Meet: Michelle DeVona

Name & Age? Michelle DeVona, 33

Where's home? As of right now, it's Portland, Oregon. The concept of "home" has always been somewhat ethereal to me, so I don't know if I will ever be able to attach it to any particular place.

What got you started? After university, my friends and I did a road trip from New Jersey to Montreal. I remember feeling so alive and free while on the road, especially after escaping student life. Therefore, I made it a point since then to take a trip somewhere I’ve never been every year, even if it meant merely driving a couple hours to an unfamiliar place in my own state. And I can gladly say, eleven years later, I’ve honored that promise to myself.

What was/is your last/current trip? I drove across the USA last summer, concentrating mostly in the southwest. Inspired by the novel Blue Highways, by William Least Heat-Moon, I made it a point to stay off interstates as much as possible, traveling instead on more scenic two lane roads. I ended up taking a break in San Diego for a couple weeks before heading up Highway 1, finishing in Seattle. This was actually my first time driving across my own country, so I got a real flavor of the vast landscapes and beauty that surround the open road.

CALIFORNIA - Highway 62

CALIFORNIA - Highway 62

How do you pay the way? Work as much as possible while not traveling.

What's always on your packing list? A journal, a pen, and a good book. The journal and pen so I can record any impressions or details I might otherwise forget about later. A good book because even while traveling, I enjoy the occasional escape into somewhere else sometimes.

What’s the last thing that blew your mind? Trekking through the remote Havasu Canyon and then submerging myself in the many waterfalls you will find after hiking about eight miles in. While hiking in, I encountered a group of wild horses, trotting right alongside me. The waterfalls are absolutely magical. You feel as if you have journeyed to a mythical paradise in the middle of nowhere. 

ARIZONA - Havusa Canyon

ARIZONA - Havusa Canyon

By land, by sea, or by air? By land for sure. How else would one be able to get a sense of the surrounding landscape and culture otherwise? I will revert to that time-honored cliché we all know and love: Traveling is not always so much about the destination, but the journey itself.

Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? I have met so many interesting people through Couchsurfing during my travels. Staying with locals has given me the opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and gain a deeper understanding of how it is to live in a particular place. Camping is great as well, especially if doing a road trip in the USA. I enjoy the solitude and quiet that comes with camping, and the chance to catch up with my own thoughts. Hostels and hotels are alright, depends what one is looking for out of the trip, I suppose.

What's your travel pet peeve? When I am traveling in a foreign country and I overhear Americans complaining about how they can’t find a Starbucks or some other chain that is probably within ten minutes of where they live at home.

How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? For the most part, people are fine with it. Although, I admit, when I tell people I traveled solo in countries like India and Egypt, it’s fun to see their eyes swell up like grapefruits. Hopefully at some point down the line, women traveling solo will not be a novelty anymore. However, it will probably take a while before we reach complete gender parity.

What scares you? Heights.

EGYPT - Mt. Sinai

EGYPT - Mt. Sinai

How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? Take a deep breath.

Worst memory: Hitchhiking solo and realizing that the man who picked me up was a creep and possible rapist. Fortunately, he just turned out to be a creep.

One unforgettable memory: I was invited to stay with a family in some remote Ukrainian village. The house was run by a sweet babushka who was an amazing cook and didn’t speak a word of English. I remember thinking, now this is why I travel.

Bravest memory: Making the treacherous climb down to the base of Mooney Falls. While this probably means peanuts to some people, I happen to be afraid of heights. And climbing down some steep cliff without a rope and only a couple of chains on the side to hold on to meant I had to keep my wits about me.

Culture shock moment: While this may sound derivative, I have to say that traveling to poverty stricken areas of Africa, India, and Nepal have been eye opening.

NEPAL

NEPAL

Best reason to talk to strangers: I may learn about another aspect of the culture or a new place that I wouldn’t have known had I not spoken to that person.

How are you different while traveling? I am definitely much more free spirited, and much more in tune with my "whatever, so it goes" attitude. I feel I should work on incorporating this into my life while not traveling as well.

Is it harder to leave or to stay put? I can't stay put too long. There is too much going on out there.

Three things you've learned on the road:

  1. Be open to new experiences
  2. Remain flexible in your itinerary,
  3. Don’t be afraid of people.

What keeps you going? A deep sense of curiosity and a vibrant  imagination.  As poet Arthur Rimbaud once said, “Genius is the recovery of childhood at will.”

What's next? Heading on a small road trip through Idaho and Montana. Going to sleep under that big sky!

What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Probaby reading about all the adventures I could be having.

What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? Ignore any hesitation you may have and just make it happen.

Last question: What would make you stop traveling? I would only stop traveling if I became really sick and would be unable to take care of myself. Or, if a family member became sick and I needed to look after them. 

Follow Michelle: drunkenboatpartdeux.tumblr.com