Name & Age? Kae Lani Kennedy, 26
Where's home? Philadelphia, PA
What was/is your last/current trip? I recently went to Panama where I spoke at the Blogger Influencer Week LATAM. Social Media, Blogging, and Influencer campaigns for the travel industry is still a new concept. So it was very exciting to share my passion of digital storytelling with an audience who was so excited to unleash their creativity on social media platforms. After the conference I traveled around the country, visiting the jungles and beaches of Venao, a popular destination for surfers from around the world. I never really got surfer culture. Their laid back lifestyle was a bit too chill for me. But after spending several days at a surfer camp, I must say, my East Coast, Type-A heart melted to let the surfer vibes in.
What got you started? I started by accident in 2010, when I moved to Germany and started a blog. It was the easiest way to keep in touch with my friends and family while abroad. But the unintended result was that I attracted more readers than I expected. And the best part was that I was inspiring them, and empowering them to push themselves outside of their comfort zones to experience something new.
How do you pay the way? I work as the Social Media Manager at Matador Network. I also maintain my old blog and continue to work as a freelance writer for several publications.
What's always on your packing list? I always pack two notebooks; a small Moleskin for quick notes on the go, and a larger, leather bound notebook for longer form writing. Naturally, I always bring my camera. Recently, I've discovered the versatility of a 50mm prime lens. Also shower caps! I know it sounds weird, but if you use them to wrap up your shoes, it helps protect your clothes!
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? I recently attended an event at the Explorers Club in New York City. It was the 50th anniversary of a Lindblad expedition to Antarctica. As part of the celebration, they commissioned a painting from Zaria Forman, a Brooklyn based artists who creates landscapes with pastels. They sent her on an excursion to Antarctica where she created insanely vivid paintings of glaciers and icebergs as a way to document the impacts of global warming on the far corners of this planet. And it was the first time I had ever seen someone tell a travel story in this way — that storytelling doesn't have to be bound to writing, photography, and videography, but could be captured intimately through other mediums of art.
By land, by sea, or by air? By all, baby.
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Wherever I set down my bags is wherever I am.
What's your travel pet peeve? People who sit next to me and stink. I know you're traveling, but it's just not fair for me to stew in your funk for the next leg of our trip.
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? There are 3 main reactions I get:
- Some people are frightened for me. They say "Oh isn't that scary? Aren't you afraid you're going to get kidnapped or stranded with no one to help you." Thank you so much for giving me your fear, but really, I don't need it. It took a lot of work to get comfortable with this solo travel gig, and I don't need your stress to rekindle my own doubts and insecurities.
I've realized that these are not people who feel fear for my personal security — they're projecting their own fears on me, because traveling alone is something that they wouldn't do.
- Some people over romanticize solo travel. During my dating days, I would meet men whose imagination would just run wild with what they thought I was. They would build me up in their minds to be some manic pixie dream girl who was on the road — a rambling woman not held back by responsibility. To them, I was an idea. But darling, I am not going to be your escape. They quickly found out that I am like any other human being, and that solo traveling for a business comes with way more responsibilities than a regular 9-5. On the road and off the road, I'm dealing with budgeting, maintaining my own health insurance, and oh yeah, rocking my own stock portfolio and IRA so I don't run my ass broke by the age of 45.
- Some people read me loud and clear. This is my tribe of people. They get me and I get them. We don't have to explain ourselves to one another. We just unleash story after story of shared experiences, laugh, cry, and drink a beer.
What scares you? I am most frightened by tardiness, and tend to show up way before what would be considered "on time". Like, sometimes I show up earlier than "a bit too early". I'm usually the first person to a party.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I don't think I ever truly overcome fear, anxiety, or doubt. Those are feelings that are always there. I choose not to let those nagging thoughts control me, and keep me away from my passions. So I push through and continue towards my goals regardless of my nerves.
The term "fearlessness" tricks us into thinking that we can't do something unless we lose the fear. But you'll never just not be afraid one day — you have to go through the experience at least once. Most likely you'll surprise yourself with what you can do if you just push through the discomfort.
Little by little, I've built up a tolerance to my fears, anxieties, and doubts.
Worst memory: I've had wild things happen to me on the road — getting robbed in Paris, an attempted kidnapping in Greece, watching a drug deal go down in Puerto Rico. I just accept that these are experiences. I try not to categorize them as BAD. It's just life on the road.
One unforgettable memory: My entire trip to Alaska after my father passed away in 2014 is unforgettable. I flew in a helicopter to a mountain glacier to meet an Iditarod dog sledding team, I took a day cruise of the Kenai Fjords and witnessed the majesty of marine life, and not one moment of our 8 hour road trip north to Denali National Park and Preserve was boring. Best of all was being able to catch an unobstructed view of Denali 25 miles from its base — apparently an event that not many get to witness.
Bravest memory: Leaving the security of my 9-5 marketing job to pursue my passion.
Culture shock moment: I've eaten some heinous things. I've participated in curious rituals. I've even accepted antiquated gender roles. But the hardest cultural difference I've had to adjust to is the "Panamanian Hora" — the concept of no time concept. Like I said, I'm very timely. And in many places in Latin America, especially Panama, time is a lose construct. The best example I can think of is the day of my presentation at the Blogger Influencer Week LATAM. Talks were supposed to begin at 10am and mine was first. By 9:50, the room was still empty and the audio guy hadn't even shown up yet. Long story short, my presentation didn't start until around 11am, but it was funny to see that everybody ran the same amount of late. It was like everybody decided to show up exactly one hour late.
Best reason to talk to strangers: Strangers have stories. Strangers have insight. And strangers are just friends we haven't met yet. A stranger can give you the inside scoop on a very exclusive experience that no guidebook could even pick up on. Overall, strangers are a great resource for travelers. We may be traveling solo, but we are never alone.
How are you different while traveling? I tend to trust in my own abilities more when I'm on the road. I feel more creative, more outgoing, more alive. Leading up to the travel, I feel a little worry and stress. But while I am traveling I have no doubts about where I am supposed to be at that time in my life. It's a very peaceful state of being.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? It's hard for me to get into motion, but once I start going, it's hard for me to stop.
Three things you've learned on the road:
- Nothing lasts forever.
- Stop stressing about what's gone and stop worrying about what will someday end.
- Focus on enjoying what I have at this moment.
What keeps you going? I keep going because I know how fragile our existence is in this lifetime. It could go away at any given time. So I must make it worth while, not just for myself, but to empower others to pursue a life of deeper meaning and purpose. Because the saddest part isn't that someday it is going to end — the saddest part is if you don't make the most out of this life while you have it.
What's next? I stepped away from writing for a little while to nurse my depression after a series of very tragic events in 2014. My father died from suicide, I left an abusive boyfriend, I separated myself from toxic family members, and then my grandmother passed away from cancer all within a 7 month period. I needed time to process all of that.
May 12, 2016 marks 2 years since the beginning of all of that mess. And I am finally coming back to my senses. I am finally getting back into my old rhythm. From here on out, I will never abandoned my writing. I will continue to learn, express, and share my experiences.
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? If I never left home, I'd probably be married and have 1.5 kids, and live in a cookie cutter house in suburbia. My biggest stresses would be what the bitch who runs the home owners association is going to say about our lawn, and whether or not I'm the room mother to bring cupcakes to the next class room party. Not that there's anything wrong with this heavily trafficked path (no offense to the bitches who run home owners association — sounds like a tough gig) but that lifestyle is not my jam.
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? There is no wanna-be. If you feel the wild heart, then it's there. And you have to honor that spark and not let anyone try to dim your light.
Go forth with courage. Be wild. Be free.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? Having visited every place there is to see in this world may stop me. But places change over time, so I'd probably just replay the travel playlist, and get the party started again.