WHEN THE WORLD IS AT YOUR FEET…
Growing up we keep learing about the world, first we are taught by our parents, then teachers and when we’re a little bit older its picture is presented to us by people who happen to appear on our way. Despite the fact it may seem that we know a lot, since in the era of the Internet everything is just at our fingertips, having a moment for reflection, a following question arises “Are you really sure?”.
It’s the question which will certainly open many eyes, showing people that what they have known until now is just a fraction of possibilities, which are just waiting for them. And soon their biggest adventure of a lifetime will begin, the one which is popularly known as traveling. This process is not only about visiting new places and seeing new cultural monuments, but it’s also about absorbing everything what’s in between and getting to know people, who will tell us more than the most precious painting in the world.
I’m pleased to introduce you to my today’s interviewee – Amber Haggerty – who is an avid traveler and blogger and most importantly the citizen of the world who will tell us a little about her passion and will reveal why it is certainly worth getting out of your comfort zone.
Passion Piece: Could you tell my readers a few words about yourself?
Amber: Absolutely! Hi, I’m Amber. I am many things, but among them I’m a feminist, a millennial, and a World Traveler. I am originally from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado. I grew up riding horses, training wild mustangs, and exploring the world with the guidance and support of my incredible secondary school, the Jefferson County Open School. I’m tough, strong, and opinionated, but some of my dearest values are kindness, compassion, empathy for others. A friend once told me that I would make a great parole officer, which I think is probably true!
I started traveling the world in college, and I’ve been taking trips ever since. Most of my travel has been through North America, Latin America, and Europe, but I also studied abroad in the Middle East. During the summer of 2020, my partner and I moved to Europe; you can find me in Cork, the second-largest city in Ireland.
Passion Piece: You’ve got a traveler’s soul. What planted this attitude in your mind?
Amber: What a kind thing to say, thank you! I credit my love of traveling to my secondary school, the Jefferson County Open School. My first educational travel experience was a canoe trip down the Colorado River with ten of my middle school classmates. We learned about river geology and ecology, and we traveled at a pace that allowed time for us to steep in the canyons. It was my first introduction to slow travel, where you soak in a place until it changes you.
I don’t recall a specific thought or event that sparked my love of travel, but I know that I decided when I was young that I wanted to see the world, but frustratingly, I graduated high school with an unstamped passport. I just had this aching feeling that my world was so, so small, and traveling had so much to teach me.
My first trip abroad did not disappoint. I spent a month learning Spanish in a language school in Guatemala, soaking in a place that not many Americans have seen. I lived with a host family and practiced my Spanish and drank mojitos muddled with fresh blackberries. I made new friends and danced in a rooftop bar to Romani music and finally got my passport stamped. That trip – like every trip before it and every trip after it – changed me, and I let myself be changed. In my view, the commitment to travel, and a willingness to be changed by your journey, are all it takes to cultivate a traveler’s soul.
Passion Piece: That deep interest in exploring the world made you set up your own website – Amber Everywhere. What’s the main purpose of your blog? What can your readers find there?
Amber: The goal of Amber Everywhere is, first and foremost, to encourage others to travel. I want to help people feel the sort of belonging, purpose, empathy, and expansiveness that travel has afforded me. Our existences can sometimes feel so small it’s suffocating; travel helps you to force your world to be bigger. People around the world think differently than you, they care about different issues, they eat different food; there are so many ways to live a life on this planet!
The content on Amber Everywhere is designed to support and encourage readers who want to be World Travelers. World Travelers are students of the world; they’re always working to better understand their own privilege and contextualize their existence. My readers know that travel is inherently political, and their goal is always to learn while respecting the place they’re visiting. They love travel because they see it as an opportunity to shift their perspective and grow into better global citizens.
Some of the advice on Amber Everywhere is very practical, while other posts focus on helping readers to shift their mindsets. My readers are interested in traveling the world and want to do it in a way that strives to be ethical, culturally-sensitive, expansive, and budget-friendly. They’re World Travelers at heart, even if they haven’t taken their first trip abroad just yet.
Passion Piece: What should one prepare for if one wants to start traveling on a bigger scale?
Amber: If you want to start traveling on a bigger scale, you’ll need to do some serious reckoning with fear. Fear is going to be your biggest adversary, but also your greatest tool. Work with it. Fear exists to help protect us, but it doesn’t know when to stop. You want fear on your side, because it’s going to be the thing that tells you, “I probably shouldn’t talk to that person,” or “I think I need to walk faster, this place doesn’t feel safe.” Those are helpful!
The trick is, fear can also manifest as self-critical voices that say things like, “You’re not good enough.” Or, “Other people have been doing this longer than you.” or “You don’t deserve this.” Those critical voices are also trying to protect you, but they’re not going to succeed because they’re just holding you back. Spend some time really checking in with your intuition so that you can start to tell the difference between your inner naysayer and legitimate warnings from your subconscious.
Passion Piece: How to avoid the most common travel mistakes?
Amber: I believe that the most common travel mistake that people make is not traveling. Travel can be scary and expensive and time consuming and intimidating, but I want people to do it anyway. Fear is a really powerful force, and it can convince us to opt out of experiences–there’s a little voice in our minds that says, “But what if X goes wrong?” and for whatever reason it’s so much quieter than the voice that says, “But what if I try anyway?”
Aside from that, most travel mistakes come down to being ill prepared or less experienced. Don’t beat yourself up for the things you don’t know, but do try to do some research before you leave! Pack light. Bring comfortable shoes. Know a few key activities you’d like to do each day, but leave yourself lots of time to explore. Cultivate a bias towards adventure. Make a plan for how you’ll manage your money while you’re abroad. Be courageous, and take a few steps outside of your comfort zone. Most of all, have a wonderful time exploring–if you’re learning and growing and making connections and seeing the world, you’re probably on the right track.
Passion Piece: Not everyone is born to be a solo traveler. What tips would you share for traveling with friends?
Amber: Solo travel can be a wonderful experience, but I absolutely love traveling with other people! It gives me energy and helps me to connect with them in a way that’s very hard to do when you’re just hanging out at home. If solo travel isn’t your thing, I have two pieces of advice for anyone planning to travel with friends: first, choose your group well, and, second, take responsibility for yourself.
On choosing your group: not every friend is going to be a good candidate for going on your next trip! Someone you enjoy getting drinks with may or may not be the best travel buddy. Align on your values and the overall plan for your trip before you go, because these things are hard to reconcile once you’re already on the road. Are you going to spend your trip exploring or partying? Is this a budget trip, or are you going after the finer things? What’s your “Why?” for this trip, and does it align with your potential travel partners’ motivation for their trip?
Finally, a lot of the success of your trip will depend on how well you and your travel partner(s) manage yourselves. Take accountability for your wellness on the trip. Some of the worst moments from my travels with others have been when one member of the group was physically uncomfortable and didn’t take the necessary steps to take care of themselves. Sleep if you need to sleep. Eat when you’re hungry (and before you’re hangry). Wear sunscreen. Pack appropriately. Manage yourself, and don’t expect others to take care of you. You can’t control what other people on your trip will do, but you can always strive to take care of yourself so you’re not the one responsible for bringing the group down.
Passion Piece: What’s your favorite travel adventure you’ve experienced and why?
Amber: I’ll never forget traveling around Iceland during the summer of 2014. It was my sister’s first time out of the country and my partner and I wanted to take her backpacking around Europe. Our first stop was in Iceland, where we spent 4 days exploring with our backpacks. We hitchhiked around the island, often catching rides with locals and German tourists–the only two types of drivers who seemed to be willing to pick us up. The sun was up almost the entire day, so we had lots of energy…
For our first night, we hitchhiked to Geysir, a natural geyser that erupts every 10 minutes or so, instead of every 44 minutes like Old Faithful. We arrived close to midnight and had the geyser entirely to ourselves, and we watched it in the twilight as it erupted a few times. When we had our fill, we found a flat spot nearby to set up camp for the night. By the time we left in the morning, the tour buses were rolling in, with small crowds of people making their way to the geyser. When I think about it, I can still feel the magic of spending so much time alone with the geyser, basking in one of the most beautiful and longest lasting sunsets I’ve ever seen.
It had all of the hallmarks of a perfect adventure for me: great company, beautiful scenery, plenty of time to explore, and lots of inside jokes.
Passion Piece: How different are the suburbs of Denver from the Wicklow Mountains? What do you love about Ireland and why did you choose this particular destination?
Amber: Denver and Wicklow are both places with streaks of wildness and a resistance to being tamed. In that sense, they’re kindred spirits. In my mind, Denver is a frontier city, a place that was largely ignored for years and only recently became a popular destination for popular people. Wicklow is much the same, booming only recently due to Ireland’s economic upturn in the last two decades.
Geographically, of course, they’re quite different. Denver is a city in the High Plains, surrounded by grasslands, and its trademark is weather that changes rapidly (though, of course, many people claim this about the weather where they live). Wicklow, in contrast, is a coastal county where you’re never more than an hour’s drive from the sea. The weather is characterized by its evenness, without much variation in temperature or weather patterns. While the wildness of Denver might scoop you up and bash you around and attempt to dry you out, the wildness of Wicklow will slowly absorb you into its neverending greenery. Nature in Wicklow is gentle but unstoppable, forcing people to constantly and mercilessly cut back the plants that are trying to subsume their homes and gardens and roads.
My partner’s father grew up in Wicklow, so when we decided to move to Ireland it was the most logical place to start our journey. After a year or so, we moved on to Cork City, and I’m smitten with the city’s rebellious, always-punching-up spirit.
Passion Piece: Do you plan to change your place of living again? If yes, which country would you choose and why?
Amber: For the time being, I love living in Cork City. Looking towards the future, it’s very possible that I’ll return to the US, a place with incredible natural beauty and seemingly endless intrigue.
I’m also drawn to living in Spain; I’ve only traveled there briefly, but I fell in love over the course of a long weekend. The moment I fell in love? On a drive from Portugal to Seville. We drove for miles along a motorway that had these large, beautiful flower bushes planted along the median, each placed a few meters apart. It was romantic, yet you had the sense the bushes were actually quite hardy given the tough and dusty terrain. It felt like that highway really captured the magic that I pictured while reading Paulo Coehlo’s The Alchemist.
The truth is I’ve never been very good at guessing my own next move. If you’d have told me in 2019 that I’d move to Europe the following year, I think I would’ve been excited but deeply surprised. Surprising things can happen, especially if you can conspire with all of the wonderful, unknowable forces of the universe. When opportunities present themselves, I try my best to say yes.
Passion Piece: What do you love doing in your free time? What other passions besides traveling do you have?
Amber: When I’m not traveling or writing, I love to connect with friends, practice Baptiste and Kaiut yoga, read, listen to true crime podcasts, cook vegetables, and sip cortados. I also picked up a pandemic hobby – houseplants (I have 80+ of them at last count). I heard someone say once that for millennials, houseplants are the new pets, and pets are the new kids. So, I guess it’s a sign that I’m settling down a little!
Passion Piece: Where do you see yourself in 10 year’s time? Still as a blogger?
Amber: In 10 years’ time, I hope most of all that I can be doing my small part to make the world a kinder, more compassionate place. I focused my energy on travel because it’s such an expansive experience for the traveler – you’re out of your comfort zone, you’re learning about yourself and other people, and you’re (literally) in a new place. Travel has the potential to be a sort of metamorphosis for our souls, helping us to change and develop in unexpected ways during a set period.
That said, I hope that I’ll still be writing in 10 years. Moreover, I hope that I’ll be able to continue traveling, meeting interesting people, and sharing stories that inspire others. I love blogging because it gives me a sense of freedom – I enjoy curating my own content and being the arbiter of quality for my site. Ultimately, as long as there’s a need for the messages and stories I have to share, I’ll continue blogging!
Passion Piece: Which motto would you like to share with my readers?
Amber: Done is better than perfect.
If you want to travel, do it now! If your dream trip is a week in Thailand but you’re living on a college student’s budget, don’t fret –just adjust. Use your school’s resources or fundraise to study abroad. Plan a different trip. Find a job teaching English and work while you’re there. Get creative with the details, but travel anyway. Many of my most rewarding, life-altering trips were to places I knew very little about before I bought my flights. Embrace the wildness of it all and trust that you’ll end up where you most need to be.
Passion Piece: Thank you very much for this truly inspiring conversation and I wish you many unforgettable trips in the future!
See you around!
Photos by: Amber Haggerty