In ‘Today’s Traveler’ I’ll introduce you to a world traveler. Get to know them, learn what makes them tick and why they love to travel. Meet Susan Shain, the seasonal travel job guru and traveler behind the Travel Junkette. Knowing there was more to life than entering the rat race she put her foot down on cubicle life after graduating college in 2008. She packed her bags for a stint in the mountains that ended up leading to a life of adventure and travel from which she hasn’t since looked back.
1. Have your travels helped you create your own meaning of the word ‘travel?’ If so, what have you come up with?
Yes, my meaning of the word “travel” is ever evolving. It doesn’t mean the same thing to me now that it did when I was 17 and exploring Europe. Sure, I still like to get drunk and find cute foreign boys, but those are no longer my goals.
To me, now, travel simply means an exploration of a place with which you’re unfamiliar. It’s exciting, it’s challenging, it’s beautiful. It’s whatever you want it to be, and that’s what’s amazing about it. That being said, I don’t think you have to leave the country, or even your home, to travel. As a child, I traveled everywhere through books and my imagination.
2. How did you decide seasonal jobs were the way to make your travel dreams real?
As with many things in life, it just kind of happened. I had one really bad interview during my senior year of college, where I looked around and said to myself, “I don’t want to work with these stiffs.” So I came home and told my roommate that I was moving to Colorado.
It’d always been my dream to ski bum for a season, and that interview was the push I needed to make it happen. While working in Colorado, I started meeting all these people who had made a life out of seasonal work. Once I realized I could make a living from seasonal work AND have the time to travel, I never looked back.
3. What’s your process for determining the location and job for each season?
Well, I have a “Before I’m 30” list that I’m working on. The things I’ve crossed off so far have been: ski bumming for a season, working in Alaska for a summer, teaching English abroad, and volunteering in Latin America. I have a little more than three years to finish the rest. (If you’re interested in seasonal jobs and don’t know where to start, here’s a post I wrote about where and when to apply for seasonal jobs.)
4. What was the best and the worst job you ever signed up for?
The best job was working as the office manager for a sea kayaking company in Southeast Alaska. It’s a small company in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and everyone that I work with is great. I’m going back for my third summer in May.
My worst job was hostessing at a Bubba Gumps Shrimp Company. I normally enjoy working in restaurants, but I couldn’t stand the corporate culture there. I had to wear a terrible outfit (and my fashion standards are LOW), listen to Forrest Gump on repeat, and come home smelling like shrimp every night.
5. Is there one experience from your travels that you will never forget?
Many years ago, I stayed with a Maasai tribe in Kenya for a few days. One night, we had a big bonfire where we all got nice and drunk. The ladies taught me some traditional songs, and then they asked me to teach them an American song. For some reason, the only thing that I could think of was 50 Cent’s “In Da Club.” (Forgive me. I was 18 at the time.) Seeing a bunch of Maasai women rapping along to 50 Cent is something I will absolutely never forget. Intercultural exchange at its finest, right?
6. What is one thing you’ve learned while on the road that really stands out? (about yourself, a city or a culture)
I’m a firm believer in the fact that travel is the best education there is. I feel like I’m constantly learning about myself and the world around me while I’m on the road. One thing that really stands out is the fact that if you’re nice to people, people will generally be nice to you. Of course, there are exceptions, but it’s amazing how true that is most of the time. And it’s a good way to live your life.
7. Do you have a favorite book, movie or playlist you can’t travel without?
Omg, music is KEY when I’m traveling. I think that having music you know and love is one of the best ways to combat homesickness. I don’t have a particular playlist, but all my homies are loaded onto my ipod for easy access — everything from Taylor Swift to STS9 to Beyonce to The Grateful Dead.
8. If you could travel with one person, from the past or present, who would it be?
I’d love to travel with Mark Twain. He’s brilliant, funny, and an incredible travel writer. He also just seemed to have a really interesting perspective on life; I think I could learn a lot from him. Oooh, or Anthony Bourdain. SEXY.
9. What destinations are on your list next, and if you had to pick one place to live for the rest of your life where would it be?
The one place I can’t stop thinking about is Nepal. I’d LOVE to combine a trip there with India, Sri Lanka, and Tibet. Visiting all seven continents is also on my Before I’m 30 list, so I’ve got my heart set on New Zealand and Antarctica in the near future, as well.
If I had to pick one place to live for the rest of my life, it’d definitely be the good ol’ USA. Call me boring, but America is my home, and I love it. The diversity of the people, landscape, and culture within one country never ceases to amaze me.
10. Any travel tips/advice for future travelers with the desire to explore?
Taking the first step is probably the hardest. There’s no wrong place or time to go, so stop stressing. Just pick somewhere, buy a plane ticket, and go. You’ll make mistakes, but that’s part of the learning process. The time to go is NOW. You’ll never regret taking a chance to open your world and your mind.
Visit Susan’s site: Travel Junkette
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