Name & Age? Amie Grant, 26
Where's home? Where I spent my youth on the West Coast of Canada, living on the sea and within the mountains of British Columbia. But, home is transitional and I'm learning everyday how to feel more at home in my body.
What got you started? In high school, I always had my nose in an atlas during my classes, dreaming of far off lands. There was just a feeling I had that I didn't belong in one place and so, after high school, I flew to Europe for my first time. A 3 month trip ended up into a (currently) 8 year love affair with travel. I've gone back to Canada a few times to visit family and work for a few months to save some money, but I was always going somewhere else. I'm 26 and have been to almost 40 countries. I spent over 4 years in Europe, hitchhiking, volunteering and busking for spare change. Always in a state of restless transition, seeking adventure and newness. I ended up getting a working visa for the UK and lived there for over a year while working in a restaurant and saving some money. I then flew to Mexico and then started my real love affair for Latin America.
What was/is your last/current trip? I've spent the last 16 months in Latin America, flying into Colombia in September 2014. After 6 months in Colombia, I took a ferry to Panama where I stayed another 7 months volunteering at farms and hostels. I left Panama in October to head north via bicycle. I am now in Nicaragua and continuing north into Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and then into Mexico. I have no time frame, limit or plans beyond than that. Things never happen like you expect them to, so I just live as the wind.
How do you pay the way? I used to do whatever I could — working odd jobs such as cleaning boats off of Greek Islands, posing as a nude model for an art class or busking (very badly, with my guitar). I always went prolonged times without spending or earning money thanks to things like hitchhiking and volunteering in exchange for room/accommodation.
Back in Panama, I began doing the thing I've always wanted to do, but never thought I could — I started freelancing. I joined sites like upwork.com and freelancer.com and applied to A LOT of jobs (keep in mind I have no special qualifications nor a University degree). I finally landed a customer support/tech support role with an online printing/design company. I spent months working 20 hours a week and learning everything I could about the industry so that I could become better at my position. I ended up transitioning my hours from 5 hours per day (Monday – Friday) to 3 days full time (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday), this is during the time when I was starting to get itchy feet again, and I bought my bicycle to head north. Freelancing is giving me a way to work and travel at the same time, which was always my ultimate goal. I now am somewhere for 3 days a week, working during the day from cafes, and exploring in the evenings and then biking the other 4 days a week and getting to know different cities and cultures. I've found the perfect work/life/travel balance and I couldn't be more grateful.
What's always on your packing list? Camera. Always. Something to write with. After 8 years of travel, I've learned to pack light. Most of the stuff you think you need, you really don't. I went from a 65L backpack, to a 50L and now finally down to a 25L one. I pack the essentials — clothes, shoes, camera, diary. Everything else you can find on the way.
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? Before I left on this bike tour, I had never dreamed of doing it. I always thought that this idea was always out of my abilities — that it was only for mega athletes. I ended up buying a cheap bike off of eBay and ended up not having time to train at all. The first day of the tour, I got on the bike and cycled 55 kms to the next destination. The scenery has continually blown my mind on the trip. Going on bicycle allows me to really SEE what's going on around me and take it all in. From the wild life, to the people in tiny villages, to the generosity of random strangers inviting me in for food after seeing me on the highway. It's all too much sometimes.
By land, by sea, or by air? Land.
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Depends on the circumstance. I'm a girl who loves variety and I will always love a hot bath in a cozy hotel, but I also adore camping beneath a sky full of stars, and the connections made via Couchsurfing and staying with locals.
"I want to shake them and tell them how much culture and diversity they are missing by sleeping all day and partying all night."
What's your travel pet peeve? Not sure if I should say this — but I've always had an annoyance for really young and loud backpackers who just go abroad to get wasted and get laid. I want to shake them and tell them how much culture and diversity they are missing by sleeping all day and partying all night. You can do that back home! Come abroad to grow as a person and become humbled by different ways of life.
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Depends who it is. Older women tend to be fearful for me and have an urge to protect me — especially while hitchhiking. Men can tend to be aggressive in pursuit, especially in Eastern Europe and Latin America; but others are perfectly respectable and have a real desire and curiosity to know about my experiences. People are generally lovely and open wherever I go. Lots of people think I'm crazy, too.
What scares you? The absence of time. I try to fit in as much as possible so that at the end of my life, I will have no regrets. But sometimes, time flies and I find myself short-breathed by the amount of time that's passed already and still how much there is to experience. I find life too beautiful to comprehend and it frightens me that I cannot experience every place and every person.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I used to run away. If I was anxious or fearful, I used to literally just leave. That's probably why I started to travel in the first place. But, then I realized that most of the doubt and fear came with me wherever I went, and that's when I knew I had to figure myself out. Slowly, I started to confront my issues head on, which was really uncomfortable and hard, but I'm better off for it. Now I travel because I simply love it and whenever an unpleasant feeling arrives, I greet it like an old friend, embrace it and manage to work through it.
Worst memory: Taking a train in the Balkans from Hungary, trying to get to Greece to bask in the sun on the island of Santorini. It was an overnight train, passing through Serbia and Macedonia and then into Greece. I got on the train at 8 pm, when the sun was setting and I proceeded to fall asleep in my seat soon after. The train was nearly empty and I had a box (with 6 seats) to myself. I woke up in the the middle of the night to a hand on my leg, and when I opened my eyes, my heart probably stopped beating. There was so many people on the train (all men, all Serbian and all staring at me like I was food they were going to rip apart). In the box with 6 seats, there were probably 20 men standing and sitting all over one another, some partially hanging out the windows. When I looked through the glass into the train hallway, they were completely packed. I had no idea what was happening and as I tried to make my way to the hallway to find someone to talk to, I was grabbed and harassed by almost every man I passed (all were completely filthy, obviously living in the poor of the Serbian countryside). I could hardly move and was being pinched and prodded everywhere by these men. I ended up having to grab my backpack and throw it out of a train window (while the train wasn't moving) to get away from them all. It was 2 am and we were in the middle of absolutely no where. I ended up getting on to a random bus that ended up taking me back to Belgrade, the capital. Turns out it was the Serbian public, protesting a strike against the transportation industry in the country. There were probably over 2000 men there and I felt lucky to get out unharmed by the whole situation.
One unforgettable memory: Too many to name. One was at the end of my first 3 months I had spent in Europe. I had done EU Rail for a month, taking the train all around Europe, but the money I had saved for the trip was dwindling fast. On my last day with the EU Rail, I took an overnight train from Rome to Venice which arrives around 5:30 am. The day it expired coincided with my 19th birthday and I spent the morning of my 19th birthday watching the sunrise on the canals in Venice, while the city was waking up and the bakeries were opening. I had no idea what I was going to do next — I had no money left and no EU Rail days left. But witnessing the beauty of the sun-rising over Venice, my heart illuminated with a complete sense of freedom that I had never felt before. I had no idea where I was going to sleep that night, or where I would be tomorrow, but that was the point where I knew that home is wherever I was.
Bravest memory: Feeling the fear and doing it anyway. On many occasions.
Culture shock moment: The rural outskirts of Romania. Seeing people living with no electricity, hot water or supermarkets to go get their food. I volunteered on a farm for a week in a tiny town in the middle of no where, and it was the most basic week of my existence — building composts, cutting trees with an ax, and sleeping with four sweaters to survive winter nights with no heat. It was a daily struggle for me, and when I realized that this is how people lived every day, really humbled me.
Best reason to talk to strangers: They are your future friends, teachers and lovers. The only thing stopping you from being a strange is a simple, "Hi." and a lot of people are too shy or scared to say it. Talking to strangers is the key to a life of connections and every person you meet will alter your journey in one way or another.
How are you different while traveling? I'm so used to travelling, that I'm just...me. Maybe a bit more resourceful and patient while on the road, because I know of all the potential things that can go wrong. But otherwise, there's no big change between when I'm at 'home' or when I'm abroad.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? It depends on my atmosphere. I'm totally about energy and how a place feels. A lot of places — I see, I experience and am ready to move on. Others have an affect on me that I can't describe other than I probably wouldn't mind staying there the rest of my life. It could be because of the place itself or a particular person/people in that place that make it so special for me. I've felt this in a few places — Ireland, Italy, Greece and Colombia. But, onwards I go...for now, anyways.
Three things you've learned on the road:
- I know nothing.
- Life goes by fast. Travel. Now.
- We're small. Each human is a part of a vast network of cosmos so large that we cannot comprehend. And sometimes have to forget our own importance and realize we are connected to a greater whole.
What keeps you going? Life itself. The magic of living and adventure. Love. Writing. People.
What's next? More of the unknown.
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? I honestly have no idea. I tried many times to 'fit in' to normal Westernized society and failed. Be it going to University or working a 9-5 in an office in a big city. I never think staying was an option. I always would have found a way to explore.
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? Go. Now. There is no right time, or enough money. Just by a ticket and leave. You'll find your way.
People are a lot better than you think and hear about. Especially in developing countries. You will hear about the drugs in Mexico and the gangs in Colombia, but these are the countries with the happiest and most passionate people. You'll thrive there.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? The end of life itself.