Tahvi is one of the featured “Suitcase Six” and one of my oldest friends – we met in school in the third grade and spent many summers since walking to each others houses in adjacent neighborhoods and adventuring in Indianapolis. We’ve stayed close even though we went to different colleges and now I get to visit her in Seattle in her new apartment. Tahvi and I first travelled abroad together this June when we visited Amsterdam and Belgium – I’m excited for her future travels and really hope we can explore somewhere else together soon. I got to interview her on a train ride through Belgium, so a huge thanks to Tahvi for being my first official interviewee.
1. Tell us about yourself.
I do global health research at the Institute for Health Metrics in Seattle. I’ve only lived in Seattle for about a year, but I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve gotten into skiing since I’ve gotten there, I also enjoy tennis and running. The first time I really travelled was doing the IU Honors program which was spending 7 weeks in Valencia with a host family during high school. The whole program was in Spanish and we were only allowed to speak Spanish on it. It really influenced my perspective of travel and I loved challenging myself to learn a new language. I’d been to the U.S. Virgin Islands for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary, but I feel like this was the first significant time traveling.
2. Why do you travel?
I think I’m an adventurous person – I really love learning new things & having new experiences and just being generally curious, and travelling opens an opportunity for doing that. I also really enjoy sharing experiences with other people, and I feel like every trip that I’ve been on the people I was with were very central to the experience.
3. How do you balance travel and work?
Right now, it’s difficult because I only get 15 vacation days a year and I have to balance fun travel with visiting home for Christmas and stuff, but next year I’ll be going on a program called practicum which is part of my job. We’ll be abroad in the summer for 6 weeks working with a collaborator on research. It’s one of the things I really liked about the program when I was first applying.
Where are you going to be placed next summer?
I won’t know where I’m going until we get closer, in April or May, but I’d really like to go to Latin America. I love speaking Spanish and I want to reinforce that in my life.
Can you explain a bit more about your program?
It’s a fellowship program, so we’re working full time but we take classes to earn an MPH – so I’ve been taking one class per quarter in the school of public health at University of Washington.
4. What is the best lesson you’ve learned from your trips?
I feel like one thing that’s really important is when you’re trying to communicate with someone and you can’t speak the same language, it can be kind of difficult and awkward, and in those moments, it’s really important to be patient and use non-verbal communication. Like smile, and be nice!
5. Tell us about your favorite travel memory.
I think my favorite travel memory was climbing Volcan San Pedro. We had to catch a boat very early and got to watch the sunrise over the lake. The actual hike itself was pretty tough, it’s basically going up stairs for a few hours, and when we got to the top it was actually cloudy. But we went with such a fun crew, it was the group of people we were working with in Guatemala at the clinic in Santa Cruz. And then after we did that, we got to explore the town of San Pedro a little bit and ate these super good empanadas and it was just a happy day. I think a lot of that summer we’d been working pretty hard and cooking at home and not really treating ourselves so that made it really special.
Who were you working with?
Duke Global Health Institute, it was called the SRT program student research training. We spent a semester planning our research project and working really closely with a professor named Dr. Boyd who was the professor who actually told me about my current job. So we were doing research on breast feeding beliefs and practices in the area, which meant that we were doing household interviews of Mayan mothers in six towns around Lake Atitlan. I was with three other students, and we spent the following two years at Duke analyzing our data and writing a paper, and it finally got published this year so that was really exciting.
6. If you could share one travel tip, what would it be?
One travel tip I’d share is that it can be nice to disconnect and stay off of Wi-Fi sometimes. During the Guatemala program there were entire days that the Wi-Fi wasn’t working, and I felt like those were the times I was most productive and I did some reading and explored the area. I think it helps you live in the moment a little more.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed with Guatemala and IU honors program is getting to live in a place for an extended period of time. I feel like you get a lot more out of a location if you can actually live there and work there for a little bit. If you ever get the opportunity to try to spend an extended period of time somewhere, take it.