Ever inspired by the travel tips and tales we hear from our Big Blogger interviewees, My Destination has turned to Jeannie Mark, a.k.a Nomadic Chick, to give us her take on travel, and to fill us in on her exciting plans for 2012.
You recently revealed your exciting summer plans to the online travel community: In July you will be journeying to Spain for a girls’ holiday…with a big difference! You and four other crazy brave female bloggers are going to run with the bulls in Pamplona. Now this might be an obvious question, but dare we ask…why?
Besides the crazy aspect, I grew fascinated with the event, as it is so male dominated, fraught with misconceptions. One thing that fuelled me more to do this was someone in a thread on Facebook who said that it is illegal for women to run. When things like that are still being uttered in 2012, something needs changing.
The Running of the Bulls can be very dangerous and you’ll certainly need your wits about you; how are you planning to prepare, mentally and physically?
The festival of San Fermin has been recorded in history since the 14th century. We’re now in the 21st century. Out of that lengthy time period, only fifteen people have died. Planning will involve walking the route we choose to take prior to running, mentally preparing for possible injury (hey – it is a reality), as well as triumph and keeping cardio up on the physical aspect. The run itself lasts about four minutes. The key is not to run in the middle of the street, or if you’re drunk or tired.
Although some women may not run due to social restraints and discouragement, many just aren’t as keen as men to hurl themselves down a track whilst being pursued by a wild-eyed bull… What message are you hoping they might glean from your actions?
Of course! People are multi-dimensional, and running beside testosterone-filled bulls may not be one of their travelling dreams. I think the one message I’d like to send is that just because someone tells you shouldn’t do something for x, y, or z reasons, it doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t. As a personal milestone, I’d like to say I did it once.
You like to big up independent, successful ladies on your blog; would you say that the challenges female travellers face are decreasing, increasing, or changing in any way?
I’d say decreasing. Ten years ago I was still travelling the way I do now and received more criticism for it. When I told my best friends I planned to travel to Brazil in 2008, many said they would never go to that country alone. North American and European women rely less on men for financial security and can do more out in the world; some women squabble over this point, but the feminist movement shaped how young woman act today: boldly, without fear and independently.
What is the biggest misconception people have about you as a female traveller?
That I’m a delicate flower. Everyone loves their creature comforts, as do I, but I can take more than most assume. Just today a well-meaning fella who owns a tourism company in Pamplona compared the fiesta to a third world country (he actually used those words) – vomit all over the place, drunken revellers, me being tired and missing meals – I’m sure he was trying to paint a realistic scene, but the message was a bit dramatic and felt like a scare tactic. Spain is a first-world country and the only thing he described was a massive city party. I felt like replying, “Let’s drop you in the middle of a village in India where the power goes out, rats emerge from the walls and all you have are bucket baths. That’s third-world, dude.”
You are very open and honest in your writing, especially in your explanation of why you travel. Do you think men and women travel differently? Do they have different motivations for exploring the world?
I think the motivations are mostly similar: soak in culture, find stories, meet people and see places. The experiences for each gender, however, are different. The reactions you receive, the feedback and interactions you experience vary so much depending on your gender and sexuality. I don’t think either gender travels that differently in terms of style; I’ve met fast-moving, hardcore backpackers, female as well as male, and I’ve also met women who loved slow travel, taking their time, and renting a comfortable room; men do the same.
What differentiates you from the many 20-something travel bloggers out there is that you are a little older (and looking good for it!). As you have mentioned in your blog, this causes some people to question your lifestyle choices. Is a life away from ‘home’ sustainable for you? Where do you hope to be in 10 years time?
Ten years is a long projection and I never think in those terms! I can’t say, but I can tell you that I’m happiest abroad. You need very little money to live [depending on where you travel] and it’s been the best education I’ve ever received. In these past two years, I’ve grown so much that I can’t see how someone could question that. Right now, yes, I’d like to continue living abroad and see what else life has in store for me.
What advice would you like to give, or have you given to younger travellers on the road who perhaps aren’t as worldly wise as yourself?
Travel never ends, and going to see places and having experiences in youth is great, but once you reach other stages in your life, travel can take different forms and become deeper in ways you can’t fathom. So, once you get going – don’t stop.
You’re definitely a ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ kind of gal. Aside from your imminent bull-running escapades, what’s the scariest activity you have ever experienced on your travels, and would you do it again?
Hang-gliding in Rio, because I don’t like heights. I have hiked before and did fine, but when there’s a possibility of very little to support my feet or in this case, nothing, I panic. However, it was fantastic; one of the best things I’ve ever done! I was a human airplane for eight minutes. And Rio as a background can’t be beaten; it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Solo female travel is a hot topic in the travel world – what have you gained from being a feisty solo female traveller, and what would you say to those women who are unsure whether to take on the challenge?
I gained a truckload of confidence. Although I had it before, now it’s welded to my exoskeleton – like a reflex. I’m more sure of myself and my choices. I finally understand what truly makes me happy, and am not willing to compromise any longer for anything that stops me from doing those things. My advice? Solo travel helps dull the noise and allows you to find out who you really are, positive and negative – all of it. And let’s be honest, the only person you really have to deal with on a daily basis is yourself. Why not make peace with what you want and who you are?
How do you tackle loneliness on the road?
I talk to people when I feel the urge. I keep in close contact with my best friends back home, so I never feel adrift in the world. Sometimes I just go to a cafe and people watch; that can be great fun instead of brooding by myself in my room.
You are an extremely well-travelled lady! Tell us one of your favourite destinations, as well as the destination on top of your to-do list, and why these spots are significant for you.
Vietnam is up there. It’s one of those places that is filled with beauty, chaos and generous, energetic people. I love their spirit! I’ve yet to set foot in Africa and really want to explore South Africa first, and then expand from there.
You have achieved your dream of escaping the rat race and seeing the world. What’s the next goal for the Nomadic Chick?
Continue exploring places and living abroad. I’m enjoying China right now and soon enough a new place will present itself. Wait and see!
A big thanks to Jeannie! If you’d like to follow the adventures of the girls in Spain, visit GirlsRunWithBulls.com.