In a world where the future of travel is uncertain, we felt we deserved something positive. I contacted Brooke Saward – @worldwanderlust on Instagram – to share her experience of solo travel. She is currently running a “Stories” series on her Instagram account, in which she regularly publishes anecdotes about travel and her life. In fact, Brooke also has a blog where she posts useful articles on solo travel and travel fear, among other things! The native Australian currently lives in South Africa. Brooke has been all over the world and her Instagram is both inspiring and refreshingly original. Below she answers some of my questions about the future of travel and the ups and downs of her own experiences.
Firstly, I wondered how exactly did your passion for travel begin? Was it something you did with your family, friends, or alone?
I was thirteen when I started my first international adventure! I was selected as part of a children’s choir to sing at a film premiere in Hong Kong. Traveling at such a young age really sparked something in me that inspired me to start saving my money from a young age to be able to travel. My parents were never rich so I’ve paid for every trip since that age and started working at McDonald’s when I was 14!
The first time I traveled alone, I was 20 years old. My trip only lasted three weeks, just enough to make me fall completely in love with myself. I realized how much more comfortable it is to travel alone when no one is holding me back (i.e. waiting for friends to join a trip) or changing my interests because of my travel companion. I wake up every day and see / do as little or as much as I want!
Why did you decide to open an Instagram account to document your trip?
I started Instagram back in 2012 when it was slowly gaining traction. I’ve seen a lot of fashion bloggers use Instagram to document their outfits, but I’d be more interested in the goals behind them. They would be flying around the world for Fashion Week (Milan, New York, Paris) and I thought, what if I could do this but show the goal and encourage people to buy experiences, not things?
What was your favorite place and why?
Oh god it changes every day! Some of my favorite places are Morocco (for the culture and the friendly locals), Russia (for the history I am fascinated by the Russian aristocracy) and my two favorite cities are Paris (for the pastries of course!) And New York (it’s the place where I feel most alive creatively).
Is there a place that didn’t meet your expectations?
Anywhere people travel to take an Instagram photo (sigh). I think the rise of modern day travel influencers has resulted in a lot of people traveling just to take pretty photos. Travel is so much more than that: the food, the culture, the people, the history, the subtleties. But above all the connection to other people.
Do you have advice for people planning to travel: places to visit, budget-friendly tips for students, or information on starting a travel blog /Instagram?
When starting a blog or Instagram: Be authentic! There’s so much room in this industry for people willing to show the real / raw side of travel beyond pretty photos.
If you want to travel to expand your mind, go to Europe. It’s full of history, culture, and interesting people. Better still, you just get on a train and find yourself in a completely different country. You have a completely different experience than the day before.
(In a similar context, Brooke is offering a master class online with more details. You can find it here.)
Any advice for people who want to travel alone?
The scariest part is actually booking the ticket. When you land you become a problem solver quickly and there is nothing that you cannot overcome. Before I went solo I was a very shy, introverted person. But when you are forced into situations that you have to figure out for yourself (often with limited time), you really grow into yourself and come out of your shell. Traveling alone is the best thing I’ve done in my life so far.
I really hope that traveling becomes purposeful again.
Tips on how to expand your budget? Work holidays etc?
Honestly, start a blog! You can make money from views (Google Adsense), hosted accommodations, working with tourism boards, or selling your photography. And if that doesn’t sound interesting to you, there are so many ways to work remotely outside of blogging, especially if you are a creative type. Think: Marketing Manager, Virtual Personal Assistant, Social Media Manager, Copywriter, Photographer, Graphic Designer … the list really is endless.
Do you prefer to travel alone or with others?
Alone. I’ve definitely learned over the years what personalities to travel with and what personalities to collide with. Because I’ve spent so much time traveling alone and doing my own thing, I really enjoy traveling with relaxed people who let me take the lead and plan our trip. These days I like to plan less and just wander the streets with no purpose or end point which is most enjoyable when you do it on your own.
What do you think the current pandemic means for travel worldwide?
There are going to be some important changes to international travel and I honestly welcome them. The number of flights, tourists visiting cities, and the frequency of travel have become extremely intolerable for our planet. I hope that after the pandemic, people will think more about why they are traveling, and hopefully travel more meaningfully. For example, I think a lot of people will take one big trip each year instead of a handful of vacations to keep up appearances. I really hope that traveling becomes purposeful again.
What’s the first place you want to visit when it’s all over?
I want to go back to Europe as soon as possible as I am launching a travel app called TRIVVY in late 2020 / early 2021. I can’t say more, but let’s just say that Europe plays a key role in achieving success!
Do you have any tips on how to stay positive on longer trips? i.e. dealing with homesickness etc.
I think you really need to immerse yourself wherever you are. Go to museums, see a live performance, meet locals, try a cooking class … the list goes on. When you are homesick, think about how lucky you are to be where you are and stay present. I always say, “I never know when I’ll be back so I can make the most of it!”
Finally, now that you have lived in other countries, did your perception of them change when you just traveled there?
Living in a new country is so much more rewarding than traveling to new countries. I’ve always wanted to live abroad, but until I had a reason to stay in one place, I kept postponing it. Mainly because visas are quite an ordeal when you travel a lot for work and need your passport.
Since moving to South Africa I have found a sense of calm and really enjoy getting to know Cape Town on a deeper level. I’ve always been aware of my white privilege, but when I live in a country with such deeply ingrained racial problems I become increasingly aware of how much head start I had. I meet so many wonderful people here, with all skin colors, all social backgrounds … and it really shapes my perception of the world we live in. Living here definitely gives me a deeper understanding than the times I’ve traveled here and all over Africa just to get back to my comfortable way of life. As you grapple with these realities on a daily basis, you need to pause, re-educate yourself, and stand up for what is really important.
You can follow Brooke on Instagram at @worldwanderlust for travel inspiration (and envy!), Stories, and aesthetically pleasing travel photos. Alternatively, her website (and blog!) Is here: www.worldofwanderlust.com.
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