I’m truly so excited to be sharing this interview with you all, featuring Kay from the Awkward Traveller. She’s a west coast girl currently based in Portland sharing her global adventures on her blog that she fits in when she isn’t working twelve hour shifts. I’ve been a fan of Kay’s for a while and she couldn’t be a more perfect example of how you can see the world in your non-travel career.
I know you’ll enjoy her unique tale of how she came to her current job, her gorgeous pictures, and her spot on advice about how to be a more eco-friendly traveller! Please check out her blog to see all her incredible travel advice and stories for yourself.
Hometown: Los Angeles, California USA
Current residence: Portland, Oregon USA
Job title: Components Development and Researcher at [censored].
Place you’d visit again: Greenland!
Destination on your bucket list: Antarctica
Tell Us About Yourself
Well, currently I work in the tech industry, but before that I went to school for pharmaceutical research! I didn’t come from a family that traveled (like at ALL), but my first experience traveling was in high school on a cultural exchange program with my language class! I had to apply to multiple scholarships, and I didn’t meet the deadline for the trip to Quebec, Canada. But the year after, I managed to earn enough money to take the class trip to Paris, France!
Then when I was in university for my second degree, International Relations with a focus in Global Pharmacology, I studied abroad in Poitiers, France. I had originally planned on studied in Seoul, South Korea due to my…sudden obsession with Kpop, but alas, to complete graduation requirements for my degree, I needed to study abroad in a country and pass a fluency test of the local language and…well there was no way I was going to become fluent in Korean since my home university didn’t offer Korean classes, so I stuck with French and studied chemistry in France! So that’s how my travel bug hatched I suppose!
Why Do You Travel?
I love learning. About history, culture, languages, people, regional quirks and behaviors…it’s all so interesting to me! I travel to learn. I am also a fiction author, so I think travel also gives me a major source of inspiration and ideas for writing!
Explain what you do for work.
I work in tech! It’s…pretty boring for the most part, aside from handling chemicals that could kill me in seconds.
How did you get into this job?
Funny story. After accidentally rejecting my acceptance into pharmacy school, I was working minimum wage at a health-hazardous Wendy’s. Like, we were standing in actual sewage while cooking because our pipes were clogged. Yes, it got shut down while I was there.
Anyways, I was working there and a ton of my engineering friends were working at my current job and referred me! Yanno, since I had nothing else going on. I was planning on reapplying to pharmacy school for the following year, but my current job offers so many benefits and a ton of vacation time sooo….here I am, four years later with no plans of leaving!
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
Ah, well, I work 12 hour shifts. I literally have zero time for outside activities on my work days.So I crawl out of bed at 6am, leave for work at 6:20am, and arrive at 7am. No, I do not well look put together at all.
Then, for twelve hours, I work. I use my lunch and breaks to post on social media and talk to my blog friends! If it’s a slow day, I may get a little bit of time to work on a blog post or write my novel. Usually not much time though. I get home around 8:30pm. I attempt to work out, then eat dinner. I love watching tv or playing video games to relax, so I do that for an hour or two. Thennn it’s blog time. It’s grueling, but I actually do really enjoy blogging. It’s a fun creative outlet for me! Buuut, it also means that I drag myself into bed around 1am, on average.
So if you see me and I look sleep deprived, I probably am.
Are you able to easily balance work and travel? If so, how do you balance them?
Yes and no. Travel itself is pretty easy for me to balance. Because I work 12 hour shifts, all of my weekends are either 3 or 4 days long! Which is perfect for domestic/nearby trips to a new city! I also get above the average in PTO (paid time off) and vacation days, so that’s truly a blessing!
But I also work every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I mentioned before that my job leaves me NO time for outside activities, which is a bummer when my friends want to do a cute weekend trip somewhere on their “normal” weekend. So traveling with friends is hard, but for the most part it is fairly easy for me to balance work and short trips.
I would say trying to balance work and travel blogging is a lot harder hahah.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your travels?
That I truly do not know anything. No one does. We’re all learning and growing and changing every single day. So the best attitude to have towards travel, and life in general, is to keep an open and compassionate mind, and always be ready to adjust adjust adjust. Nothing will ever go exactly as planned.
Oh man, just one? Well, one of my most recent travel memories that takes the cake is when I visited Greenland. I was on a boat, seated next to a harpoon with dried blood and…probably pieces of seal stuck to the end. We were sailing across this lagoon to head back to the airport, and on our way we passed an iceberg. It was summer, so the iceberg was small, but it was still so magnificent. The boat captain cut the engine so we could bask in its greatness for the tiniest bit. The sheer stillness of the ice…is breaktaking. That’s the only way I can describe it.
A very close second is volunteering at a panda research center in the Sichuan province of China. I mean, you can’t hold them or anything (one, because they are BEARS. Everyone seems to forget that), but it is still an incredible experience! Plus, they are SO stinking cute!! People seem to think that pandas are endangered because they aren’t bright, or because they are clumsy and lazy, but that is false. In fact, the greatest cause of their endangerment is human encroachment, just like MOST wildlife. Pandas just happened to be cute enough to become the spokes-animal of wildlife conservation.
I mean, honestly, there’s a lot of things. I wrote a whole blog post on sustainable and eco-friendly products for travel. You can take tours with locals to learn about their country/city/region from THEIR perspective and have your tourism dollars support local businesses and creatives. You can donate to local organizations that fund education and art initiatives in the destinations you visit. Yeah, all those things are great!
But. The BEST sustainable/eco-friendly tip that I can give travelers is to VOTE AT HOME. Vote in your big elections, yes, but also vote in the smaller regional elections too. Vote for representatives that will hold large companies and corporations responsible for destructive impacts they may cause. Support the politicians that are resilient about tackling systemic racism and unjust prejudices against minority communities; the communities that YOU can freely visit when you travel to their country, but they may not be welcome to come to yours. Vote for people that care about sustainability and are compassionate and understanding to cultures different than their own. Be a better traveler at home, first, then you handle all the other things.