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Introducing TST’s New Writer: Jessica Dawdy

It’s a brave new world for Twenty-Something Travel and I am already loving my two new staff writers and the terrific ideas they have. At the start of the month I introduced you guys to Kay, and now I am pleased to introduce the second new face on the site, Jessica Dawdy.

While I’ve never met Jessica in person, we have both been members of Travel Blog Success for a long time, and I have admired her writing on Ways of Wanderers. She is a true adventurer who has lived abroad in SEVEN different countries since she and her boyfriend left Canada in 2011. As a serial expat and determined nomad, she has experience with working, volunteering and even WWOOFing abroad, which I think will make her a fabulous resource and a great new voice for the site.

Hey Jessica! Can you introduce yourself?

Hello! I’m Jessica, and I’ve been slowly working and volunteering my way around the world for the last 2.5 years. I’m currently finishing up a year teaching English in Japan, and I’ll be calling Thailand home starting in April.

When did you start traveling, and why?

I wish I had a more profound travel origin story – like maybe growing up with a nomadic family or experiencing a life-changing event that stirred me to finally go for it. In reality, I was living in Toronto in early 2011, and my boyfriend, Brent, heard about WWOOFing from some friends. At the time, I had always thought of traveling as something I would do “someday” when I was older (and presumably richer). Brent and I were both curious about how WWOOFing worked, and once we started researching, we began to realize that traveling didn’t have to wait; if we participated in work exchanges like WWOOFing, traveling was completely doable right now. In September 2011, we left for our first Workaway exchange in France, and we’ve been moving from country to country ever since.

What would you say your travel style is?

I mostly travel with Brent, but lately I’ve been doing more solo travel as well. I think it’s pretty common for couples who travel together regularly to gradually develop an unspoken system for who takes care of what. For example, I tend to do a lot of the pre-trip research, but Brent tends to be the main problem solver when those plans go wrong (as travel plans have a way of doing). It’s jarring (in a good way) to get out on my own sometimes and challenge myself to handle the responsibilities that I normally pass off to Brent.

And I’m definitely a budget traveler. I’ve mostly funded my travels by working in different countries, and I’m always looking for new ways to stretch those earnings even further and travel even more.

Tell us a little bit about where you’ve been. Where has been your favorite destination so far?

The majority of my traveling has been around Western Europe, and Asia. Japan and Italy pretty much tie as my favorite countries. I’m about to leave Japan after teaching here for a year, and I’m really going to miss it. What I love about Japan is that every time I think I understand it, something happens to make me realize that I haven’t even scratched the surface. Japanese culture is so layered and complex – I’ve never been anywhere else where traditions and rituals run so deep. As for Italy, I still have dreams about the food, the wine is cheap and fantastic, and the people are charmingly genuine.

Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Where are you dying to go?

In a few weeks, Brent and I are moving to Chiang Mai and we’re planning to be based there for about 6 months. After 2.5 years of frequently changing jobs, we’re taking a shot at working full-time as freelance writers. I was able to travel a little around SE Asia when I was working in Thailand last year, but as an English teacher, my travels were limited to weekends and a paltry 2 weeks of vacation. I’m excited to finally visit the countries I didn’t get to see, and spend longer in some of the places I enjoyed the first time.

Having spent a lot of time in Asia, I’m dying to hit a new continent soon. If our plans work out in Chiang Mai, South America is definitely next on the list.

What do you do when you’re not traveling?

For the last little while, when I’m not traveling, I’ve been teaching. My job in Japan involves teaching English to all ages – 3-year-olds all the way up to adults. Teaching has definitely been one of the most challenging jobs I’ve ever had. When it goes well, it can be the most rewarding job in the world; but when it sucks, it’s pretty painful. I also run every day and I love to cook (I’ve become pretty creative with a frying pan, since ovens are basically unicorns in Asian homes).

 Why do you think that your twenties are an important time to travel?

Your twenties are this messy, confusing, amazing decade where you basically – without sounding too cheesy – discover yourself and become who you are. I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t positively affected by travel, and so if these are the years where I’m supposed to figure things out, I want travel to be one of the influences that shapes me.

These are the years when you finally graduate school, and for the first time your path in life isn’t clearly laid out for you. You start making these life-changing, long-term decisions: What your career will be; where you’ll live; which relationships you’ll invest in. Not everyone who puts off traveling for “later” will end up actually doing it, but like the other important decisions you make in your twenties, if you choose to travel now, it’s probably going to become a permanent part of your life. The world is enormous and there’s a lot to see, so it makes sense to start right now, with the rest of your life ahead of you to keep exploring.

Tell us a bit about the Ways of Wanderers.

Like a lot of travel blogs, Ways of Wanderers started out as a journal – a way to keep a record of my travel experiences. I still write more narrative posts sometimes, but I’ve also gradually tried to change Ways of Wanderers into a resource, documenting where to go, what to do, and how to do it all on a budget. I spent a long time thinking that I needed a lot of money in order to travel, and I feel like many other people are being held back by a similar misconception. Through my blog, I try to show people that if you really want to travel, there are lots of ways to do it. I had virtually zero travel experience before Brent and I left Canada, and I try to write honestly and demonstrate that it’s ok if you have no idea what you’re doing sometimes, because you’ll figure it all out eventually.

What do you hope to bring to Twenty-Something Travel?

I’ve traveled as a volunteer, on a work permit, and now (fingers crossed) as a freelancer. I hope I can share all of these experiences, and highlight some of the diverse options out there for making travel affordable in your twenties.

I tend to live in each country I visit for long enough that I feel more like a temporary expat than a traveler passing through. So I think I can present different countries from that expat perspective, writing about how to experience a place like a local, even if you only have a few days there.

Any other weird facts about yourself to share?

Last November, Brent and I were in the Philippines when Super Typhoon Haiyan hit. We were trapped on Boracay for 5 days, with 1 of those days spent battling a mob at the boat dock trying to get off the island; and another spent crouched beside about 10 other stranded tourists in a hostel with no power. We knew the storm was enormous, but we had no way of knowing whether we were in for a big storm, or whether this was literally a life-or-death situation. It was definitely one of the most dramatic experiences of my life, and I don’t want to trivialize the disaster by calling it “weird”.

But months later, back in our Japanese home as if nothing ever happened, Brent and I still just shake our heads like “Were we seriously in one of the biggest storms in recorded history?” At the end of the whole thing, “weird” is really the only way to describe it.

6 Responses to Introducing TST’s New Writer: Jessica Dawdy

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) March 16, 2014 at 9:27 PM #

    Congrats, Jessica! I’ve been reading Ways of Wanderers since before I left on my own long-term travels, so I’m really excited to see what she adds to the TST community—her stories are always really inspiring and thoughtful and it’s always so nice to read about someone else out there who is living her dreams and making a travel lifestyle work! Definitely one of the most fearless people I know and a great addition to the site!

  2. Anna @ The Blonde Banana March 16, 2014 at 9:34 PM #

    Looking forward to reading you posts!!

  3. Colleen Brynn March 17, 2014 at 5:32 AM #

    Oh, I’m a huge fan of Jess, so this makes me very happy!
    I can also say that teaching is such a hard job. I am volunteering at a school in Mumbai right now for 2 months and I have the same feeling – when it is good, it is really good. When it is not, I feel like I never want to step foot in another classroom.
    Can’t wait to read Jessica’s contributions! x

  4. Hammad Tariq March 17, 2014 at 2:39 PM #

    Good to have you here Jessica. Looking forward to your posts. Also, you may want to consider living in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka as a temporary expat as well. Great countries and they are a bit different from countries of South East Asia.

  5. Lisa - Wee Wanders March 18, 2014 at 11:14 AM #

    Congratulations Jessica – I think you writing for twenty-something travel will be a winning combination!

    Settling in Chiang Mai sounds ideal…I will be visiting this summer for the first time but I have only heard amazingly positive things about it. Happy travels 🙂

  6. Heather March 20, 2014 at 2:31 PM #

    I’ve been enjoying Jessica’s blog for some time now and am looking forward to reading her contributions here!

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