!

Category: Meet a Traveler


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