Monday, October 11, 2010
I really enjoy the blogging world. It's a wonderful (and inexpensive) way to get to know different people, to hear about new things, and to see new places. The kind of blogs I like to read generally fall into three categories. The first is obviously around vegan food. The second is also pretty obvious, and that's about traveling. The third is about average people who go out of their ways to make their lives extraordinary. The people who are fearless and creative and live out loud and take risks and make big leaps and changes. One of my favorite blogs, Yes and Yes, falls into this category (and also in the travel section, too). I've only been reading Yes and Yes for a few months now, and when I read that its writer, Sarah Von, would be embarking on a big, transatlantic voyage soon, I knew I wanted to interview her before she took to the skies.
1. For starters, introduce yourself - who are you? where are you from? what do you do? etc.
Hello, friends! I'm Sarah Von. I'm originally from a tiny town in rural Minnesota but these days I split my time between St. Paul, MN and, um, other countries. As a 'day job,' I teach English as a Second Language but I'm about to embark on 1) a seven month trip 2) a dry run of working for myself and writing as my only source of income. Hopefully that rupee/dollar exchange rate will be working in my favor!
2. Tell me about your traveling history. Were you raised by gypsies/in a family that loved to travel? When did you take your first big solo trip? When did you first realize you had been bitten by the travel bug?
My parents are public school teachers so they had three months off each summer to travel. They'd both traveled pretty extensively before they had kids (my dad even lived in Europe for a few years) so it just made sense to keep doing it. Travel was just a normal part of life for us - that's what we did in the summer!
When I was 18, I spent a summer in Germany as part of an exchange program - does it count as a solo trip if I was living with a family? In terms of 100%-by-my-lonesome, I traveled to the Amazon rain forest in Brazil while I teaching down there in 2002 (Don't be too impressed. It was a package tour.)
It was after my time in Brazil that I realized that travel was something that I could do on my own - and regularly. It wasn't super easy navigating Brazil by myself with beginner Portuguese, but I did it and had a great time. After that, I felt nigh-on unstoppable!
3. I understand you're vegetarian. When did you first go meat-free and for what reasons?
My vegetarianism springs mostly from the fact that I don't like meat. I have vivid memories of trying to avoid ground hamburger at the tender age of 6! My parents had a "two bites of everything" rule, but once I was 12, they finally let me stop eating it. Mostly I think they were just fed up with my whining!
Now that I know more about meat's impact on the environment, I'm glad that my habits have a positive side effect, but I can't claim that my vegetarianism has a base in ethics. I think it has its base in texture! Gristle = gross.
4. Where was the most veg-friendly place you've ever visited? What place was the most challenging for a vegetarian? What are your travel tips for meat-free travelers? Describe your best veg meal abroad.
Thailand is a great place for vegetarians! The curries are amazing and mango sticky rice is to die for! Also, vegetarianism is significantly more common in Thailand, so you don't have to deal with those people who inevitably say "Oh, it's okay. It's only chicken."
I really, really had trouble finding food I liked in Peru and Bolivia. The most common meals were meat-filled empanadas, roast chicken and beef. I ended up surviving on peanuts, yogurt and Pringles! I lost too much weight, got sick and even fainted a few times. No bueno.
Probably the best vegetarian meal I've had abroad was a giant bowl of red curry with vegetables and tofu that I ate in Phuket, Thailand. I suppose eating in a sunny garden courtyard of a beautiful old hotel didn't hurt either.
5. You're going on a mighty big trip soon. Please tell us all about it: how you chose where to go (countries & service work organizations), how you planned it out (transportation, lodging, length of service time, etc.), and how you've prepared yourself (mentally, physically, financially, emotionally).
Where I go depends a lot on a) the exchange rate b) the weather while I'm there c) if I know anyone who lives there. Most of the organizations I've worked for/volunteered with were found via good old fashioned internet research or recommendations by friends.
In terms of planning, I honestly try to do too much! I nail down lodging for the first few nights, pin point a few non-negotiable things that I must see or do, look in to the transportation situation (is it easy to get around? is it safe?) and try to find a few contacts there. But I like to leave things pretty loose and not psych myself out to much. When an amazing opportunity presents itself, I don't want to miss it because I've already committed to a group tour of old churches!
Preparation? I get (most of) the shots, save a lot of money and create a giant spread sheet of addresses and phone numbers of the places where I'll be so my friends and family don't freak out.
I've written heaps of how-to posts about travel, so if you'd like more specific information you can read my travel archive here. Or buy my ebook on quitting your job to travel the world here!
6. You'll be traveling for 7+ months. Tell us: what are you packing?!
Black stretchy, layer-able things. Chacos flip flops. Me Too ballet flats. Adidas shelltoes. A sarong. Beauty products that are in solid form.
7. List all the countries you have visited to date. Any favorites? Which of the nifty fifty have you visited? (Or, if it's easier, which states have you NOT visited?)
I did most of my stateside travel when I was under 15, so I don't remember that much! I've seen most of the states out west and the southeast but I haven't seen that much of the northeast. Maybe once my thirst for international travel has been quenched a bit, I'll explore our shores a bit more!
My favorites? Greece and Cambodia! I'd been wanting to go to Greece since the ubiquitous 'Greek Gods' unit in fifth grade and it's one of the only places I've ever been that has lived up to my expectations.
Cambodia is like the Southeast Asia that you imagine - tuk tuks, fried cockroaches being sold in buckets on the side of the street, golden temples, skinny cows, monkeys. I loved it!
8. Your blog is called Yes and Yes. While it is fun to say "yes" more often, we all have to draw the line somewhere. What are your No-Nos?
Ground hamburger, high heels, nay-sayers, processed cheese, stuff for the sake of stuff, excuses, unreliable people.
9. Your blog is so delightfully whimsical and full of information that is both fun AND useful. The umbrella theme, though, seems to be about reaching goals, living the life you want, and being happy. Without thinking about it too much, just spit out the first 5 things you think of when I ask: What makes YOU happy?
funny pictures of cats
irresistable dance music
long, open highways
10. It's far off, but what do you have in store post-epic journey? What is your plan for when you return to the USA? What does the future hold for Yes and Yes? (And will you be blogging live from overseas?)
Ooooh, that's a great question! I'd like to be teaching part time and devoting more time to writing blog posts/magazine articles/anything interesting and designing cool products for Yes and Yes. I'm also interested in helping small businesses develop their web presence and break into the sexy, sexy world of social media.
11. What else would you like to share with the class?
I'm constantly humbled and thrilled by how sweet/smart/amazing Yes and Yes readers are. I'm so touched that they stop by my little corner of internet on the regular!
Thank you to Sarah Von for taking the time to answer some questions for Hungry Vegan Traveler readers! I hope all of you will stop by her blog and read about her adventures, past and future, and wish her happy trails, as she's leaving for her next voyage soon!
What blogs inspire you?