Hi fellow travelers – I’m starting a new series of monthly posts called “The Most Interesting Travelers In The World.” Our first interview is with Adrien Behn, creator of the Strangers Abroad podcast.
What inspired your love of travel – how did you get started?
My body has always craved travel. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York and always yearned for other places. Then when I was 19, I got the opportunity to study abroad, and I didn’t care where I went; I just knew I needed to go. Once I landed in the Czech Republic, which I didn’t even know where it was on a map to be honest, I fell head over heels in love with traveling. It humbled me in a way that home couldn’t. I learned about people and worlds and histories that were so different than my own. At times, I thought I could physically feel different neurons connecting in my brain. I realized how little was and how large the world is, and for some weird reason I became addicted to that feeling. I travel to feel small but connected.
Tell us about your favorite style of traveling…luxury or budget? Packing heavy or light? On the go or laid back?
I am definitely a backpacker through and through. Even if someone gave me unlimited money to travel, I would still couch surf and volunteer. I would rather stay with a local who can give me an unique experience that I can’t get in a guide book than be in a comfortable hotel room. I love staying with families and feel what it is like to live and be cared for there. I like sitting at the table with them and hearing about their experiences in between bites of their food. I’m especially curious on how families are constructed and how age/ gender dynamics develop and how they differ from my life. Since I’m open to having my perspectives be challenged and familiarize myself with someone else’s views of the world, I get such a richer experience and create deeper connections when I am staying with locals.
I am a light traveler and have lived out of a single backpack for months at a time. I love the feeling of being a turtle and carrying everything I need on my back.
I’m a little bit of both on the go and laid back. I enjoy structure and definitely try to experience specific aspects of each city or country I’m in. However, I also like scheduling in plenty of wandering around time to let the place present itself to me organically.
What’s your favorite travel story: the weirdest, or funniest, or most exciting, or most beautiful trip you’ve ever been on?
Woof, I have a story for each. I think the most overarching story that encompasses all of them would be traveling with my friend Carla through Morocco. We had so many accidental adventures during that trip: taking the boat from Spain to Africa, almost getting our passports swindled away from us at the border, eating orange clementines in bright blue Chefchouan, almost getting trapped in a tannery in Fez, sleeping in a cabin in the Atlas mountains, bailing someone out of jail in Esperanto, watching goat trees, and meandering through medinas in Marrakech. That week was so awe-inspiring, freeing, and sometimes scary. The most beautiful part of that journey is the fact that we never fought once. She is still my favorite person to travel with.
What advice do you have specifically for female travelers?
Know that you can do it. Women are socialized to believe that they can’t do it, we shouldn’t do it, or it is a risk if we try. That is a false narrative.
That it is not only ok but necessary to be selfish because we are really the first generation of women who are making travel safer for other women. Our rolls historically were to be supporters for others, for husbands, parents, children, community, and friends. But only the rare and strange women have ventured off on their own. The wandering woman needs to no longer be a rarity. It is ludicrous to believe that half of the global population is unable to travel freely from their homeland. This is the first generation where women are able to travel relatively safely without the assistance or protection from men ( all the time). So it’s not only important that women go out and travel, but it is imperative to show the world examples of our abilities and strength.Click To Tweet
What would you say to encourage someone who wants to travel but is afraid to because of cost, time, etc.?
There is nothing better that you can do with your hard earned money and fleeting time than to travel. No dress, no jet ski, or new iPhone will ever give you the same experience as hiking the top of Mount Kosciuszko, dancing with in Argentina, or walking through Petra.
When you travel, you see how vastly complex the world is than textbooks or the television can show you. It is an experience that can’t be done on the couch. You quickly realize how valuable your time on earth is and that it needs to be spent exploring and connecting with others.
It also inspires a level of self-growth that can’t be replicated elsewhere. When you are thrown into unknown situations you get to see who you really are outside of the comforts of your home.
What it will show you is how invaluable an experience is and there isn’t enough money or time, so use it wisely.
What are your top 3 tips for newbie or wanna-be travelers?
Take risks – the universe will reward you in unexpected ways. Couch surf, volunteer, hitchhike…do things you would never do at home. This is your time to run wild.
I always get asked the nervous question, “ but what if I don’t make any friends?” If you are a kind person and say hello to people, you will absolutely make friends. People will help you if you ask for it, regardless of their age, race, gender identity, or nationality. The world often throws at you the people you need to learn from at the time. Always be receptive towards them.
Know that you can do it. You are not the first one to go out and travel alone, and there is a pretty high success rate of returning will all your limbs intact. But your heart? Well, that is certain to change.
Adrien Behn is the creator of Strangers Abroad, a series of conversations had with strangers she met while backpacking throughout Latin America for 5 months, overlapped with her personal stories about being a woman who travels alone. The conversations focus on self-growth, world progress, and the importance of travel with all of the wonderful + weird people she met while traveling. She is a travel writer, live storyteller, and forever solo-female traveler. She desires to hit every country before she dies (with modern medicine, she still has plenty of time).