Brown Girl Abroad Interview Series
BMA: Introduce yourself!
What’s up! I’m Kristen. I’m a Maryland-bred, 25 year old wanderer, waistbeads shop owner, and web designer. I write a travel blog that I hope I can inspire young women to take advantage of the world and live color-rich, adventure-filled lives. I recently spent 8 months living in Thailand and exploring Southeast Asia, and I’m now back in the US on a mission to find and thrive in a digital marketing career that I’m fulfilled by. In short, my goals are to never stop creating, prioritize giving, and to make a life that looks like the pages of my favorite travel magazines.
BMA: What age did you receive your passport?
BMA: Do you speak or are you currently learning a language other than English?
Not fluently — yet. I’m continuing to learn Spanish; I taught myself a little Italian. I want to learn Portuguese after Spanish to be trilingual by age 30.
BMA: Can you list all the countries you’ve traveled to?
BMA: What made you decide to travel abroad?
Whenever I wasn’t busy at my job in college, I’d read my favorite travel blog — alexinwanderland — for hours at a time. I was so amazed by Alex’s adventures and inspired by how she was living her dream doing all this cool stuff, making a career from traveling the world. I had my mind set on just getting a taste of that life. A couple years later I found out that one place I could do so was Thailand, where it’s inexpensive, rich in culture, bustling with people who work online/travel often to neighboring countries, and full of adventure. It sounded perfect for me, and I had already fallen in love with Thailand when I studied abroad for two weeks there a few years ago. I didn’t have many obligations tying me down, so I made a plan and headed to Chiang Mai to live out the dream.
BMA: Have you experienced any discrimination traveling abroad?
No, not that I’ve noticed. I’ve been stared at of course, and pointed at by kids who rarely, if ever, see black people, but I can’t recall any times I’ve been discriminated against. It’s a lot more frequently the opposite — Thai people would smile and wave and comment on how beautiful my friends’ and my brown skin/hair is.
BMA: What do you wish you knew before traveling abroad?
I wish I would have known that understanding a culture takes work and effort. It goes beyond surface observation and simply visiting a country. You have to get off the beaten path sometimes. Befriend locals. Make an effort to learn as much of the language as possible. Ask questions. Find great tour guides. Get involved with organizations/non-profits. Traveling should be about more than a vacation; and it’s not always easy, but I think we should really to immerse ourselves as much as possible in each country we visit.
BMA: How does your family feel about you living abroad?
They thought I was straight up crazy for wanting to move to Thailand completely alone. My parents were definitely hesitant at first, but they came to accept that I was going no matter what. And then once I got there, they were so proud of all the amazing opportunities I took advantage of and the beautiful places I was able to see. My family thought it was so cool that I was traveling the world.
BMA: What did you miss most about home?
I missed jerk chicken so so much. And my people! My family and friends, my crew. I hated missing out on birthdays, events, holidays. Every time I saw my friends having fun on Snapchat I cried a little on the inside (lol).
BMA: When were you first bitten by the travel bug?
I joke and say it all started when I was 2. There’s this picture of me in Puerto Rico by the water, posing in Minnie Mouse sunglasses — my mom says I was a little travelista in the making. But I caught the travel bug something serious when I visited France my senior year of high school. My dad’s college buddy got married in Paris and had the most magical fairy-tale like wedding weekend. I was enamored — seeing the sunset over the city from the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Louvre, dancing the night away at the wedding reception — I still get chills thinking about that experience. It was all so beautiful and I knew from there I was never going to stop traveling.
BMA: What advice can you share with women thinking of traveling abroad?
Say YES to new experiences. You will feel extremely liberated, like you can do anything. Re-evaluate what you find important and see what you can cut out of your life to prepare you for such a journey (great practice for your mind and wallet). Do your research to find the safest countries for women travelers and go for it. If you’re unsure about being completely solo, look up curated experiences dedicated to solo travelers (this blogger gave a great list of 5 black-owned travel communities for example).
BMA: What is your traveling style?
Spontaneous! I can be a detailed planner when need be, but I love the flexibility of a loose schedule. (Mostly by default because I tend to procrastinate on planning!).
BMA: How do you finance your traveling?
I saved up before moving abroad by dramatically cutting back on my lifestyle expenses. I used income from my small jewelry business for savings, and while living in Thailand, I did freelance web design. I plan to continue to live minimally and aim to build multiple sources of income that will help me to continue traveling.
BMA: How often do you travel?
Too much I think. Haha. This past year I’ve been on the go constantly; I haven’t been in one place longer than a month maybe. I want to sit still for a while now and focus on my career and saving, but ideally I would like to travel internationally 3x a year.
BMA: What are your top 3 travel tips for women?
Make sure someone else always knows where you’re going when you head out (especially at night)
Don’t be afraid to meet up with companions and turn strangers into friends; just take care of your valuables and stay aware of your surroundings
Ditch the extra shoes and clothes, I know you gotta be cute for Instagram, but travel light! You will thank yourself.
BMA: What are your favorite travel resources?
BMA: Tell us a travel story we’d enjoy!
BMA: How can we follow your travels?
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