Welcome to our Interview of the Month March with Ella. After visiting several countries abroad, such as Kenya and Australia, she decided to write about her adventures on her blog Wide-Eyed Wanderer. Today we are talked about many aspects of traveling, including fun destinations and great travel memories. However, we also discussed darker sides of traveling. Ella opens up about her negative experiences, such as her anxieties and fears, and tells us how she got valuable lessons and development from them.
Lisanne from CHAPTERTRAVEL: Hello Ella, please introduce yourself.
Ella: Hey! I’m Ella, the blogger behind Wide-Eyed Wanderer, which is about travel from a perspective of global understanding and personal development. I grew up bicultural, visiting my home countries of England and Israel before beginning to travel beyond them as an adult. I’m currently 23 years old and besides travel, I also love music, yoga, nature, swimming and brownies. I hope to become a music therapist, while continuing to travel.
Thank you for your introduction! What are some of your latest travels?
My most recent trip was going to a yoga retreat in the hills of Andalusia, Spain. I was there for a week and I had such a fantastic time. The teachers were wonderful and we got to enjoy some amazing food and scenery, so I definitely had a great week. I highly recommend for others that are considering a yoga retreat to do it.
What are some of your favorite destinations you have visited and why?
I haven’t travelled as much as a lot of other travel bloggers, but a couple of destinations that I truly loved were Paris and Kenya. Paris was the first international city that I travelled to that wasn’t one of my home countries. Instantly I felt a very deep soul connection to it. It’s a city that’s perfect for an introvert who’s interested in culture and would love nothing more than to just stroll the streets and people watch. It’s very visually pleasing. A big plus are all the delicious croissants and macarons!
Kenya was the first country that I travelled to solo and it captured my heart completely. Kenya has a beautiful culture and landscape, but its heart is its people. The local people are kind, generous and honest. They make the country even more beautiful than it already is.
Which destination do you really want to visit?
There are many that I want to visit and many different types of trips that I want to take. For so long I’ve wanted to visit Nicaragua and Thailand. The more that I learn about these two countries, their cultures & their people, the more that I become certain that I have to visit one day. I’d love to spend a couple of months there, traveling around slowly and perhaps even taking some Spanish and Thai classes. Recently, I’ve also become obsessed with Slovenia and I’d love to explore the country, just enjoying as much of the nature as I can. Others that I’d love to visit are Ghana, Morocco, South Korea, Vietnam, USA and the Netherlands.
What are some of the less positive experiences you had while traveling?
Well, I had a couple of major negative experiences when I was in Australia. This was such a shame because the country and its people are amazing. I was in Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, trying to travel long term and the first job that I had was awful. It was a sales job where I had to work 6-7 days a week, 10-11 hours a day (all of which on my feet) & only earning commission. I was exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally, crying non-stop and suffering from panic attacks daily. It was pretty bad.
Eventually I quit and moved to Melbourne, hoping to find a job while staying with a friend who was my only contact in the country. But I struggled to find a job, my mental health deteriorated to nightmarish levels and my friend (who was understandably struggling with me still being there) was unsympathetic and immature in her handling of the situation. It was a very toxic situation and friendship, which of course only made my mental health much worse.
But thankfully, as I was going through both of those experiences, I managed to meet some locals who helped me significantly in both situations and the kindness, understanding and support that they showed are still extremely appreciated.
I went through something similar in Australia – you can read about it here. The work pressure is a bit higher in Australia! How did you turn these experiences into something good?
For starters, I took it as an opportunity to learn some important lessons and boy, did I learn a lot! I learned so much about myself. My values, my needs and what I needed to do going forward. For instance, if it wasn’t for that experience, I wouldn’t have finally gone to get help for my mental health issues that were actually lifelong problems. Also, I learned that I’m just not built for long-term travel and that that’s okay. That doesn’t make me any less of a traveller.
Yes, of course I love travelling, but travelling for too long leaves me personally feeling unstable and ungrounded. I need for my trips to have an end date and some structure. The other thing I did was simply talk about my experiences openly and honestly on my blog. It turned out that there were a lot of other travellers who also had negative and painful travel experiences and by me talking about mine, they felt comfortable talking about theirs. Talking about a painful experience really does help with healing it and me and my readers got to have a bit of a healing session together. This was lovely and something that I’m thankful for.
How has travel taught you to deal with the fears and anxieties you had?
It has taught me how to deal with them, essentially by teaching me that I have to deal with them, especially if I’m travelling. For someone who already experiences anxiety regularly in their daily life, travel can bring out extra irrational fears and anxieties that you wouldn’t have had to deal with at home. However, if you don’t deal with them and even choose to stay home in order to avoid them, you’d be missing out on seeing the world and enjoying many amazing experiences.
Even experiences that prove to you that you don’t actually need to be anxious about most of the things that you’re anxious about! For me personally, travel has taught me that I can let go some of the control over the type of experience I’ll have and to trust that everything will be fine. It’s taught me to discern when I’m being irrationally anxious and there’s no reason to worry, and when my anxiety is justified and certain steps need to taken.
How has travel made you a happier and healthier person?
It’s made me a happier and healthier person by making me feel more connected to the world and to life. I think sometimes we can go through life feeling disconnected from others and the world. Because now we can easily opt to connect with others through screens instead of in person. Thus, we receive information about the world from someone else’s eyes and not our own.
But actually stepping out into the world and seeing it for myself. Meeting people from so many different walks of life, sharing some special experiences together and really being present and engaging with my surroundings, has helped me feel much more connected to other people and the world. All this has made me happier and healthier. As well as that, I think it’s just made me a happier and healthier person, because travel is something that I love to do. By going on a trip, I’m deliberately making time to do something that I enjoy. For me, travel acts as self-care for the soul.
What is your driving force for traveling?
My driving force for travelling is definitely because I want to understand and familiarise myself with the world as much as possible. Of course, I love going on adventures and I want to fill my life with plenty of unique experiences from around the world. But, my deep desire is to understand and familiarise myself with the world as much as I can. People and other cultures have always fascinated me and I have a big appetite for seeing and learning about the world as much as possible.
What is your favorite travel memory?
I have many fond memories from my travels, so it’s really hard to pick just one. One that springs to mind is getting to see the sunrise on my last day at the yoga retreat. My friend and I made a promise to each other that we’d get up super early to see the sun come up from the hills of Andalusia. Of course, each day we wouldn’t get up.
On our last day we decided that we had to do it! So we got up extra early and walked about 15 mins to the top. It was gorgeous; the sunrise against the backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. Some others came to see the sunrise too. We all ended up watching the sunrise together on our last day of the retreat. It was a very peaceful and special moment.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years, I see myself as a music therapist, which is my profession of choice. Perhaps I can implement an international music therapy/education program across the world. Or maybe I’m running my own business – preferably something with music and/or travel.
Of course, still travelling and still writing about my experiences. Hopefully by then I’ll also have a little corner in the world to call my own where I can invite friends from all over the world to stay.
Do you have any exciting travel plans for the near future?
My current plan is to hopefully go back to the yoga retreat that I went to in Andalusia. There I’ll volunteer for 4-6 weeks. There I’ll help out at a place that I love. It’s so nice to enjoy the Andalusian sun. Also, I can use that time as an opportunity to work on my blog and do more yoga. After that, I don’t have any specific plans as I’ll be starting university in the following October. I hope to take a quick getaway to either Amsterdam, Sofia, Porto, Istanbul or Ljubljana sometime in the following year.
Do you have anything you would like to add?
Not particularly. I do hope everyone has happy travels. And I want to say that it’s okay to come home if you need to. You can still travel while having anxiety. Also, every travel style is different so there’s no need to compare yourself to any other traveller.
You are completely right Ella! Thank you so much for your time and your beautiful story. I think you inspire other people a lot!