What did you see yourself doing when you were younger?
I knew that I wanted to do something creative, or help less fortunate people. The blog I run now, blondvoyage.com, is a fun creative outlet, and hopefully some day I can help people with more than just travel tips!
What do you do now?
I work for a global market research company remotely. My hours are relatively flexible, I can work anywhere with a good internet connection.
What compelled you to go against the grain and move abroad?
I worked a really difficult 9-5 job my first year out of college, though I often worked much later than 5. I wouldn’t credit that experience entirely with my decision to go abroad, as I have always loved travel and learning about other cultures, but I think being overworked for a year and feeling unappreciated gave me the push to want something more in life.
Are you glad you made the change?
Absolutely. It’s how I met my boyfriend, and this experience has helped me grow so much as well. There have been difficulties along the way, but I can’t imagine my life any other way.
What are the challenges of living abroad in multiple countries?
Visas are a challenge. I initially thought as an American they would never be a problem for me, but that’s of course not the case. Time zone differences can also make it difficult to stay in touch with people. I’m six hours ahead of my friends and family here in Italy, so my phone is pretty inactive until about 3 pm.
What are the rewards?
Traveling is so important. Being an outsider is a challenging but fulfilling experience to have, and gives you new respect people who are outsiders in your home country. Travel provides rewarding opportunities to learn about new languages and cultures while teaching you to be self-sufficient outside your comfort zone. I think travel is a hugely underrated quality in the business world in terms of hiring young people. Rather than seeing travelers as flaky, hiring managers should understand how it makes you responsible, self-aware, patient, and able to get along with people.
There’s also gelato involved in my case, so that’s a pretty great reward, too.
What is the coolest place you’ve ever been?
That’s really difficult to say, because I like every place in its own way. Hawaii suits my personality the best, I think, and as a destination there is so much more than just beautiful beaches. I was also fascinated with Morocco. Both places, in their own unique way, face the challenge of balancing cultural “authenticity” with huge waves of tourism affecting how their local economies work. As a wannabe anthropologist, I find that tension fascinating.
To be more specific, and maybe to answer this question better, Molokai, Hawaii is the coolest place I’ve been. It’s not an island people travel to much, but it has a really interesting history (they say hula was invented on this island!). On Molokai, you can find the tallest sea cliffs in the world! There is a lot of traditional culture there, and no traffic lights. It was a life changing visit.
What is your craziest travel experience?
My first real solo traveling experience was to Tarifa, Spain. I rented a surfboard from a shop and spent two days in the water. The conditions weren’t ideal, but now I can say that I’ve surfed the Strait of Gibraltar.
What advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
I would tell myself to care less about what other people think. People can tell when you’re being insincere, and it also affects your own happiness. I would tell myself to trust that people who love me will still love me, no matter what.
Hometown: Washington, DC
Current City: Naples, Italy
Occupation: Remote worker for a market research company
College major: Double major in English and Anthropology
Hobbies: Travel blogging, reading, attempting to learn languages (I call myself try-lingual because I’m not fluent in three languages but at least I’m trying!)
Favorite travel book: I love On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Number one destination on your to-go list: New Zealand or Carnival in Brazil
Boldest thing on your travel bucket list: I would love to skydive somewhere beautiful or learn how to kite surf
You never travel without: A journal to write in
Mountains or beaches: Ideally a place with both
Most overrated city you’ve been to: London. It’s a great city, but I also think it’s hugely over-hyped as a travel destination. There’s other big, awesome cities you can see for less money. I also think traveling to a country that doesn’t speak English is an important experience for Americans.
Follow Tess on Twitter @tessholla.