Introducing the “Passport to People Series” where I’ll take you around the globe, via inspiring, creative souls I’ve met while on my travels!
Meet Laura Nalin, the talented force behind the travel blog ‘Willful and Wildhearted.’ I first came to know of Laura back in February through a blogging community. Her writing style is both compelling and insightful. There’s never a piece of hers I didn’t read through where I felt like there was true takeaway. She ‘s a responsible traveler and helps disseminate ideas of mindfulness on the road that many other bloggers out there fail to to do so. Much to my enthusiasm, we crossed paths when she was in HCMC last May as part of her Southeast Asia backpacking route. We were able to meet twice during her time here and on both occasions, I felt like I was in the presence of a long lost friend. She has since set up shop in Auckland, New Zealand with her equally charming beau, James. We keep in touch almost on a weekly basis. The amount of parallels in our life journeys is pretty bizarre but through Laura, I’ve learned that despite how lonely it may feel being on the road sometimes, there is always a kindred spirit to lift your spirits.
Hello Laura! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your travels. So talk to me about your origin story.
I’m from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I moved to Chicago when I was eighteen to attend university and ended up staying for almost seven years. I’d like to call both places home as I lived such significant bits of my life in each cities.
What is your favorite thing about traveling?
I like the feeling of waking up and thinking, “what should I do today?” and then doing that thing along with a dozen other awesome things that I hadn’t planned. I like seeing how other cultures function. I like learning about myself and realising my faults and strengths. I just think traveling cracks my mind open a bit more each time I head out again, which is what draws me back every time.
What’s your go-to place for travel inspiration?
My ultimate travel inspiration is Brenna from This Battered Suitcase. I stumbled upon her blog years ago and after spending hours upon hours scouring through her blog’s content, I was hooked. She seems to have such a great head on her shoulders and has such an eloquent way of detailing her experiences. She seriously inspired me to travel as extensively as I have these past few years. I really look up to her.
In addition, I really love reading what Glo of The Blog Abroad has to say. Not only is she hilarious, but this girl’s got style and killer photography skills. I really appreciate her intense obsession with Nutella.
What’s your travel mantra?
My travel mantra is simple: don’t be a dick. Some people travel so senselessly and have zero respect for the humans (fellow travelers and locals alike), animals, and foreign culture they encounter, and I try to act as a voice to prevent that.
Do you have a bucket list?
Oh goodness, do I! My bucket list is eternally expanding and depends on the day. I’m writing this from one of my primary bucket list destinations, Cambodia. In about a month I’ll be heading to two other standouts: Myanmar and Indonesia.
As far as my own country is concerned, I still haven’t been to the Grand Canyon and would really like to explore Utah, Wyoming and Montana via road trip. I would love to go to Marrakesh and Botswana as well. I’m going to stop there otherwise I am just going to keep thinking of places!
What’s a song that puts you in the traveling mood?
I really love ‘Big Country‘ by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. It has a lot of lovely memories tied to it and is just an overwhelmingly gorgeous song.
The best foreign word/phrase you know and why.
I really love the Italian phrase, “Il bel far niente,” which means “the beauty of doing nothing.” I think it’s such an eloquent way to describe something so simple.
You, unfortunately, have been condemned to die. But fortunately, you get to have any meal in the world before you go. What is your menu?
In this case, I choose to eat myself to death!
Appetizer: Potato samosa
Main: Dal makhani (extra spicy), garlic naan bread, a small goat cheese pizza loaded with jalapeños and red onions
Dessert: chocolate ice cream with cinnamon and almonds on top
What’s your best travel-related investment?
I really love my packing cubes. I love organization but I’m also sort of lazy sometimes. Packing cubes are a great way for me to have control over where my clothes are but not have to actually “pack.” I just put the cubes in my backpack and everything is set to go!
How do you cheer yourself up on a bad day?
I am a firm believer in meditation and a good workout to keep myself focused and positive. However, bad days happen sometimes. If I am having a legitimately horrific day then I generally buy a cupcake and say to myself, “tomorrow is a new day.”
What was a memorable ‘first’ abroad?
Paragliding over the coast of Lima, Peru. That or my first taxi ride abroad and hilariously trying to figure out the foreign currency with my friends.
What is the oddest place you’ve ever been to?
I’m going to have to say South Korea. The country is the plastic surgery capital of the world and many its residents take a lot of pride in that. Many people opt for a procedure where they get their jawbones shaved down to make their faces appear smaller. There’s a surgeon who had his patients jawbones displayed within two tall glass enclosures at the entrance of his office. He was legally forced to remove the bones once the story garnered international attention, though.
If that isn’t odd enough, there are several cafes in the country that cater to poop-related humour and also loads of cafes where adults can play dress up. Definitely a strange place!
You have just won a trip around the world! List twelve cities on your flight path.
Kauai, Hawaii → Vancouver, Canada → Borneo, Malaysia → Kathmandu, Nepal → Cusco, Peru → Kashmir, India → Kotor, Montenegro → Tuscany, Italy → Cape Town, South Africa → Mbeya, Tanzania → Reykjavik, Iceland → Bali, Indonesia
The key to a successful trip is…
Not taking yourself too seriously. Your bus might be late. Maybe you’ll be scammed. You may gain weight after eating delicious street food without reserve. In these situations I just say, “whatevs.”
Here are some pictures taken on Laura’s travels…
Tell us about your worst vacation experience.
I’d have to go with the time my boyfriend and I got stuck in a snowstorm on The Great Wall of China. Earlier that day he lost his wallet and my coat broke. Luckily we held it together, but that isn’t a good memory.
Memorable advice from a stranger.
Too difficult! A women walked up to me at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, recently and said, “you know, if men had babies like we do, there wouldn’t be any wars.” And then she walked away. My thoughts keep returning to that random comment, actually.
Best foreign curse word you know.
I recently learned “neuken klootzak” from a Dutch friend. I won’t say what it means, but it’s a common insult. I just like the way it sounds.
What’s a travel book you most wish you have “lived through”?
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is so cliche, but I’ve always been a big fan. I read the book for the first time during an extremely difficult transition in my life. There was so much to her story that resonated with me, and I find myself returning to it often. I really drew a lot of solace from that book.
Thank you so much Laura for joining us! Wishing you and James the best of luck in New Zealand!
Be sure to check out her blog and social media!
Travel blog: Willful and Wildhearted
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