Meet: Sandra Guedes

Name & Age?  Sandra Guedes 32-years-old

Where's home?  I'd say home is nowhere and everywhere. It usually is wherever I find a little corner to keep my backpack for a while. But although I have a wandering soul, my heart and body are Portuguese.

What was/is your last/current trip? My current trip is the one I am living right now, Morocco.

What got you started?  Maybe I was born a traveller.

Since I remember I always wanted to travel and before I knew how to read or write I already knew of Alexandria, Persia, Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, and other kids who did not wear the same clothes as me. My dad travelled a lot as a locksmith, electrician and a plumber to bring back home the "dough."

At the age of 9, I clearly knew I wanted to be a journalist who walks on different lands, who hears different stories, who eats different foods, a stranger in a strange land who lives between the edge of the unknown and cultural ecstasy. 

But, as they say, life got in the way. And only at the age of 25, after a broken heart and asking myself if the 9-year-old me would approve of the life I had chosen, I started giving it everything I had and chasing my wandering dreams.

How do you pay the way? I do different things depending on my financial needs. Sometimes I work as a TEFL teacher, sometimes as a translator, writer, a photographer or I volunteer.

What's always on your packing list? Erm... My camera, my mini-computer and pen and paper. Those tools are essential, everything else changes depending on the destination. Oh! And my epilator, I couldn't really live as a hairy woman.

What’s the last thing that blew your mind? Wow, that's a tough one, but I will say kindness. I've been privileged enough to see oasis, cold deserts, forests, snow peaked mountains, hike volcanos, the bottom of the Caribbean, etc. But people's kindness it's what blows my mind every time.

By land, by sea, or by air? Land first, sea second and air if there is no other way. I am a slow traveller and planes take me to places faster than I want to get to them.

Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Hostel to the first, Couchsurf to the second. But I have added Airbnb to my options recently.

What's your travel pet peeve? Being overcharged for being a foreigner. My budget is usually so small that I am pretty sure the same people who try to deceive me would probably give me a discount if they saw my bank account.

How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Some people question me, start by asking me if I am afraid and end up telling me I cannot live like this. But, I also often find other women, many times older, married and with children who tell me if they could have, they would have done exactly the same thing.

What scares you? I think I have faced most of my fears over the last seven years of travelling. Now, what scares me is the possibility of not living my dreams to their full extension. Which in other words is not being to fund my trips with my current projects, dreams and hopes.

Everything else may happen, earthquakes, robbers, knifes to my throat, those are things beyond my control. We can only control our behavior, and that is why giving in to my fears and insecurities and fail at making my dreams happen that scare me.

How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? Facing it. There is no other way - meditation helps too. I think those feelings love it when we run away from them, they feed on our fear from feeling them. But if we make a stand and say I am going to be right here watching you, they eventually feel bored and walk away.

Worst memory: Erm... The days I believed I needed to be rich to travel.

One unforgettable memory: After feeling a little bit drunk on altitude - it was my first time at 4,400 metres - I saw the Laguna Negra in Boyaca, Colombia and the never-ending corridor of mountains of the Paramo. It made me feel incredibly small, but hey I am 1,57m and I am 32. This is the tallest I will ever be.

Bravest memory: A scuba trip that didn't go as planned in Cancun, Mexico. The current was too strong and I ended up alone holding on to the sea floor for dear life. When I watched films, I always thought that in situations like that I would be the first to die, but that day proved me wrong.

Culture shock moment: Being Portuguese I think I feel culture shock anytime someone doesn't greet me with two kisses, which is often. But I think I've experienced more by boyfriend from another country, than from travelling.

Best reason to talk to strangers: To learn what they are passionate about.

How are you different while traveling? I ask strangers if I can photograph them every day.

Is it harder to leave or to stay put? Depends on the situation, if your heart tells you to leave, it's hard to stay put. But if your heart tells you to stay put, it's hard to leave.

Three things you've learned on the road: Only three? That's so unfair for all the other ones, but here it goes:

  1. Look into someone's eyes when I want to know if I can trust them, words may deceive you.
  2. Walk confidently while feeling totally lost 
  3. To be spiritual and to live more in the present. The future truly doesn't exist. Whatever is going to happen next, is a consequence of what you are doing now.

What keeps you going? Feeling alive, learning and sharing what others teach me. And of course, hoping I can connect all the dots.

What's next? Well, after I spent a year crossing South America as a solo traveller, I decided that I didn't want to travel just for the shake of travelling. At the time I had a part time online job, so while for some I was living the dream, it somehow felt selfish. Travelling just for the sake of it too easy with or without a job is too easy.

If you want to go, you just go and the trip will always send you a strange travel angel to give you a hand in times of need.

 So, next for me, is to do something with my trips, like what I am doing now. I meet inspiring strangers, interview them and share their dreams, passions, challenges, whatever they are, to inspire those who need a little push and to constantly tease non-believers.

What would you be doing if you’d never left home?  A lot of maybes? I do not know. I never met the other me who didn't leave.

What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts?  Feel, believe, trust and go.

Or as the Camino de Santiago taught me, "There is no path, the path is created while you walk it." 

And do not trust those who say you cannot do it, they only say it because they have never done. Don't take it personally, it's nothing to do with you.

Last question: What would make you stop traveling?  Maybe two beautiful trees where I can place my orange and red hammock, and invite others to share with it me.

 Or maybe I will postpone indefinitely the answer to this question and get back to you whenever I find it.

Follow Sandra:  www.oddtoyou.co.uk and @oddtoyou