Name & Age: Liz Gallo, 29
Where's home? I live in Manhattan, but I grew up on Long Island, New York.
What was/is your last/current trip? Every February I feel a strong urge to thaw out from these NYC winters. I just came back from a perfect weeklong adventure in Dallas, Nosara, Costa Rice, Miami and Denver. I love the idea that I surfed and snowboarded; was in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans all in the same week. Dallas and Miami were overnight layovers but I love making the most of my time anywhere. So I went out and explored the city. Costa Rica was for a friend’s birthday and Denver is to visit another friend that moved out there.
What got you started? As kids, our parents would pack us up in our blue mini van and we would go places. My siblings and I hated it and we drove our parents crazy most of the time. But I have vivid memories from being a kid of being places and thinking, “Wow I can’t see or do this at home.”
Then in college I student taught abroad and met all of these interesting people with incredible travel stories and I was hooked.
How do you pay the way? I am a teacher and it is my calling and my passion, I could not imagine giving it up or doing anything else. At work I take on extra responsibilities, I coach a robotics team and a lacrosse team. I cover other teachers’ classes whenever I can. I try to save money in any way I can; I take extra food from teachers meetings and hand wash a lot of my clothing. I do market research surveys, it is not a lot, but every little bit helps. I also AirBnB my apartment whenever I am away, it covers about half the cost of my trip. I am starting to think I should stay at a family or friends place and AirBnB my apartment for the extra money (just kidding… maybe).
What's always on your packing list? Pretzels. If all else fails, I can eat pretzels forever.
What’s the last thing that blew your mind? The first night I was in Costa Rica, I saw the stars from the beach. There was a silver of a crescent moon and no light pollution. There were so many stars. They amazed me. I just kept saying, “The stars, look at all the stars!”
It reminded me of how much I do not know or understand about our world and universe.
By land, by sea, or by air? Living in NYC I don’t drive much. So, I like to drive places. It is fun to see the places in-between the places. I also like to the feeling of not having a set route. We are so stuck in needed to know exactly where we are and where we are going. Why can’t we just take the long way or get lost?
I am huge fan of trains. My grandpa took a train across the country during his military training, before he was sent to Korea. He always told me that travelling the country by train was the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. I want to take his journey.
I also like taking airplanes because it is quick. I used to hate flying by the more I fly, the more I enjoy flying.
Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? I keep changing my answer. I love hostels because it is a hot bed for meeting so many interesting and different people quickly. I like Couchsurfing, because you can see what a day to day is like for a local. And it shows me how incredible generous people are. It always reminds that we are all here together and need to care for one another. I also like AirBnB because it can help you have a totally unique experience that you know no one else is having.
What's your travel pet peeve? Traveling with more then one other person. It is so impossible to come to a group decision, everyone seems like they have a hidden agenda and no one wants to hurt everyone else’s feelings. I also hate being tied to the group; if I want to go over here, I am going to go. When there is a group it is hard to just disappear. I also hate airline companies.
How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? My friends and family and people I meet are all so scared for me. The looks on their faces usually express the fear they have about me traveling. But once these people see my confidence, and realize that I am okay, they relax. I also think people I met on my travels go out of their way to help me and I am not sure why.
What scares you? Not knowing my own limits, not knowing what is acceptable or what is crazy. I am grateful to my have friends and family to keep my grounded.
How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? A lot of self-talk saying to myself, “You are fine”.
I also am always reminding myself that I am in control, if not in control of the situation, I am in control of myself.
Worst memory: One night during my student teaching in Croatia, we heard our apartment doorbell ring. I went to the door and looked through the peephole. There was a man standing outside our door with a mask on. It was a full-face mask that was orange and blue; I could not even see his eyes. I let out a scream and called my roommate over and we looked out again and he was still standing there. We took a step back and tried to figure out what to do and then when we looked again he was gone. We had no idea why he was there or what he doing. It was just very unnerving to see this man at our door.
One unforgettable memory: Any time I have the opportunity to tell this story I do, so it must be one of my most unforgettable memories. I was traveling with my family and family friends and we were walking around Sicily and we wanted to get food. We went into this small restaurant that was definitely a local place. None of the waiters or waitresses spoke English. We were seated in the middle of the restaurant and basically they told us they would just bring us food. They started serving course after course. We had artichokes, rabbit ragu, pasta — and it all was incredible. Then when it was dessert time, all of the servers all of the sudden started to speak English. We said we were too full for dessert and, in true Italian fashion, they said “Okay, we will bring you dessert”. They bring out Tiramisu. I normally do not like Tiramisu and I never order it when I am home. Well, it comes to our table, in the pan that it was baked in. They served a giant piece to everyone, I ate it because what else was I supposed to do. It was the absolute best dessert I have ever had, probably the best thing I have ever eaten. It did not taste like any Tiramisu that I have had before. It was incredibly light and fluffy, with a hint of coffee and chocolate. There was a beautiful, sweet, whipped cream on top. Unfortunately, I have no idea how to find this restaurant again.
Bravest memory: There is a fine line between bravery and stupidity.
Culture shock moment: I learned that in rural parts of Alaska, public school lunches consist of fish stew. Some remote towns rarely get fresh fruit and vegetables, especially in the winter. Shipments only come randomly and no one can predict when they do come. However, when they do receive a shipment of fruits, usually apples, the children will eat the whole apple, stem, seeds, and pit. I understand why they rarely see fresh fruit, and I know the fruit excites the children, but how can this be happening in America?
Best reason to talk to strangers: Food. Most of my life revolves around trying to put the best tasting things in my mouth. I love saying to a stranger, “What is good around here to eat?” I ask them what they are currently eating, where should I eat next. I had a very intense conversation with two men I was sitting next to at a Hot Fried Chicken place in Nashville once. They explained to me how they have a friend who lives across the street from the restaurant and she watches unmarked boxes of chicken being delivered. And how it is a big secret where they get their chicken from, and that is the reason the food was so good. I wound up hanging out with these guys all night and it was a ton of fun!
How are you different while traveling? I put more trust in other people, I do not have to be in control of everything and I am okay with that. I also think I smile more.
Is it harder to leave or to stay put? It is harder to leave. It is easy to be home in my comfortable apartment, with an endless list of errands. It is hard to get me to go across town sometimes. But I do get very excited about traveling; I feel the urge to go. I know the reward is worth it every, single, time!
Three things you learned on the road:
- People are amazing. Every single inch of the habitable earth is filled with amazing people. People want to care for people, they want to make other people happy and that comes out when I travel.
- Experiences are more important then things, including pictures. Being on the ground at a place and experiencing what it feels like helps me develop more compassionate and perspective for my life.
- The world is a beautiful, breathtaking place. It amazes me that there are larger forces creating this world and all of the stunning things on this planet.
What keeps you going? Knowing there is an infinite amount of experiences to have, things to see and people to meet. I also feel like I am searching for a deep connection to something; a place, a group of people, a thing, or one person. I am looking for something that makes me feel like I cannot be away from it. I have not found it yet and I will keep travelling until I do.
What's next? To keep going, keep exploring, keep talking about traveling, keep eating good food, and keep meeting new people. And Asia.
What would you be doing if you’d never left home? I would be doing chores and DIY projects. I would be stuck in a circle of comfort with the same people, having the same experiences over and over again. I would have such a small pigeonhole perspective on life. That mindset can cause one to be mean.
What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? You can do it! I bet you will surprise yourself and that’s the best part. Looking back and being like, “Whoa, I did that and I am proud of myself”. Stop the self-talk that convinces you of one thing or another.
Last question: What would make you stop traveling? Nothing. That’s impossible! No matter what I won’t be able to sit still. I have to see and meet and go. There are current obstacles in my life that could stop me, but I set my priorities and I make it happen.
Follow Liz: @itislizard146