Ava, you say travel is your #1 addiction, what do you think makes it so addictive?
For me, it’s the people I meet. Each person has such a unique story and something to teach me. Besides, waking up each day with no yesterday to hold you back, and no future obligations to pin you down is the most liberating feeling in the world.
It’s more addicting than crack, or at least how I imagine crack would be. I lack experience in that department.
Do you have a first travel memory that sticks in your mind?
This isn’t from my first time traveling, but it sticks out like it was yesterday; I was walking to Mandarin class (Shi Da in Taipei) when I heard a mother calming her crying toddler by saying in Mandarin “Look! Look at the foreigner!” the way someone might say “Look at the puppy!”
I glanced to my right to see that she was pointing right at me. I felt a bit like a circus animal. She didn’t realize I could understand her, and it was clear from her tone that she didn’t mean it in a derogatory way. It was a shock to me, though. It made me realize I wasn’t in Kansas anymore, Toto.
You moved to Taipei and studied Mandarin…that’s pretty impressive! What was that like? Bit of a culture shock?
I did! I had a really hard time during my first week there. I remember calling my mom, almost wanting to return home, and she told me “Ava, you can do anything for a few months, just stick it out a little longer.” I’m glad she gave me that advice, because I came to realize that culture shock is something everyone goes through when in a new place. Once I settled in and made friends, I fell in love with the city.
Few places are so international with such welcoming locals as Taiwan. Everyone was so patient with me while I was learning to use Mandarin. They always praised my abilities. I couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed that we are so impatient with non-English speakers where I’m from. The Taiwanese taught me a thing or two about hospitality – and spicy hot pot. Mmmmm boy!
Are you very fluent in Mandarin? Have you discovered any good language learning tips?
I am conversational. I say that because I can speak, but reading and writing are very difficult for me. Anyone who has studied Mandarin would probably agree – the characters are very difficult to memorize.
As for learning tips, nothing works as well as immersion. Language partners are also a great idea – they are basically free teachers in exchange for a little bit of your help with English. It’s a great way to make friends and learn the language. One can certainly find a partner and chat via Skype if immersion isn’t possible. It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than Rosetta Stone! (well, it’s free, so yeah)
So how did you discover the world of blogging and what inspired you to set up Be My Travel Muse?
I started blogging about travel for a friend from my Taipei days – Carrie Kellenberger who blogs at My Several Worlds. She was so supportive of my writing on her site, as were her readers, that I decided to make my own site to track more of my travels outside of Taipei.
Your site is fairly new, how’s your blogging journey been so far? Any stand-out things you’ve discovered?
I started my site in April and have to say I love the journey. Each time I get a new comment or someone mentions me on Twitter, my heart goes pitter-patter. I absolutely adore everyone who stops by to read my stuff and want them to know how appreciated they are. I’ve received a few emails from readers who appreciate my writings about Taiwan and simply want me to know that they like my blogs, and those are what really make my day.
How would you describe your travel style?
Jump in head first and plan almost nothing. I never intend to be so ill-prepared, but it seems to happen every time. I suppose that’s just my travel modus operandi. it makes for some very interesting stories, at the very least. I’ve overstayed visas, hitchhiked because I didn’t plan a mode of transport, and found myself freezing because I forgot a warm enough jacket (thanks for cuddling with me in Colorado, by the way) on more occasions than I’d like to admit!
Rumour has it you’re embarking on a big adventure soon, is that right?
I have no idea where exactly I’ll go, when I’ll return, or what exactly I’ll do, but it will involve much SCUBA diving, hiking, finding off-the-beaten-path destinations, and most importantly, will chronicle some crazy adventures.
What are your hopes for the future of Be My Travel Muse?
So far, BMTM has focused on my past adventures. It’s high time I have some new ones. Up until I leave, I’ll be writing all about the phases of preparation to leave on an open-ended journey such as the one I’ll be embarking on shortly. Thereafter, expect crazy stories, adventures, and general debauchery from my site.
My greatest hopes are that there are souls out there who wish to read along, see a few beautiful pictures, and maybe even inspire others to do what I’m about to do – shed belongings, needs, and obligations, and simply have an adventure.
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