Name & Age? Zoe, 26
Where's home? Ottawa, Canada
What got you started? This time, a friend's wedding in France. It was enough motivation to miss my flight home. Then since I didn't have a flight home I decided to stay away for a few extra months.
What was/is your last/current trip? Well, I'm in Slovakia today. I'm slowly making my way home from Turkey to Canada. I'm taking the long way; a lot of backtracking and big jumps in the opposite direction every now and then.
How do you pay the way? Right now I'm travelling on what I saved up from working as an au pair in Turkey for six months this winter. I shop sales when it comes to flights and go where's cheap. Cause why not?! That's how I ended up in Japan and it was an incredible trip even though quite spontaneous. I Couchsurf, stay with friends of friends, and in hostels to keep costs down.
What's always on your packing list? Way more than I need! About a week and a half ago the airline I was flying with lost my luggage. My big backpack with everything I need to survive for a few more months out here and things I've collected along the way. But losing it was such a relief, a blessing. I was carrying around way too much crap. I bought socks, underwear and contact solution the first day. The airline gave me a toothbrush, toothpaste, and white t-shirt. I've been feeling so light! It's made travelling way more fun and easy. I can move around so freely now. I've been picking up things here and there as I need them, but keeping it pretty light. The best part is the airline shipped my luggage back to Ottawa, so I'll have all my treasures whenever I go home and don't have to haul them with me. I was glad I had my phone and charger with me though. It makes communication and travel planning much easier. And finding a pair of sunglasses in my carry-on was a nice surprise.
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? My friend in Japan telling that me he gets three vacation days a year. He's a doctor and it's normal for medical professionals, as well as many others. So is working on weekend mornings. I couldn't believe it. Three days a year! And since he's relatively new to the job he doesn't even have a choice of when he takes the three vacation days. It really shocked and sadden me. And made me feel guilty about what I'm doing with my life.
By land, by sea, or by air? By land. I love long bus rides and hitchhiking. I take planes when I need to or they're cheap. I lived on a yacht for three months last summer working as an au pair for a French family. It was cool, but I learned that people who own yachts are not my kind of people. People who pick me up hitchhiking are.
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? All of the above. Depends who I'm with, where I am and what my budget is, and how social I'm feeling.
What's your travel pet peeve? When people reach into that pocket on the back of your seat on an airplane. No matter how gently you do it it feels like you're kicking me in the back! So don't do it 100 times. Be sensitive! Maybe I'm too sensitive.
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Great! I don't think it's a big deal over here. I've been meeting a lot of other solo female travelers lately — which is great. I love traveling alone because it introduces me to really neat people. In Turkey a lot of people warned me to be careful, or would drive me to the bus station instead of where I was trying to hitchhike to. My parents feel better knowing I'm with someone even if it is someone I met online or on the side of the road.
What scares you? Thinking about my future.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I ignore it, suppress it, put off thinking about it. If I'm stressed out and scared because I don't have a place to stay the next day I tell myself, "Well that's tomorrow's problem" and just go to sleep. It's worked out so far. I slept in a bus station once. I do the same thing with worrying about my future. I just decide it's not today's problem and that I'll deal with it later or something will just work out. Probably not great advice, but it's working for me for now.
Worst memory: Couchsurfing once and I got to the guy's house and he didn't have a couch, spare bed, a mat on the floor or any other sleeping surface...just his own bed. I didn't want to share his bed so we divided up the linens on his bed and I slept on the floor. I hated it. I hated that he was using Couchsurfing like that. I hated that I was so cool and calm about it all and didn't call him out on it, but the worst part was that I stayed two nights. And that I will probably leave him an O.K. reference because we ended up having an O.K. time together.
One unforgettable memory: Haha! Sitting in a cafe in Bergama with Andrea and Serdar waiting to hear back from Couchsurfing hosts because we had nowhere to stay that night. Waiting, emailing, waiting, searching for hostels just in case. Then my phone rings and we all jump up so excited and do a happy dance and it's a guy from Couchsurfing and we are so happy and excited and relieved, but he says he's calling to tell me he's out of town.
Bravest memory: Hitchhiking alone from Antalya to Istanbul.
Culture shock moment: Visiting Japan. Everything is so well organized and thought out and on time and quiet. I'm sure it's someones paradise, but I missed the total chaos and disorganization I didn't realize I loved in other places.
Best reason to talk to strangers: They might invite you over to practice English with their teenage daughters and then surprise you with a feast as a thank you.
How are you different while traveling? I don't know how it's possible, but I'm somehow even more frugal than usual. I sewed the elastic band back onto a pair of $1 underwear the other day. Back home I would have splurged and bought new ones.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? Harder to stay put!
Three things you've learned on the road: How to say Hello, Yes and Thank you in the local language of every country I've been in. I try to learn as much as I can, but this is start and goes a long way.
What keeps you going? Fear of going home and living a real, adult life.
What's next? I'm meeting up with a German guy I met online. We're flying to Georgia together and will hitchhike, backpack, camp our way back to Germany. I'm flying back to Canada at the end of September. Maybe via Iceland!
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Probably working. Dreaming about leaving.
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? Don't over pack and don't over plan. Always leave room surprises.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? A cheap flight home would stop me for a while.
Follow Zoe: instagram.com/zopair