It’s Friday! That means it’s almost time to enjoy the weekend … and it’s now time to meet this week’s Featured Female Traveler, Sue Bedford.
Sue is a travel writer from Vancouver, Canada who has backpacked through over 50 countries in the last decade and written a travelogue/memoir to capture and share these experiences. Her book, It’s Only the Himalayas and Other Tales of Miscalculation from an Overconfident Backpacker, was recently published by Brindle & Glass. As if that wasn’t impressive enough for a young writer, she’s also the indie travel columnist for Outpost Magazine and has written for New Internationalist Magazine and Dreamscapes Magazine, among others.
In our introduction to one another, Sue shared her prophetic take on travel, saying, “While rosy moments may constitute the prettiest Instagram photos, it’s the ridiculous adventures that define the backpacker experience.”
MM: Where was your first trip abroad?
S: Not including all-inclusive Caribbean resorts with my parents, my first trip abroad was to Japan with a group from my high school. I was fascinated by the toilets that hum to life when you sit down and are accompanied by a control panel—that is, until I was playing with the buttons and accidentally sprayed myself in the face with the bidet function.
MM: Oh gross! Bet you won’t make that mistake again!
MM: Where is your favorite destination?
S: Nepal. My best friend and I trekked with our dads to Annapurna Basecamp, and it was simultaneously the best and worst trip I’ve ever done. We were so underprepared! I didn’t even know what a trek was and showed up in jeans, and my dad (who’s in his sixties and a good 20 lbs. overweight) “trained” for this Himalayan undertaking by wandering around the parkade for 15 minutes every lunch hour. Physically, it was terrible; my lungs and knees and bowels (yes, them) brayed in excruciation. Visually, however, it was majestic; the frozen rhododendrons and finger waterfalls and tremendous peaks of the Himalayas creeping up around us. It also proved that we’re all capable of more than we think when thrust into dramatic situations.
MM: What place tops your bucket list?
S: I’ve always wanted to see the northern lights so perhaps the Yukon. When I was a young child I had a high fever so my dad brought outside. This was in rural Ontario, and apparently the northern lights were glowing overhead. But I was so irate at being drawn from my cozy bed that I refused to look!
MM: Who is your favorite travel companion? What makes him/her so great?
S: I have two. The first is my best friend Sara because she’s just as eager to let me copy her answers on the Open Water scuba exam as she is to perform minor surgery (while drunk) on me in a Vietnamese guesthouse. The second is my dad because he didn’t become a backpacker until he was 62 and so, while his naivety can be exasperating, his enthusiasm is always invigorating.
MM: What advice would you like to share with other female travelers?
S: Female backpackers experience different challenges than male backpackers, but I don’t believe traveling (in most regions) is more dangerous for a woman than for a man. Being aware of your surroundings and avoiding unnecessary risks are the keys to staying safe for anybody, anywhere.
MM: Thoughts on traveling alone?
S: I’ve backpacked alone in Australia/New Zealand, Europe, and Latin America. It can be daunting, especially when you’re overwhelmed in a new city, and when you don’t have somebody to watch your backpack when you have to pee in a public area. However, it also forces you to meet new friends (which can result in unexpected adventures) and proves you’re capable of tackling the world alone.
MM: Any thoughts about relationships and travel?
S: Relationships you cultivate on the road are sometimes the most authentic because people are especially honest. When you only have a couple days or one afternoon or even just a bus ride with a person, you lose your inhibitions and demolish your walls because so what if they don’t think you’re “cool”? This makes for rich conversations, ridiculous jokes, and genuine connections.
MM: What is your most memorable travel moment?
S: I have a few, but one is definitely dancing in a traditional funeral ceremony in a Bornean longhouse amid human skulls with smoking cigarettes in their mouths as somebody sang into a karaoke machine. It was a strange afternoon.
MM: This girl’s got spunk, craziness (of the best form) and loads of stories to take you far far away with their location, and bring you right back home with their authenticity.
This weekend, I have an assignment for you: check out Sue’s website to read excerpts from her hilarious book and find links to order it HERE and connect to her Instagram HERE.
And heed this advice: “To travel you don’t have to be a stoic athlete with an anthropology Masters and the ability to construct a winterized shelter out of your pajamas. All you need is the desire to go!”
What are you waiting for? GO!