Meet: Kat Liljegren

Name & Age: Kat, 28 (as of 2015)

Where's home? Portland, OR

What was/is your last/current trip? Last trip was 6 weeks in Morocco and Turkey, with a whirlwind layover in Aix-en-Provence and a sailing trip to Greece. 

What got you started? A botched semester abroad in Florence, Italy. I spent too much time and money hanging out in tourist bars with other foreigners, so the following summer I sent myself on a do-over. Talked my way into an internship, found a room for rent on Craigslist, and had the best summer of my life. 

How do you pay the way? I work in marketing as a creative strategist. I quit to freelance two years ago and haven't looked back. 

What’s the last thing that blew your mind? The stars at night in the Sahara desert. 

What's always on your packing list? Earplugs, chapstick, a Moleskine journal and a pen. And the guidebook/map/camera/translator that is my iPhone.

OREGON - Packing for six weeks in Morocco and Turkey. It's a constant battle to lighten the load.

OREGON - Packing for six weeks in Morocco and Turkey. It's a constant battle to lighten the load.

By land, by sea, or by air? Train or boat is the ultimate. Not a fan of busses. But whatever gets me there cheapest and fastest will be just fine. 

Hotel or hostel? Camp or Couchsurf? Couchsurf in the city, camp in the wild. A good hostel is fun, especially somewhere outdoorsy where I might meet a hiking or climbing buddy. In countries where it's cheap enough, the occasional pension "splurge" can feel like such a luxury! 

NEVADA - First experience with free camping on BLM land. I pitched my tent facing away from the setting sun, and woke up to watch the sun climb up and over the canyon below me.

What's your travel pet peeve? When people say, "I wish I could travel, but ____________." Unless you're filling out that blank with a debilitating disease, you *can*. Make it a priority and be willing to sacrifice.

How do people react to you as a solo female traveler? Depends on the place of course, but generally confusion, concern, or amazement. Older couples typically befriend me and then try to set me up with their sons.

What scares you? Fear that every bad thing my mom had said would happen will come true, after I swore up and down I'd be just fine.

How do you overcome fear / anxiety / doubt? Talk myself out of it. Remind myself I'm doing okay, and that I'd rather get hurt living than die bored at home. I try to remember to bask in my accomplishments too, so I remember what I'm capable of. 

Worst memory: The tourist bus I got suckered into from Marrakech to Essaouira, Morocco. It took four hours to go what should have been two and a half because we stopped to take pictures of goats in trees (and tip the shepherds) and then for a "bathroom break" at an Argan Oil factory (where the workers gave us "free" tours that ended in the overpriced gift shop). I beat myself up for knowing better, then stuck to public transit the rest of the time.

One unforgettable memory: Mountain biking for the first time at Dead Horse State Park outside Moab, Utah. I turned off for a viewpoint and found myself alone, overlooking a gigantic canyon. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen and I just started laughing uncontrollably. I remember looking for someone to confirm that this was in fact real life.

UTAH - There I stood at the canyon edge. Alone. Laughing to tear at her majesty, Earth.

UTAH - There I stood at the canyon edge. Alone. Laughing to tear at her majesty, Earth.

Bravest memory: Standing my ground when a pack of guard dogs decided my friend and I were hiking too close to the herd in Cappadocia and surrounded us. They barked and snapped, we threw stones, shouted, and bared our teeth right back.

Culture shock moment: More like bemusement. I'm thinking about the many waiters in Turkey who would bring me an extra chair for my purse to protect me from floor germs.

Best reason to talk to strangers: After the tourist bus incident described above, I stuck to public transit. I got off a bus in Tinejdad, Morocco and asked a policeman for directions to the grand taxis. He told me to follow a tiny woman in a bright purple niqab who was going the same way. The taxi only had one seat left, but she insisted one of the men wait for the next one so we could both get seats on it, then claimed the shared front seat for us so we wouldn't be squished in between the men in the back. She had me give her my fare so the driver couldn't rip me off, and then showed me where to go at the next village. I ran into her on the street three days later and she kissed me on both cheeks.

MOROCCO - Squeezed in the front seat of a Grand Taxi between the driver and Kadija, my guardian in purple.

MOROCCO - Squeezed in the front seat of a Grand Taxi between the driver and Kadija, my guardian in purple.

Three things you learned on the road: 

  1. Things have a way of working themselves out, so the worst case scenario rarely happens. And even when it does, you get a story out of it!

  2. The power of simply asking for what you want. Try it.

  3. How to roll stuffed grape leaves. (It's easier than it looks, and delicious!)

What would you be doing if you’d never left home? Stuck in a job I hate, spending my lunch breaks dreaming of a way out. 

What keeps you going? Feeling stagnant. A very visceral reaction when I think about taking off. 

What's next? Summer around Portland and the Pacific Northwest. Considering SE Asia in the fall. 

What advice do you have for wanna-be Wild Hearts? Figure out what's *really* holding you back. What are you *actually* afraid of? Most of the time the excuse (kids, money, job, relationship, etc.) is just a scapegoat. The women on this site are proof.

Last question: What would make you stop traveling? Going broke — nah, I'd do work-away or WOOFing. Death — nah, I'll want my ashes scattered. .....So nothing, I suppose.

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