ON THE HIGHWAY TO HAPPINESS…
The pandemic has undoubtedly influenced lots of us and the way we tend to perceive our own life. We have adjusted ourselves to many surprising situations, the ones we had never had a chance to deal with before. This in turn has taken its toll not only on our mind, but also on relationships with other people.
In some cases, such an unfavorable reality has made us take major decisions related to our life and the way we would like to experience it. Surely, many people have taken up new passions or started following their neighbors’ lives, and if that proves impossible, the lives of celebrities having their moment of glory.
However, we should remember about the fact that somewhere there, on the horizon, something much bigger and more interesting is awaiting us – namely, the world. It offers us infinitely many attractions, so that we could fill our schedule fully until our ripe old age. We just should define what we need and visualize our goals. And if this doesn’t help, we need to reach for a map and choose the place we’d like to visit at a given moment. After buying a few guidebooks and browsing the Internet with its wide collection of information, we will be able to take long journeys into the unknown. That will allow us to admire the wonders of nature, as well as different types of cuisine typical of the regions we happen to visit. Besides this, we will get a chance to make new acquaintances in this truly weird time.
I’m pleased to introduce you to my today’s interviewee – Jillian Pfennig – an independent woman, who combines her passions for writing, creating art and traveling in one person. She will tell you how it feels to be a female nomad in the 21st century and about the ways of adjusting to such a unique lifestyle.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Jillian: I am a freelance writer, artist, and photographer. I’m passionate about sharing my art/writing, exploring the world, and meeting new people along the way.
Passion Piece: You’re an extraordinary woman, who decided to resign from an everyday comfort in favor of leading a nomadic life and road tripping around the USA. Why did you decide on such a change during the pandemic?
Jillian: One of the primary reasons for choosing this nomadic lifestyle was my mental health. I was in a one-bedroom apartment and could feel myself getting more and more depressed/claustrophobic. I didn’t have an outdoor space to escape the monotony. I decided it was more important to adapt to the reality of what was happening and give myself some freedom to enjoy life in a safe way.
Passion Piece: How do you choose your travel destinations? Is there a rule or you choose random places on the map?
Jillian: Weather has been a big factor in deciding my destinations. Due to nature being a huge source of joy for me, traveling just outside of the tourist season when the weather is still manageable for the area has been the key to my traveling. I spent last winter in places around the Southwest, May at the Atlantic Ocean and headed back south once winter came around again.
Passion Piece: What should one prepare for before deciding on leaving an ordinary life and traveling through the country?
Jillian: One of the biggest adjustments for me has been the uncertainty. You need to keep things packed lightly and have to constantly adjust to new things. Something as simple as “will this new place have plates,” down to getting caught in the mountains in the dark because they don’t have streetlights. You have to be prepared for anything.
Passion Piece: How long do you plan to lead such a lifestyle? What are the pros and cons of being a nomad in the 21st century?
Jillian: As the world begins to open up (hopefully), settling back into a permanent location has more and more appeal. The cons of being nomadic are that your sense of community (at least in-person community) is gone. Not seeing friends, have a place to volunteer, or being able to plan events/parties can take a toll.
The pros are that I’ve gotten to go on a constant adventure. I’ve seen a lot of the United States and had an opportunity to appreciate the diverse landscapes we have in this country—from sand dunes and red rocks, to tree covered mountains and beaches. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of wildlife in their natural habitats, such as wild javelina, horses, deer, alligators, etc. And I’ve also gotten to stay in multiple unique places, such as a houseboat and a caboose.
Passion Piece: Which places have stolen your heart? Why?
Jillian: One of my favorite things is how nature can make you feel small in the absolutely best way possible. Valley of Fire is outside of Vegas and totally worth the drive. It’s filled with red rock formations and is breathtaking. White Sands National Park in New Mexico is another place that is incredible. It was definitely surprising to me because I didn’t know we had such a place in the US.
Passion Piece: You’re also an artist. What kind of art are you passionate about?
Jillian: I dabble in most mediums, but photography is by far my favorite. I love art that invokes emotion and plays with social constructs. During the pandemic, I went from mostly taking portraits of other people to stepping in front of the camera and beginning to take some self-portraits.
Passion Piece: Is the love for street art related to your travels?
Jillian: I have experimented in spray painting a handful of times and fell in love with it. It definitely requires its own set of skills and I admire people that can make largescale provocative art. But yes, I also enjoy seeing how different cities and counties within cities use street art to define that area.
Passion Piece: You went through two major injuries which have changed your life forever. How did you manage to come back to normal life? How have these injuries shaped you as a person?
Jillian: During both injuries, I had to go through a grieving process. The former life that I had envisioned was no longer attainable. I had to stop trying to get back to the life I thought I would have/wanted and begin making the life I did have the best that it could be. Both injuries also deepened my sense of empathy for other people’s pain and suffering.
Passion Piece: Besides being a constant traveler and an artist, you’re passionate about food. How being a foodie influences your travel choices? What kind of food is your favorite one?
Jillian: When it comes to food, majority of the time I eat very basic meals, so when I do indulge in a food experience, I like to make it exactly that, an experience. New Orleans was one of those recent experiences. Coming from the Midwest, I didn’t grow up eating much Southern or Cajun food, so I had a lot of fun trying so many staples of Southern cooking. I also love learning fun facts about cooking, like when I went to an olive farm and learned the process of making olive oil. Fun fact: always buy extra virgin olive oil because it is the cleanest version you can get.
And I don’t really have a favorite food. However, I do like to try dishes that are unique to the area I’m visiting, like jackfruit in Arizona, alligator in New Orleans, and Chesapeake Bay crabs in Maryland
Passion Piece: What do you love doing in your free time?
Jillian: Most of my free time is spent with people I love, but I also like to read or craft. And I am probably also planning my next adventure.
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Jillian: Hopefully I have figured out a way to continue traveling often while also having a home base somewhere. I also hope to continue establishing my career doing what I love to do. I’m the creative director of my own life and hope to develop a working lifestyle as a creative director in the future.
Passion Piece: Thank you very much for this truly inspiring conversation and I just can’t wait for an account of your new trips!
See you around!
Photos by: Jillian Pfennig