Our Traveler this week is Amanda from Colorado, founder of Health Nut Nomad. Hi, Amanda!
This post is part of our YouPaca The Bag Traveler Series. This series looks at how people from all walks of life travel. We analyze what works for them and what doesn’t, their travel planning strategies, obstacles they’ve encountered, destinations they enjoy, their future travel goals, and more. We hope you enjoy reading this series as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together!
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Amanda Zetah and I am a 25-year-old native of the beautiful state of Colorado. I currently live in Azerbaijan and I’m a high school English teacher to local Azerbaijani students. I’ve lived abroad for the last six years in various locations (Sierra Leone, Northern Iraq, Myanmar, and now Azerbaijan). In that time, I’ve always found it hard to maintain a healthy lifestyle while abroad. After finding some fool-proof ways to remain healthy, fit, and mindful while traveling, I created the blog Health Nut Nomad to help other travelers that may find themselves in the same boat.
Did you grow up traveling? If no, when did you start to travel?
No, not in the slightest. My parents rarely traveled and I didn’t have my own passport or even know what customs were until I was 19 years old. Luckily, they raised me to love adventure.
We often snowboarded, hiked, snowshoed, and camped in the outdoors as much as possible (being a Coloradoan, it’s in our blood). So, I had that adventurous spirit and nowhere to channel it! When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to impulsively book a ticket to Nicaragua and volunteer at an orphanage in Granada. It was life-changing and eye opening. After that, I was hooked. That was only in 2011 and now here I am with over 63 countries under my belt. You could say I took this new addiction of mine and really ran with it.
What is your favorite trip you have taken? Why?
My favorite trip I’ve taken would have to be when I went to Timor-Leste. Very few people know where that is and even fewer people know it is its own country. I was backpacking Indonesia for two months and needed to do a border run because my visa was expiring, so I decided to opt for a ticket to Dili, the capital city.
While there I wandered the town every day, and in the evenings I stayed with the UN Ambassador at her cute little tree-house (there was a tree growing through the floor/window). It was during election time, so things were a bit hostile. It allowed me to meet many delegates from embassies all over the world, and attend workshops and meetings put on by NGOs for locals to have a fair and equal voting process. I got to witness the local culture firsthand.
It was one of the most random trips I’ve ever taken and it only lasted five days, but in that time, I learned a whole lot about Indonesia and Timor-Leste’s tumultuous history, and this tiny island’s big influence on countries like China and Australia because of their oil reserves.
How do you normally plan your trips? (Do you plan them, join a group tour, hire an agent, etc.)
I usually see a random article or YouTube video about a place; begin scanning flights; and before I know it, I’m usually in that country. I’m very type-A and I love making lists, so I usually find myself making a must-see bucket list in my phone and once I arrive, I try to check as many of those off as possible. I’m a huge advocate for free walking tours because it’s a great way to get your eyes off Google Maps and orient yourself with a new location as soon as possible.
I’ve actually never hired an agent – I don’t see a reason to do so, with all these apps on our phones that can do the work for us these days! My last trip was to Tenerife in the Canary Islands and I just winged it the entire time. Each day, I would google “Fun Things to Do in Tenerife” and then just go from there!
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome while traveling?
The biggest obstacle I had to overcome while traveling was my own mindset. I’m a creature of habit. I really like routine, lists, and I am very type-A. This type of mindset does not bode well with travel. The more I traveled and pushed my own boundaries, the more I could feel that mindset shift.
It was really Sierra Leone that did it for me – that’s when I finally felt the barriers of my OCD and my type-A personality breaking down for good. You simply cannot be OCD about cleanliness when you live with no water, no electricity, and in an Ebola-zone. I learned to embrace the dirt and grime that was always caked under my feet and fingernails and have a whole new appreciation for candle-lit bucket baths.
Best travel tip you have ever received?
When I was riding a donkey with a local man in Petra, Jordan, he drunkenly slurred to me, “No hurries, no worries.” He just kept repeating it over and over as we lopped along bumpily, both of us sharing this tiny donkey’s poor sweaty back. It was midnight, I was alone with this strange Jordanian man because my travel partner had ridden off on a much larger horse, and he was very obviously intoxicated. There were a million things I could have been worrying about, but instead I found myself giggling and looking up at the millions of stars above us (stars in the desert are a sight to behold). I realized that no matter what, no worry was going to improve the situation, so I might as well strap in for a wild ride and enjoy it!
I always remind myself to do that when I find myself in crazy travel situations all over the world. Sometimes, you just have to roll with it and trust that things will turn out for the best!
What is a travel essential that you must travel with and why?
Hm…that’s a tough one. I’d have to say my headphones. They are the tiniest, cheapest pair of crappy iPod headphones, that I accidentally stole from my dad the last time I was in America. But, they are the key to surviving long bus rides, train rides, plane rides, etc. They are my only way to listen to podcasts, music, audiobooks, and talk on the phone while on public transportation.
Where do you want to visit in the future, why?
I want to visit every single country in Africa. I know it sounds weird, but I’ve always had this insane pull towards the continent and every time I find myself there, I feel like I’m finally home (which is a weird feeling for some white girl from Colorado). I love its spirit, its haunted past, its happiness, all the vibrant colors, the hidden gems, the wide variety of landscapes and people you can find, and every little thing about it. I know it’s unfair to lump Africa into one category, but I want to see it all.
Luckily, starting in August, I’ll be doing just that: I’m quitting my job to backpack Africa for an entire year! I can’t wait!
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