Meet: Hillary Federico

Name & Age? Hillary Federico; age 26

Where's home? New England (specifically Connecticut)

What was/is your last/current trip? Sailing the British Virgin Islands to ring in the New Year

What got you started? I was 13 years old the first time I left the United States. My grandmother took me to Europe to visit my new baby cousin for the first time and, though I saw so much, it felt almost as if I'd experienced it from afar. Years later, as a student at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., I was chosen as a delegate to go to Leon, Nicaragua, where I would interact with school children and live with a host family for two weeks. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this new environment — my host mother's home had no floor or roof — but discovered a home and a passion within myself I had not previously recognized.

How do you pay the way? Most of my trips are completely self-funded, though I have recently begun accepting press trips through my blog/ freelance writing.

What's always on your packing list? A camera, my Merrells, Chapstick and a notebook

What’s the last thing that blew your mind? The extreme kindness often found in some of the most unlikely of places; The food in Italy — have you tried meloncello?! (Spoiler alert: it's the nectar of the Gods)

By land, by sea, or by air? By land. Without a doubt.

Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Camp! (I've even been known to sleep in igloos...)

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." - Albert Einstein #travelepic

A photo posted by There They Go (@andtheretheygo) on

What's your travel pet peeve? When travelers are so consumed by posting photos of their trip that they don't take the time to actually enjoy the moment and appreciate where they are/ what they're experiencing.

Found canyons but, sadly, no antelope. 😂 [📍Antelope Canyon | Arizona] #travelepic

A photo posted by Hillary Federico (@hfederico) on

How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? When I'm not traveling the world with my boyfriend (co-founder of our blog), I actually feel as if I'm noticed more. Perhaps it's because I'm a woman and the automatic perception is that I'm helpless or hopelessly lost, but strangers seem to want to offer protection and provide any assistance right off the bat.

What scares you? Snakes, hospitals and not checking off enough items from my life list (I try to stay away from using the term bucket list)

How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I typically take a deep breath and break down the situation into smaller, more manageable parts. Free writing in my journal also helps quite a bit (I have several notebooks going at once — one is always within reach). And if all else fails, there's always chocolate.

Worst memory: Getting island fever after six weeks in Hawaii. I felt so far removed from family and friends, and missed what it felt like to not live in a hotel and go out for dinner every night. (Yes, I realize I sound like a whiney SOB!) By the end of my stay, I was definitely ready to leave.

One unforgettable memory: Spending a night in an igloo in the Swiss Alps. Several of us decided to go for a moonlight snowshoe outing, so we strapped on our crampons and headed out to a small peak under the most incredible night sky you can imagine. There wasn't a sound to distract my thoughts, not a place to be, not an email to write, not a worry or fear in the world at that moment. Beneath the stars, I stood with that little group of people I had met only hours earlier feeling connected to them in a way I knew I would never be with anyone I knew back home.

Bravest memory: Cage diving with sharks in Gansbaai, South Africa (aka Shark Alley); Also, completing the six-hour hike to all three peaks of Hawaii's Olomana Hike (Google it).

Culture shock moment: When I traveled as a delegate to Nicaragua and visited a kindergarten. I met a little girl named Maria who instantly grabbed my hand and didn't let go for the whole day. In my broken Spanish I attempted to get to know her as she walked me through her neighborhood. Shoeless families sat outside houses made of corrugated tin and plastic Hefty bags and the lack of clean running water only intensified the image of poverty. But when it came time to leave, the little girl I had met took a silver ring off her finger — a prized possession of hers — and slipped it onto my own. I cried the whole way back.

Best reason to talk to strangers: They know all the best (non-touristy) spots.

How are you different while traveling? I think I'm more free, less encumbered by the "should"s and the "must"s of life. (I'm also generally bruised and haven't showered in a few days...)

Is it harder to leave or to stay put? Stay put.

Three things you've learned on the road:

  1. Say "yes" more often.
  2. You're never alone.
  3. People are inherently kind.

What keeps you going? The need to tell stories about the world.

What's next? Continue growing the blog and planning for a 2017 Kilimanjaro summit. (And possibly some hiking, rock climbing and a quick trip to Banff in between).

What would you be doing if you’d never left home? I'd like to think that I'd make an awesome baker ;-)

What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? If your heart tells you it's right, listen. At the end of the day, it's your life you're living. You need to live by your own rules and no one else's (this includes your parents'...sorry Mom!).

Last question: What would make you stop traveling? A sudden untimely death. (Or perhaps the death of my bank account...)

Follow Hillary: and @andtheretheygo