Name & Age? Elaine Ginger, 28
Where's home? Chicago, USA. This is my childhood home and where my parents still welcome me to stay when I am between places. I’m still figuring out where my adulthood home will be. Right now, it’s looking like the French Alps might become it.
What got you started? I can’t remember a time when I didn’t dream of travel. When I was 18 I claimed that the only reason I was going to university was so I could join the Peace Corps after graduating. My university experience made me realize that my world values are actually at odds with the Peace Corps so I found myself exploring other ways to see the world. My first trip abroad was to study for a semester in Durban, South Africa. When I returned to Des Moines, Iowa to finish my last year of university, all I could think about was how to go abroad again. So, I graduated and left. I haven’t spent more than two months at a time on U.S. soil since leaving in August 2010.
What was/is your last/current trip? I came to the French Alps in July 2015 to fulfill my dream of traveling by bicycle and WWOOFing. (It’s starting to look like I’m staying permanently).
In July, I rode the Rhone River from Geneva to the Mediterranean and then circumnavigated Lake Geneva in August. This coming spring/summer I hope to complete the whole Rhone by riding from Geneva to the source of the river in the middle of Switzerland. My WWOOFing experience actually took me to the UK where I spent this last fall working on a couple of small organic farms. I LOVED it; I learned so so much!! I am spending these winter months skiing and planning an organic garden of my own to be started in the spring.
How do you pay the way? I traveled through the Caucasus Mountains while I was working as an ESL teacher in Georgia. You make almost no money in Georgia so I went to Korea for two years and saved, and saved, and saved. I am currently blowing through all of the savings I have from working in Korea. I'm currently brainstorming on my new way to make an income.
What's always on your packing list? A notebook, a shitty Nokia 1280 so I can buy local SIM cards, and a few $20 bills hidden in several places, just in case.
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? Rock climbing in the Alps. I have been in the mountains hiking before but this last summer was the first time I got try my hand at mountain sports. I was doing a multiple-pitch climb for the first time and it was just amazing to be all alone on the side of a mountain, a few 100 meters from the ground, belaying my partner. I felt at one with the mountains.
By land, by sea, or by air? All. However, in an effort to live a more sustainable life, I am starting to limit myself to one flight per year.
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Camp or Couchsurf first, hostel second. I have only gotten as far as I have by traveling on the cheap so if there is a way to pinch a penny, you'll find me doing it. PLUS there is no greater way to learn about a place you are staying than to stay with a local. In fact, I tend to arrive in countries with almost no plan, hoping that my first Couchsurf host with unknowingly plan my trip for me.
What's your travel pet peeve? People who don't get down and dirty with the local culture. If the local bus is good enough for the locals, it's good enough for me.
"If the local bus is good enough for the locals, it's good enough for me."
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Maybe I somehow ignore the negative responses from people but it seems most people are just a little impressed.
What scares you? I try not to think about what scares me because I sorta think that we attract things based on our attitudes. That being said, my biggest fear is trusting the wrong person.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I just swallow it and do. If other people can do something, so can I.
Worst memory: Trying to sleep in a bus station in Turkey. I had slept in the exact same bus station two weeks earlier without a hitch, but this time me and my travel partner were knocked awake after just one hour of sleep. No matter where we went to try and sleep we were knocked awake and told we couldn't sleep there. It was a long night of wandering from potential sleeping place to potential sleeping place until finally the worker at restaurant snuck us into the back room where we got to sleep for a couple of hours on some cardboard. I have never loved someone as much as I loved that man in that moment.
One unforgettable memory: Renting mopeds in Indonesia, riding them for an hour to a remote village where we hiked for an hour to a river where we had to jump 30 feet into the river and swim 100 meters upstream to see the most beautiful hidden waterfall. If finding that waterfall wasn't an adventure, I don't know what adventure is.
Bravest memory: Studying abroad in South Africa. It was my first time leaving the USA and I didn't go through any study abroad program, so although I was picked up by a taxi at the airport, I was there all alone. I wasn't scared before leaving but when I arrived and had the realization that I had to figure out everything alone, I cried. Luckily I made friends and a support network quickly; but looking back I still can't believe the gumption I had at 20.
Culture shock moment: Never really making friends with any Koreans.
Best reason to talk to strangers: How else do you make friends? Or learn about amazing things to do? I don't make plans; I let strangers make them for me.
How are you different while traveling? I think I'm pretty much just me. Maybe I walk slower than when I am in Chicago.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? I've never had much difficulty moving onto the next stage in my life, whether it's graduating from school or jumping into a new country. Moving-on is easy. However, these days, I am finding myself yearning for a home so I can own things like books and jars....time will tell how easy it is for me to stay put.
Three things you've learned on the road:
- Most people are good people.
- Flexibility is the best.
- Maps are good too.
What keeps you going? The burning desire to see and experience everything I possibly can.
What's next? I'll be in France for the foreseeable future, but perhaps Nepal in October.
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? I would probably have written a cover letter by now (never have I ever)....
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? Save your money and just go. It's literally that simple.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? I'll know when I've had enough....
Follow Elaine: Elaine's World blog