Next on our blog series 'Why Every Woman Should Travel Solo' is Jeannie Mark. A wondering writer and freedom seeker hopeful, she chronicles her travel tales on her blog Nomadic Chick. Jeannie is also a speaker at the Asian Women's Empowerment (AWE) Conference this November.
With a bold idea of abandoning her thriving corporate career, Jeannie Mark swore she'd change her life. After selling all her earthly possessions, she set off on her new life in June of 2010 with the ultimate dream of combining her two favourite pastimes – travelling and writing.
Seeking the internet for inspiration, her search for like-minded female travellers were scarce. From thence, Nomadic Chick was born – an honest and humorous collection of tales for women looking to take the leap into solo travelling.
To date, Jeannie has completed the longest continuous journey in the Ultimate Train Challenge and her writing has appeared on Matador and Tripbase.
Occupation: Travel Blogger/Writer
Nationality: Canadian born, mixed Asian heritage
Interesting facts about yourself (bad habits are welcome): I worked at an engineering firm before I left to travel, I’m a notorious snorer (so don’t share a hostel room with me!) and I carry a yoga travel mat with me and do yoga nearly everyday.
3 things you won't leave home without: Lush hair products, they make amazing products for travellers that travel well; a small sleeping bag that’s great to keep warm or snuggle inside; my laptop, it’s seriously attached to my hip – I’ll even take it on a weekend trip!
'Travel' smells like: Sometimes garbage, sometimes food, never boring.
Guilty travel pleasure: Once in a while I’ll splurge on a fancy meal, instead of street food, which makes those meals special, so I take my time to savour each bite!
My name is Jeannie Mark and I quit my life
When I was about 18, I devoured a book about Andalusia and the wandering gypsies throughout history, becoming fascinated with their lifestyle. What’s not to like? They set their own rules, left when the urge hit them and creativity was an integral part of their culture. I was ready to sign up, so eventually I did!
Doubt and tunnel vision
I had always let doubt and fear hold me back from not only doing travel, but many other things. Those gypsy adventures I read about got lost in responsibility: being an adult for example, and I thought travel was something for younger people. My first solo trip was born out of the break up of my 11 year relationship. Suddenly I felt renewed and started to cultivate the things I loved that had been forgotten, travel being one of them. So in 2004, I went to Turkey alone and had so many memorable experiences.
Greatest challenge of them all
India, by far. I spent 3 months volunteering at an orphanage as the only foreigner at a village of 5,000 people, and then travelled alone after that. India is not a culture that leaves you feeling indifferent. It was challenging to do logistics, challenging being a solo woman who was treated with intense curiosity and it’s a culture that holds mystery and history, but is also relentless. Every few seconds there is visual, mental or physical stimulation that one cannot ignore.
I contracted a staph infection in India, which spread to my arms and face. It was frightening to deal with a serious medical problem alone, but I managed to keep my sanity and wits about me to get treatment. I was still volunteering when I contracted the infection, and if I had to relive the moment, I would have insisted on more comprehensive healthcare than what was available in the nearby town. I needed stronger drugs and didn’t get them initially, but should have.
But well worth it
The highlight of India was seeing the Taj Mahal on my birthday. I had seen photos of this iconic place for years and it was my dream to be there on a momentous occasion. What made it beautiful was sharing a silent communication with this place and even the travel itself, that I had the motivation to complete my goals and make it there.
Danger is relative
This will sound ‘out there’, but I’ve heard people say: “You shouldn’t go alone because you might get kidnapped and sold into slavery."
You can still do everything right, lock your door, not walk alone at night, carry a can of mace, but something could still happen. What I mean is bad luck is bad luck and I certainly don’t wish danger on anyone, but danger is relative.
"There are dangers everywhere in your hometown, does that stop you from living your life and doing the things you enjoy?"
Travelling the world is much the same, I go to a country that everyone says I shouldn’t visit knowing that danger is a possibility, but not a certainty. Mainstream media has always skewed the perception of danger, and time and again, I’ve found people for the most part, are helpful, kind and eager to learn about me, and where I come from. The world isn’t as scary as we’re led to believe. In fact, I’ve been more victimised in my hometown than I ever have travelling.
When it comes to safety, I don't do anything major that anyone else wouldn’t have to implement. Watch your bag, wear a money belt, be sure to lock up your belongings with a pacsafe. Those things are important if you want to make sure your stuff stays safe. I also carry around a rubber doorstop and a whistle on my keychain, those can come in handy!
Now and in the future
I think in essentials I’m exactly the same, but solo travel forced me to accept myself, flaws and all, and to also work on those flaws. I’ve become more aware of my choices and try to make better ones that are mine alone to make – the ones that make me the happiest, without negative interference from others. Having the time and space to go it alone gave me these gifts that I carry with me daily. So, in turn, it’s made me a more contented person overall, so if I’ve changed in anyway, I guess that would be it.
Motorcycling around the world (though tough to cross bodies of water) would be my choice expedition. I love the open road, the freedom and that sense of being present in the moment. It would be a unique way to see little known towns or cities and thrust myself into the hum of daily life.
"Allow yourself to make mistakes."
Maybe you ended up in a terrible hostel, when you could have chosen a slightly more expensive one. Or you got off on the wrong train stop, ate a salad and got a little ill. It is only through our mistakes do we grow and solo travel is all about growth and self-reliance.
What are your thoughts on Jeannie's adventures? Share with us your comments below.