This Wednesday’s featured Woman of the Week is one of my dear friends, Helena, whose interview I’m so excited to share. Lena’s energy is infectious, and she’s one of the first people I consult when I need to be reminded how bad-ass women can be. She doesn’t take shit from anyone while simultaneously being one of the most thoughtful and generous friends. See how this PhD student balances becoming a doctor with international travel in this interview. Happy reading!
Connect with Helena:
Tell us about yourself.
Hello! My name is Lena and I am a third year doctoral student at Indiana University that works with juvenile offenders and sex-trafficking victims. I have two fantastic felines, Mulder and Sculley, and have an obsession with furniture and décor.
Although I started traveling internationally at a young age (first generation Venezuelan) my love for travel began when I was in secondary school, with my first visits being to Clonmel, Ireland, and London, England. Soon after, I couldn’t resist the temptation to visit other countries and experience new…let’s be honest, food.
With my latest trip on deck, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and my completion of my dream vacation in my pocket, Skibbereen, Ireland, my partner and I have been focused on traveling the world, one country at a time!!
Why do you travel?
Good question.. I think that I travel because I can’t sit still for too long. I like to experience new things, explore the unknown, and eat and drink all day long. I love learning new cultures, meeting new people, and honestly, sitting in a bar in an unknown place, is my favorite time to listen to people and discover places I need to visit, places I need to see, and beers I need to drink.
How do you balance work and travel?
Ha.. how do I balance work and travel? I mean honestly, I don’t. It’s basically a see-saw (Swank, 2018). When I decide I want to go somewhere, I GO! Whether that means telling my boss I need a personal day or letting my professors know I decided to take an opportunity to travel internationally (the day before class… whoops!), I FIND the time to do it, and a way to do it, and I make that shit happen.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned from your travels
ALWAYS pack an extra pair of underwear on your carry on!! Honestly, pack a fucking extra set of clothes. The amount of times I have lost my luggage internationally, has been seriously unfortunate. Like, more than three times. It’s been hell. And I have learned, that having TWO pairs of underwear, REALLY makes a difference. Also, a wonderful woman (shout-out to Mrs. McClain!) gave me the best advice, “Always pack a jar of peanut butter.” This holds more weight than you know.
On a more inspirational note, have fun. Do crazy fun things that make you think back on each country, each city, each place that you visited and smile. There’s nothing better than answering the “How was your trip?” question with an amazing smile and some even better photos!
Share one of your favorite travel memories.
Hands down. Irish National Stud in Kildare, Ireland. My boyfriend is in the Navy, and went on a trip to Ireland to train their Irish special forces, which obviously meant I had to go. Since I had a lot of down time, I made friends with a taxi driver, who agreed to drive me back and forth from my hotel (free of charge!!!). I told him I wanted to go to the Irish National Stud, to which he replied, “It’s closed for the season.” Naturally, I whined, and he suggested I still go to see if anyone was working. I worked up a nice story in my head that included a sob scenario involving traveling to Ireland JUST for this experience (it really is exquisite). The Irish hospitality kicked in, and they agreed to let me into the park, on my own, for the entire day. OMG!!! The place was seriously amazing. The sights were even better. And the happiness I found traveling throughout the park on my own was indescribable.
A close second, was when I hiked the Grand Canyon for four days on my own. Traveling alone, as a woman, can be extremely intimidating and downright scary at times. But, being able to travel on your own and learn about who you are as a woman, is priceless. I would suggest a nice big open place with a fantastic view of the stars.
If you could share one travel tip with other women, what would it be?
Some travel experiences downright stink. Sometimes NOTHING goes your way. Items are more expensive than you intended, you lose your luggage, your personal belongings are stolen through customs (this is just downright terrible), DON’T let that stop you from travel!
Even more importantly, when you are going on an international flight; don’t drink. I know, surprising I’m saying that, but really it’s a waste of money and you only end up with a headache. Instead, pop a Benadryl before your flight so you wake up ready for the day (getting used to their time zone) refreshed and revitalized!
THANKS FOR READING HELENA’S STORY!
Looking for more interviews? Head to our Woman of the Week archives for the full library.
I’ve also created three freebies to help you plan your next adventure:
- 50 Practical Travel Tips from Solo Lady Backpackers (a 6-page PDF)
- 20 Tips for Sustainable Travel (a checklist)
- and 30 Jobs to See the World.
After you join the mailing list up, you’ll have access to all the freebies, AND get the password to the Global Directory! The directory will connect you to my recommended resources for each country and tons of travel topics. All blog posts I recommend are written by traveling ladies. From logistics to inspiration, the Global Directory will help you find the info you need no matter where you’re going.
After you sign up, you’ll start receiving the following freebies: 50 Practical Travel Tips from Solo Lady Backpackers (a 6-page PDF), 20 Tips for Sustainable Travel (a checklist), and 30 Jobs to See the World.
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