We all daydream from time to time about faraway lands, daring adventures, and breathtaking sights. It's the people, however, that forge ahead to the unknown who truly captivate our imagination. We have all heard the famous line by Robert Frost that “two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” In this 'Meet A Travel Writer' series, I want to talk firsthand to these individuals who have done just that and find out how they made it all happen.
Lauren Kilberg has been writing on her website Double Takes since 2007! That alone should make you want to read about what got her into this. Her passion for what she does is obvious as she hands out advice from everything from how to find the perfect travel tee-shirt to taking photos of New Zealand from a helicopter.
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m Lauren, a collector of maps, passport stamps, and freckles. For the past 7 years I’ve been running Double Takes, a blog about destination and design.
What was the first trip you took abroad? What was your inspiration?
After 20-something years of traveling the United States with my family, I was itching to take a solo trip overseas. I finally made it happen as a sophomore in college. I did a summer abroad in Prague, Czech Republic followed by a backpacking trip that took me to six additional countries in Europe before flying home.
What made you pack your life into a bag and become an expat?
I’m not sure it was any one thing, but the motivation came from a number of desires. I think the strongest of which was wanting to really do something exceptional after graduating college. I wanted to travel and experience new cultures on the deepest level. For me, the most appropriate and genuine way to accomplish that (while paying off student loans) was to move to overseas full time and work.
What is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself while traveling?
That it’s not possible to travel without learning something new about yourself every single time. I’ve had that lesson reinforced with every trip I’ve taken.
What is one place you have been that was completely different to what you expected it would be?
Myanmar was full of surprises and delights. When I visited, the country was still considerably difficult to enter and it had very little to no tourism infrastructure (or ATMs). I entered the country with my backpack and a great deal of anxiety and I left a month later reluctantly and with a heavy heart.
How do you afford your travels?
If there’s anything I’ve learned from 25 countries worth of travels, it’s that travel doesn’t have to be expensive. If you save responsibly, plan appropriately, and are reasonably flexible then big trips are possible on small budgets.
Are you a nomad for life? Why? Why not?
I spent several years after college in a state of perpetual travel. It was incredible. However, as I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve learned to appreciate having some roots and a home to return to. I am, without a doubt, forever a traveler though.
Besides being able to live in another part of the world, what has been the greatest benefit of becoming an expat?
There have been so many benefits of becoming an expat. There’s no way to answer this question without sounding like a cliche. Moving overseas means uprooting yourself from everything and everyone you know and then planting yourself in an experience where things as simple as buying shampoo or answering your apartment door become a challenge and an adventure. There has been so much change and personal growth that has come from this experience. I graduated college and truly continued my education. I am overwhelmed with the amount of things I’ve learned in my time here, things about this country specifically and otherwise. I think the greatest benefit has just been the doors this experience has opened, on a personal level, in what I’ve learned, and the opportunities to see and experience a world outside of the one I spent the fist quarter of my life living in.
Lastly, for those planning or considering their very first trip, what advice do you have for them? And where would you recommend they go?
It’s never as hard as you think it’s going to be. I don’t think it matters where you go, just that you take the first trip. Everywhere and every time after that will be easier.