Name & Age? Carrie Pritchard, 25
Where's home? Mammoth Lakes, California
What was/is your last/current trip? I am currently hiking the John Muir Trail. I am headed to Belize for the month of July to work on a Mayan archeology site.
What got you started? Reading. Since I was 7 or 8 years-old, I have sought out books about foreign lands and different time periods. Through reading, I became inspired to travel and to write.
How do you pay the way? I work my ass off doing multiple seasonal jobs at a time: ski instructor and ski boot fitter during the winter, contract field archeologist during the summer. I spend the money I save traveling during the shoulder seasons.
What's always on your packing list? Hiking shorts, running shoes, and earrings weirdly enough. I always like to switch them up when I travel. They add some glamour to my repetitive outfits. Plus, they don't weigh very much!
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? My boyfriend deciding to support my solo journeys. It was huge. He didn't understand my need to travel alone for a long time.
By land, by sea, or by air? I love road trips! I love the speed and possibilities of airplanes! I love the ocean! But I get dreadfully seasick. I usually embark on shorter sea ventures of the scuba diving variety so I can keep my food down.
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Hostel or camping depending on the destination. Hotels cost too much for my meager budget. I am still wary of couch surfing... I really enjoyed living out of my car though. That should be an travel option.
What's your travel pet peeve? Routine. Nothing drives me more crazy than an over-scheduled trip. Also, blatant ignorance of cultural customs. We all make mistakes in that respect, but at least make an effort to be respectful and knowledgable as a visitor.
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? I checked into a campground in Connecticut while taking a solo road trip around New England. The tenant woman asked me if I ran away from home. I explained to her that I was 23 and actually traveling alone intentionally. She became suspicious. I have been asked where my husband is. I have been told that there must be something wrong with me for wanting to travel alone. I have been told that I am going to get raped or kidnapped.
What scares you? Language barriers. When I travel to areas where I am unfamiliar with the language, I am always more careful.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I make myself do scary things on purpose. Fear is just a behavior pattern that needs to be broken, just like biting your nails or self-criticism. The only way to overcome fear is to face it head on and give that fear a different job.
Worst memory: I was followed home by two men on bicycles through the old medina in Rabat, Morocco. I was thankful for my high school track career, because I sprinted my way through the labyrinth and managed to lose them. It was terrifying.
One unforgettable memory: I spent 2 months rambling around the Big Island of Hawaii surf-bumming, doing a work trade at a hostel, and taking naked beach showers after camping on the jagged volcanic rock. I healed a broken heart in those waves. It was the most needed soul-restoring trip I took alone.
Bravest memory: I was in the middle of the New Mexican desert on a solo road trip. I was set to camp at Chaco Canyon and see the ruins the next morning. I was 20-some-odd miles deep down a dirt road when a flash flood of water rushed in front of my jeep and swept the ground away. It was dark and I had no other plan for the night. I was 80 miles away from the nearest town and smack-dab in the middle of cartel country. I decided to turn around and not make a stupid decision to forge on. Being smart in this case, was my form of bravery.
Culture shock moment: Moving to the suburbs of D.C. from a small ranching/mountaineering town in California at the age of 13. That move is still the most jolting culture shock I have ever experienced. My trips to Latin America, Morocco, and Europe have nothing on that move.
Best reason to talk to strangers: Stories. People love to talk about themselves. I am fascinated by what people elect to tell you when you first meet them. It is also a great way to make new friends, find good food, and create a story of your own to tell back home.
How are you different while traveling? My senses feel heightened. I notice details of my surroundings. I become less self-absorbed. I relax. I don't give a shit about how good I look. I feel liberated.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? Staying put is so challenging. I was always shuffled between my mom's house, my dad's house, summer camps, sporting events, and vacations. My mother brought me with her on backcountry mule packing trips. We slept in bedrolls underneath the stars, no tent. We slept at truck stops. We visited sheep camp trailers. We stayed in casino hotels. I never stayed put, even as a kid.
Three things you've learned on the road:
- Always have a back up plan, whether that is birth control or bus tickets.
- Learn as much of the language as you can, small efforts are always appreciated.
- Those new magic underwear that you can wear for a week without washing are awesome! By 2 pairs and you are golden.
What keeps you going? My sense of wonder. I am continually amazed at how big this world is. I want to learn what I can about humanity. I am also restless and hyperactive, so I need to move and do.
What's next? I hope to take a Heli-skiing trip to Japan or Chamonix. We'll see...
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Reading 4 books a day. Walking around in circles talking to myself. Learning the play the Oud.
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? No day but today girlfriend. Save your tips, shave 10% off of every pay check, pick your journey, and buy your plane ticket. If you feel like no one supports your wild heart, know that you are not alone.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? Nothing. You can travel everyday. You can walk a different route from your house. You can drive to a new state for a night or two. You can travel in your reading or writing. Traveling is a state of being, a mentality. Money does not have to limit your wild heart.
Follow Carrie: @carriepritchard