Meet: Stephanie Kempker

Name & Age? Stephanie Kempker, 27

Where's home? Originally: Lowell, Michigan, USA
Now: Mexico City, Mexico
Forever: Bangkok, Thailand

What was/is your last/current trip? I left the US over 3 years ago, and have lived as an expat ever since.

What got you started? I took my first overseas trip EVER to Thailand. It was meant to be a week... I just never went home.

Vast green forests full of endless adventure await only a few hours' ride from the city... Oh how I miss you, Bangkok! #kanchanaburi #bangkok #thailand

A photo posted by Stephanie 🇺🇸➡️🌏➡️🇲🇽 (@quarterlifeepiphany) on

How do you pay the way? For the first two years of my expat adventure, I worked in an office, in positions related to medical tourism. Now, I am a freelance writer and social media and marketing consultant.

What's always on your packing list? A canga (the Brazilian version of a sarong), my camera, an eye mask, and my iPhone loaded with podcasts and headphones for listening

What’s the last thing that blew your mind? Caldera Canyon in Boquete, Panama. Just gorgeous.

By land, by sea, or by air? Sea!

Koh Phi Phi is packed but there are some amazing snorkel sites offshore, easy to reach by a long tail boat. What's your favorite snorkel spot? #kohphiphi #thailand #phiphi

A photo posted by Stephanie 🇺🇸➡️🌏➡️🇲🇽 (@quarterlifeepiphany) on

Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Hostel for the vibe, but a private room for privacy.
I love camping!

What's your travel pet peeve? Other travelers who get annoyed when locals don't speak English.

How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Depends on where it is. Far off the tourist trail, locals are curious. On the tourist trail, people are either indifferent (because there are a decent number of solo girls) or intrigued ("Wow! I wish I could travel by myself!")

What scares you? In travel or in life? ;) I'll stick to travel. Sometimes when the room door doesn't lock properly, or there isn't a lock on the windows... or a creepy guy follows me at night. Then I get a bit scared.

How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? I do what I can to control the situation (for example, in the case of door worries, I put a bottle in front of the door so it falls and wakes me if someone tries to open it)... and take some deep breaths and believe in myself and also the good of the world.

Worst memory: My worst memory is probably the harassment in Rio de Janeiro. There were some days I didn't even want to leave the house. It got overwhelming.

One unforgettable memory: Seeing a sloth in the wild in Panama. It's always been a dream of mine!

Bravest memory: I'm afraid of the dark, and I did a night safari float in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Pitch black darkness, floating down a forest river with nothing but the guide's tiny flashlight to light the way. Eeeek!

Culture shock moment: I accidentally wore two different colored shoes all day in Bangkok and no one pointed it out. I felt SO embarrassed and when I asked my friend why no one told me, it's because she said she didn't want to embarrass me

Best reason to talk to strangers: You never know who will become a best friend!

Because iguanas like to sunbathe too... (Especially at Hotel Ritmo Tropical) #ritmotropical #malpais #iguana

A photo posted by Stephanie 🇺🇸➡️🌏➡️🇲🇽 (@quarterlifeepiphany) on

How are you different while traveling? I am more outgoing and more patient

Is it harder to leave or to stay put? To leave

Three things you've learned on the road:

  1. You never know what anyone else is going through
  2. Always dress in layers (or bring additional layers)
  3. Carry wet wipes

What keeps you going? The thrill of seeing beautiful new places and meeting new people, learning their stories, and growing as a person in my understanding of the world.

What's next? My next adventure is marriage in 2017! But I still solo travel several months out of the year and will continue to do so... forever!

What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Working too many hours in a job that doesn't thrill me, spending too much money and time shopping, and probably drinking too much.

What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? If you can speak English and you have a college degree, you have at least one highly sought after and marketable skill (teaching English) in 99% of the world. Don't be afraid to take the leap.
Even if you don't want to quit your job and travel the world, use your vacation days to the utmost and challenge your fears while following your dreams. Don't be afraid!

Last question: What would make you stop traveling? If someone I love became very sick or needed my help in some way.

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