Vanessa grew up traveling the world. So, it’s not surprising that she has a deep love for it as an adult. I’m eager to share this week’s interview with you – Vanessa has a unique story that’s led her to this traveling road. Read on to find out why Vanessa says she’s “location agnostic” and her suggestions on the best travel philosophy. Thanks, Vanessa, for sharing your story!
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Tell us about yourself?
My name is Vanessa and right now, I live in San Francisco. I was born in Mexico City with three legal citizenships: US, Mexican, and Filipino. Because of that, I’ve always said I was born a citizen of the world. By the time I was 10, my family and I had lived in 6 different places before finally settling in beautiful Southern California. The process of making friends, discovering my new environment, observing local norms, and saying goodbye was a familiar routine, rather than a traumatizing ordeal. Perhaps this is why, that now, as an adult I find that navigating unfamiliar cultural norms is not puzzling, but comforting…that the unfamiliar sounds of languages I don’t comprehend is not disquieting, but soothing…and that travel IS my home.
Why do you travel?
I always travel with the intention of seeing beautiful sites, tasting delicious foods, experiencing a culture different from my own, and connecting with others. Although I certainly accomplish those goals on every journey, each time, I leave with a deeper appreciation of my own culture and a sharpened awareness of myself. Every time I travel, something clicks: another dot gets connected, another piece of the puzzle gets placed. I think that’s why travel is so addicting. There is so much satisfaction every time we connect the dots and piece the puzzle, and yet, what we can discover from this world and its people is infinite.
How do you balance work and travel?
Balancing work and travel was a conundrum early in my career for many reasons. Having the funds to travel was a bigger issue than having the time. I decided to make travel a priority, to invest in experiences rather than belongings. Earlier in my career, it meant forgoing certain everyday luxuries to go on an international trip only every two years or so. As my career progressed in consulting, it meant learning the nuances of hotel and airline points and being diligent about when and where to use them. For example, I am generally location-agnostic, meaning, I often choose destinations based on their point value rather than for the destination itself. Eventually, I happened to stumble upon a career that is intricately linked to travel. I’m convinced that either I was drawn to this type career or this career was drawn to me because of my authentic and organic passion for travel that I mentioned earlier. Either way, I feel so lucky that the question of balancing work and travel is no longer on the table. What’s left on the table is how to tip the scales such that instead of my career including travel, that it BECOMES travel.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your travels?
The more I travel and the more I meet people from different cultures, backgrounds, and circumstances, the more I realize that for the most part, we have a lot more in common than we suspect. No matter where we were born or what language we speak, we do what we must to fulfill our basic needs: feed our stomachs, clothe and shelter ourselves and our loved ones. Beyond that, we feed our souls, we nourish our curiosity about one another, we seek to love and be loved, and we chase joy where we can find it.
Share one of your favorite travel memories.
By far my most memorable travel experience was a visit to Cuba in 2007. We landed at close to midnight. Since we would not have access to our U.S. bank accounts, we had to carry a fair amount of cash and since our cellular phones would not work in the country, communications with our hotel had to be made far in advance. Without access to our contacts back home, or to anyone else for that matter, we had to place a fair amount of trust in our surroundings and the people of Havana once we landed. The airport was dark and was secured by very intimidating, very armed guards. We hopped in a cab, told the driver the name of our hotel and crossed our fingers. The roads to our hotel were poorly lit, but what we could see were several billboards with anti-American propaganda. We arrived safely and remained safe throughout the rest of our trip. During our stay, we met so many hospitable people who were curious about us and wanted to share their lives with us, many of whom accompanied us for as long as we’d have them. We learned about the way they live and the hopes they have for their country’s future. We learned that beyond what may seem questionable in the shadows exists the reality we owe to ourselves to discover. Beyond political distrust, beyond country quarrels, people are people and if we’re lucky enough to form a connection, we go home all the better.
If you could share one travel tip with other women, what would it be?
Be cautious, but remain open. Obviously, personal safety is pinnacle when you’re a woman and you’re travelling, especially when travelling alone. Stay cautious, of course, but don’t let that stop you from maintaining an open mind and an open heart as you venture boundlessly through this great earth.