1. Okay, Charish, what was the specific incident that got you to this interview?
I have been following Travelita on Twitter, and love the spirit of the organization and your passion for promoting safe, smart, bold, solo female travel. It’s what I’m all about. When you invited me to take part in this interview, I was honored and thrilled!
2. What does traveling mean to you?
For me, travel is life’s greatest teacher. And I’m a voracious student. If you are willing to embrace deep travel, and enter the world with an open heart and a curious mind, travel can transform you. Yes, travel is often fun and incredible. But transformation isn’t always easy, and travel can be hard in ways you never see coming. The trick is to welcome the transformation.
There’s a widely-held misconception that travel is, or should be easy. The most transformational travel won’t be found in an all-inclusive resort, or a widely-instagrammed pedestrian mall. Transformational travel experiences rarely happen in luxury travel. You won’t likely find it at a four-star resort, or a chain restaurant. To find those transformational moments, you have to be willing to go as far outside your comfort zone as possible. Maybe that means eating at a humble food stand on the side of the road, maybe that means going to a city where most tourists don’t journey, or maybe that means staying with a local family, instead of at a chain hotel. Look at your journey as an opportunity to learn, even and especially when you experience discomfort–like hard, straw mattresses or bug bites or any of the other scrapes and bruises travelkind experiences. The more you are willing to give yourself over to the experience, the more you will gain from it.
There is a societal expectation that we should all strive to reach our potential. But I think many of us fall into the trap of thinking our potential is limited solely to our profession, or how we earn money to pay the bills. I believe there is great value in reaching your potential purely as a human being–not as a human doing. To me, that means stretching yourself beyond what you believe is possible.
At its best, travel challenges our assumptions and breaks us, enabling us to grow in new ways. I wrote about how travel recently challenged a cultural bias in: Morocco Fed Me. My toughest travel moments may have left me a hot mess, but I have learned so much because of them, and I am a better person for the journey.
I always think of this piece of advice my mother gave me: bravery is not the absence of fear, but doing something in spite of being afraid. I’m a total chicken when it comes to so many things, but each time I travel, I stretch beyond those fears.
3. Why is that important?
Our lives expand and contract in direct proportion to the power we give our fears. We as women are often told to be afraid, that we should be afraid, that we are irresponsible or silly if we take chances. But I think fear is a test, and it is all too easily handed down from person to person and amplified on social media, often without merit. Yes, risk exists, but all too often fear keeps us from fully experiencing this great adventure we call life. I wrote about this in a blog post: When Bad Things Happen to Good Travelers.
I try to give my fears as little power as possible, but like all of us, I’m a work in progress. The result of traveling in spite of whatever fears we have about the experience is we become stronger and gain confidence in our innate abilities. In the end, the things I fear most, like flying, or dark alleys or traveling where I don’t speak the language or understand the culture, have actually not harmed me. To the contrary, doing those things in spite of being afraid has made me stronger, wiser, and smarter.
Of course, ladies: do your homework, educate yourself and take calculated risks. Talk with and connect with other female travelers who’ve been there, and put the protections you need in place, whether that’s a plan B destination, an international phone plan, a self-defense course, an app to help you, spare copies of your passport, traveler’s health insurance, whatever. Read the dangers and annoyances section of your travel guide. Understand local customs and norms and do your best to be a good world citizen.
Then, trust. Trust in yourself, that you will be strong enough and smart enough to navigate the journey. Trust that you will grow as you are meant to. Trust that the world will meet you where you are. In the moments when I’ve been most broken, exhausted, lost, frustrated or sick while traveling, humankind has always, always shown me the beauty of our inherent oneness. It’s profound. And I believe it is one of the most beautiful, enduring lessons that travel teaches us.
4. Now that I know what it is, now that I know why it’s important and relevant, how are you implementing this on your travels? I mean like, is there a process, that you follow when travelling?
I’ve talked a lot about fear, and how it can potentially limit the scope of our human experience. I’ve learned over the years that it’s helpful to be present to fear, to observe it if possible, like a third party. For me, that helps create distance from the emotion so that I can assess risk more realistically. So, I acknowledge the fear, and do things in spite of it.
My process, if you can call it that, is to totally freak out before the trip begins. Truly! I’m scared before nearly every trip–not just about flying, but about the unknown. Will I be safe? Have I chosen good places to stay? Will I find food I can eat in spite of food sensitivities? Will I be in danger as a woman traveling solo? To me, it’s natural to have fear (and in the states, we have an unfortunate culture of fear, which exacerbates the issue.) Eventually, I dry my tears, kick myself in the butt, and go to the airport. I might get a cocktail to pass the time, and read a light magazine. And then, up, up and away. How sad it would be to stay home, and miss out on an entire world of wonders because of fear.
5. What if people took advantage of your tips and steps you are providing? What will happen, how will their travels change?
For women who have not yet taken that step of realizing their dream of travel, reclaiming the power they give their fears has the potential to change their lives. We have to take that first step, and open the door, so the lessons of travel can transform us.
I’m terrified to fly, something I’ve written about in: Fear of Flying? Here are 12 Tips on Managing it, from Someone Who’s Terrified. I fly more than most people I know…I’ve been to and throughout 44 countries now, and fear has been my constant companion. I’m happy to report that very recently, my fear of flying seems to be fading. So maybe facing our fears, over and over again, eventually helps us overcome them. Maybe by the time I reach my goal of 100 countries, I’ll be totally over my fear of flying. Let’s hope!
For other women, fear may be harder to identify. It could just be anxiety about traveling alone. Concern about budget. Or worry about getting lost or putting ourselves in harm’s way. Whatever it is that’s holding you back, you have within you the strength to overcome it and realize your dreams of travel. You owe it to yourself to live an expansive, meaningful life.
6. When did you start traveling?
I was born in the U.S. and grew up in Minnesota, near the Canadian border. My grandparents wintered in Tucson, Arizona, and my family visited them over the holidays one winter. We took a day trip to Nogales, Mexico. I remember being really excited to go–school friends had told me you have to bargain with the vendors when you buy from them, so I was excited to do some hard bargaining. I was talking about it in the car when I got my first big travel lesson. My father explained to me how those vendors were providing for their families, and how they had so little–much less than we had, even with our humble upbringing. It was a transformational moment and a great gift, because he enabled me to see it from a different angle. I call it „shifting the camera.“ We all have a limited experience of the world–it’s part of the human condition–but travel allows us to zoom out and see things from a different perspective, to develop a deeper understanding, to destroy bias, to forge inroads to understanding, empathy and compassion. And that can change the world. In fact, it’s exactly the kind of change we need.
After our trip to Mexico, I didn’t travel internationally until well into adulthood. I was super driven to be a news journalist, so I was focused on my career in my 20s, and eventually got burned out. When I was laid off from a public relations job in banking in my early 30s, I decided to take that time and use my savings to travel alone internationally for the first time, to France, Germany and Italy. To be honest, I thought it would cure my travel bug. In reality, it only deepened my hunger to learn about and experience the world and her people. But it also helped me see that there is so much more to life than the standard 9-5 world and the trappings of our consumerist culture.
To be honest, I was never a great fit for the corporate world–and one reason is that in the U.S. workers typically only get a week or two of vacation per year, which is woefully insufficient to experience the planet in the way I believe is fundamental to transformational travel. So, I’ve carefully designed my life with the intention of making long, slow, deep travel an integral part of it. The choices are not always easy. I live simply so that I can live more fully. You’d be surprised–if you don’t buy in to the default American lifestyle, you can actually save a lot of money for travel. That’s a hard thing for a lot of people to wrap their minds around, because we are told our whole lives that buying things will make us happy. And maybe for some people that works, but I am skeptical.
I founded my company (Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications) so that I can work remotely from wherever I am in the world, providing writing services, content creation, SEO support, speechwriting and strategic communications support to clients. My goals are less related to material wealth or acquiring „things“ or climbing some corporate ladder, and more about helping others see the astonishing beauty in this world and really think about the bigger issues related to travel. I encourage travel not just for travel’s sake, but as a conduit to becoming a better person and creating a better world for all of us. I share insights on my travel blog at rollerbaggoddess.com.
To be continued – check out Part 2 on Dezember 17th
Charish Badzinski: writer, travel blogger and founder, Rollerbag Goddess Global Communications (rollerbaggoddess.com). Home: Tucson, Arizona.