Before she started traveling, Dana Newman thought she was pretty smart. She had always gotten good grades in school, and she could hold her own in Jeopardy. She had always been a very curious person, however it wasn’t until she started traveling that she realized everything else in life pales in comparison to seeing the world with your own eyes, and that traveling the world makes you realize how little you actually know!
After graduating university in 2008 she decided she wanted an adventure, so packed her bags and took off for Europe. But she didn’t just travel there – she moved.
What then ensued were a crazy cocktail of adventures across Europe and Asia including bumping into the Queen of England…kind of…and poking at giant tarantulas in the rain-forests of Thailand with sticks.
Dana Newman is our inspiring traveler of the week.
What do you love the most about travelling?
I’m a very curious person. I love learning about new places, and there’s nothing like seeing the world with your own eyes.
I’m awed by this world, both by the people in it and the miraculous array of different natural structures on it.
What inspired you to start travelling?
I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but sometime between 19 years old and 20 a switch got flipped and all of a sudden I went from never really seriously entertaining the idea of traveling to feeling deep within my soul the drive to see as much of this world as possible.
What is ‘Wanted an Adventure’ all about?
When I graduated from university in 2008, something simply pushed me to move to Europe. Not just to travel there, but to move there. I didn’t know what it was or why, but I knew I had to go!
I didn’t know a soul across the pond and had no connections, so I looked at the whole thing as one big adventure. I packed what I could fit into 2 duffle bags–sold at a yardsale what wouldn’t–and bought a one-way ticket to Prague in the Czech Republic, the country of my ancestors.
I wanted an adventure, and an adventure is certainly what I got!
Tell us about some of these adventures!
When I arrived in Prague, I had 2 months to find an apartment and get a job that would sponsor a more permanent visa for me, and then 1 more month to secure said visa before my 90-day tourist visa ran out.
Within those first 3 months I also enrolled in an intensive 4-week TEFL course; tracked down and met up with some of my “long-lost” Czech relatives from my grandmother’s side; traveled to the birthplace of my grandfather, who had been a politician in former Czechoslovakia and whose childhood home is decorated with a plaque in his honor; and traveled for a week to Egypt to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting the pyramids.
I’d say those first 90 days were pretty epic!
You sold everything to travel the world – was that scary?
Let’s just say that in the weeks leading up to my trip I started meditating daily–something I’d never before done and haven’t done since.
How do you afford to continue your travels – are you rich?!
HA! No. I wish, but no. I don’t travel continuously. I live and work in Germany, and being in Central Europe, this affords me the opportunity to travel quickly and easily all around the continent.
I then try to go on a bigger trip once or twice a year if savings allow.
One thing which you don’t like about travelling?
That dizzy, vertigo-like sensation I get on airplanes.
I don’t get it every time I fly, but when I do it really interrupts the movie I’m trying to watch!
Biggest cultural shock you have experienced while travelling?
My very first time abroad was during college as part of a study abroad program in Spain. I was supposed to spend 3 months in Granada…and made it all of 6 weeks before I went running home, pretty much crying.
I wrote a guest post on overcoming that less than successful travel experience here if you’re interested in the full story.
The coolest person you have met on your adventures?
Nah, just kidding…I know you were impressed, but I’ll tell you a secret: it’s just a cardboard cutout at the London Heathrow Airport. Shhhh.
All joking aside, back at the beginning of October, while visiting Koh Chang, Thailand, I went jungle trekking and our guide was this awesome guy who went by the name Jungleman Raht. And he certainly fit the bill.
The way he called out to the animals, coaxed a tarantula from its home with a stick, and just generally seemed one with the rain-forest around us left a strong and lasting impression on me.
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Funniest or most embarrassing travel moment?
This doesn’t really fall into the category of funny so much as just weird, but while I was living in Prague, one afternoon I traveled from the city out to the countryside by train.
It was pretty empty, save for me and this one guy across the aisle. He seemed normal enough, until I saw him take a cracker or small biscuit out of a baggie, bring it up to the collar of his t-shirt, and slip it inside. Huh? A few seconds later he did it again. Why in the world is this guy sticking crackers down his shirt?
My question was answered shortly when a gray rat with a long pinkish tail crawled out the top of his shirt, around his neck, and back down and in on the other side.
Which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?
New Zealand and mainland Thailand.
Most practical piece of advice for those planning travel?
Try seeing the whole thing as one big adventure. Everything from planning the trip, to all the buses and planes you’ll have to take to get to your destination, to the endlessly long lines you might get stuck in.
I’m not saying this is easy, believe me, it’s not! But thinking of the whole thing as an adventure helps keep me sane after I’ve been up for 20 hours and feel like I must be going in circles at the airport.
*Epiphany: I just realized this might be the key to a happy life as well…*
Three things you can’t travel without?
Hand warmers (knitted by my mom!), snacks, and sunglasses.
Why should people travel?
Before I started traveling, I thought I was pretty knowledgeable. I mean, I’d always gotten good grades in school and could hold my own in Jeopardy. But with every trip I’ve taken, I’ve simultaneously had my eyes opened to so many new things out there in the world while at the same time been reminded of how little I actually know!
Travel teaches us about the world, about ourselves, and serves us with a good dose of humility and a reminder that we don’t know as much as we might have thought.