Meet Meghan, author of the blog Seek.Do.Love. She is truly inspirational: Megan is curious, passionate. She loves to explore new countries while connecting with people and she has such amazing travel stories to tell, it makes you want to book a flight ticket right away.
Tell us about yourself
Aloha ladies! My name is Megan, I’m 29 years old and trying to rock the last year of my 20’s (so far, so good, in case you were as worried as I am). From the time I was born, I’ve never been one to stay in one place for long. I was born in Germany and grew up in Annandale, Virginia, located just outside of Washington D.C. I went to school in the New River Valley, moved to Maui a year after college, and then island hopped over to Oahu before recently relocating to Charleston, South Carolina. Each place has had a serious impact on my life and shaped my adventurous travel philosophy and generous spirit.
I love being outside in nature. On any given day you’ll find me at the beach or on a hike with my drooly, floppy, petite puppy, Koko—who just so happens to be a mastiff rescue, weighing in at 115 pounds (but try telling him that). *side note: he is currently sitting on my lap causing me to awkwardly type around his adorable back fat rolls. I’m watching in horror as a long piece of drool slowly works its way down towards my keyboard.
Some of my passions besides traveling include surfing, swimming, hiking, teaching, animals, teaching animals (just kidding, but what kind of job options are available in that realm?), eating, drinking, planning a new trip, talking to people about their trips, looking at photos of trips, reminiscing on past trips, writing about trips—okay, so basically travel.
I love taking photos and telling stories, but most of all, I love connecting with people.
When did you get bitten by the travel bug?
My parents were stationed in Germany, which is where I was born. Apparently, I traveled all over Europe with the two of them, and it was a great time! I just don’t remember any of it! I attribute these early years towards my need for adventure.
What propelled a want to travel was when my parents became involved with a non-profit based in Northern Ireland called Project Children. The organization’s mission is to promote peace and tolerance and to expose children to different cultures by placing them with host families in the United States for the summer and encouraging leadership, peace, and tolerance through camp-like excursions. It was through this program that my sisters and I gained three Irish brothers, who came to live with us for five summers. Being exposed to different cultures, witnessing a community come together to heal from unimaginable trauma, and ensuring that future generations were equipped with the knowledge and skills to avoid such tragedy and violence, was an invaluable experience. Since then, I’ve always been eager to meet new people, hear their stories and better understand the communities from which they came. I think that our perceptions of people and places are shaped by many factors, like the media and information learned in school, which may not always be an accurate representation. Only time physically spent talking with people will tell the true stories.
I am also a teacher and have students that come from all over the world. I love being able to connect with them, whether it be through food, language, travel, or stories. My greatest goal as a teacher is to allow students to feel proud of the unique area they are from while being exposed to other culture’s, which ultimately shows us just how connected we all are.
What exactly propels you to travel alone?
Moving and solo travel can be awkward, uncomfortable, and at times lonely, but making changes and taking chances has brought so many positives into my life that have allowed me to grow into myself, at my own pace, in the most unexpected ways. There are some tough days, but there are also many wonderful and fulfilling days. On the tough days, I am especially grateful to the global community of friends and fellow travelers that have come into my life. Connecting with new people and bonding with friends is truly the most rewarding part of travel for me.
Social media is an awesome tool to connect with people, but it has a way of breezing over challenges, adversity, and potentially scary moments to focus solely on the end destination. While the photos are often an incredible new place or a scenic view, this approach minimizes the journey it took someone to get to that point and creates unrealistic expectations for those of us who then feel we can never possibly do the same thing.
Here’s a perfect example: When scrolling through my Instagram feed, I’ll see an incredible photo of a flawless looking human with a caption along the lines of, “just woke up 5,000 miles away from everything I’ve ever known and don’t know where I am going to live long-term or if I even have a job, and here’s a surprising twist, I’m still broke! But it’s all good, because of life. Here’s a picture of me surfing at dawn with a puppy and bouquet of wildflowers I arranged myself. I didn’t need an alarm I just woke up naturally well rested to the sound of indigenous birds and the smell of bacon my hot boyfriend cooked.” (Okay yes, I made it up, but you know what I’m talking about.)
One of the reasons I love to travel alone is because of the authenticity of it. Not the posed photos, which are a special talent in their right, but the experience itself. Traveling with just a backpack has helped me reach a new level of comfort in my skin. Instead of focusing on what I look like in a picture, I love knowing how I felt in the moment when the picture was taken. Happiness is beautiful.
While I’d like to pretend that the scenario above is how I handle and carry myself throughout my travels, that would be false. My family and friends have plenty of embarrassing and REAL stories they can share with you about my reaction to some stressful and challenging moments, many of which include a panicked phone call from me picking apart every life choice I’ve ever made (sound familiar anybody?! Just me? I’LL OWN IT!)
The point is, travel and moving is possible for EVERYONE, including uncertain, broke, semi-unorganized, adventure seeking, soul searching, risk-taking babes like you and me—hot boyfriend not required!! (Sweet victory!!) Each trip and move gets easier because traveling solo provides you with valuable lessons to take on your next journey.
Solo travel allows for growth. It has helped me put myself out there and meet new (interesting, inspiring, awesome) people! I’ve learned so much about myself that I really love and I’ve noticed aspects that I’d like to work on. Those areas can be masked when you are constantly surrounded by others. Something that I noticed during my last solo trip was that I actually enjoy spending time by myself. I wouldn’t have said that ten years ago. That is worth celebrating! Travel alone and learn to love yourself.
Another plus with solo travel is the freedom to create your own schedule, change plans last minute and enjoy your time as you see fit. It’s my favorite kind of planning (the no plan, plan). Guidebooks are great, but I’ve learned that often the best advice is given by locals from that place. I might have some loose plans, but I like to go with the flow.
I end up traveling alone because if I see an opportunity that will help me fulfill a goal, I’ll jump on it. The past few years I’ve tried to think more about long-term goals. Oh, hey 30 years old! *wave emoji* I see you, babe. I love traveling with my friends, family, and my fiance, but our time off doesn’t always align. If there is a place I want to see or a program I’d like to become involved in, I just take the plunge. If people can join me that is wonderful, but if not it’s all good because solo travel is a special, unique experience.
What aspects of solo traveling as a woman do you enjoy the most?
I love meeting other solo female travelers and hearing their stories. We inevitably converge over coffee, drinks, or run into each other in the bathroom or lobby and it is this awesome society. We swap tips, must sees and dos. I am so inspired by other female travelers. Travel provides a safe haven that allows people to connect and bond much faster than usual.
Last summer, in Indonesia and I ended up meeting the most amazing woman, who is originally from the UK, but has been living in Malaysia for several years. We bonded immediately and went to yoga class together. We surfed with our hostel group, grabbed beers, and set up our own fancy dinner date night. It was so incredible to connect with and hear her story. We shared goals, hopes, failures, and successes. We only knew each other for three days, but I would meet up with her anywhere in the world, in a heartbeat.
In Malaysia, I was a part of a teaching program called LRTT and lived with a mostly female group of strangers, in a hostel, for one month, with three showers (Real World Malaysia: when people stop being polite and start talking openly about their bowel movements). It was amazing. We had time to get to know each other as individuals, not just in a group setting. Each person came with their own backstory and reason for wanting to be involved with the program. I admired these ladies so much and learned from them as teachers, travelers, and women.
What are the dangers of traveling solo as a woman?
The question I get asked the most is, “Did you feel safe there?” It is an important question that exemplifies the realities of our society. When I first started traveling I was incredibly cautious to the point of missing out on opportunities (You’re welcome, dad! Side story: My dad always “somehow” ends up watching the movie “Taken” the day before my sister’s or I leave for a trip. The movie ends, there is silence and then inevitably the panicked question, “Hey where are you going again?!” *eye roll* End side story)
The majority of the time, I realized I was dealing with the same dangers that are present in my own city. I’ve been to many countries deemed “unsafe” and have left feeling gratitude towards the community for watching out for me and anger towards my own community for not taking assault against females more seriously. I have never been inappropriately touched or had derogatory comments shouted at me while I’ve traveled alone. I have had this happen many times in my own city. That being said, I do look into political stability, check the travel recommendations, and keep tabs on any protests that might be taking place.
Instead of having to constantly assess my situation, this is the area I will preplan. When I book a hotel or hostel, I verify the safety record and what kind of security features they have. I read a lot about neighborhoods I know I will be wandering around. I talk to uber drivers and staff at the hotel and hostel and ask for advice.
While I like to wander around alone, if the hotel recommends I don’t venture out alone, I won’t. What is the point in risking it? I’ll book a tour and get to see the same sights, on someone else’s timeline with the opportunity to meet new people, safely.
I recommend always having travel insurance. It eases my mind, knowing that in the very slight chance something happens, I don’t have to burden others and I am taken care of. PSA: My travel insurance is better than my in-country insurance. Can you say Lasik in Costa Rica?
Ultimately, you can only plan so much! My family and I were in a really bad car accident one trip. An experience like that puts inconveniences like delayed flights into perspective and has allowed me to view the entire experience as part of the journey. One bad moment does not ruin a trip. There might be some negatives, but it will mostly be an absolutely thrilling adventure and we can handle whatever comes our way.
Can you share some highlights (negative/positive) of your travel experiences in 2017 and how you dealt with them?
This year was an amazing year of travel for me! I left my home in Maui and moved to Oahu to live with Jared, while we awaited the news from the navy regarding our relocation. We finally found out we were being transferred to Charleston, SC and slowly began to make our way to our new home.
1. Olympic Peninsula, Washington
I met one of my sister’s into camp and explored for a week. No one ever told me that Washington is essentially cold Hawaii! We were blown away by the waterfalls galore. It was a hiker’s paradise and we averaged about 10 miles a day. We stayed in campsites in the rainforest and others that were overlooking expansive beaches. We had animal sightings, surprise snowfall and enjoyed hot springs. It was MAGIC.
*If I had to pick a negative, it would be how unprepared we were for the cold front that came through in May. Luckily, we heard talks of snow when we were at REI, but since we both had flown in, we didn’t have our mattress pads and ended up sleeping in the car one of the nights (Full disclosure: I ended up sleeping in the car one night. My sister is much more badass than me!) The next day I bought a yoga mat and we both stuffed all our dirty clothes underneath our sleeping bags and it worked well enough!
2. Washington D.C
Splurging at Rose’s Luxury, which was on everyone’s foodie list and literally ordering the entire menu.
3. Sicily, Italy
My family ventured off to explore our homeland for the first time. I have to give my mom all the credit for this trip. She did so much research and we had the most amazing time exploring small towns, eating insane food, drinking a ton of wine and spending quality time together.
The absolute highlight of the trip was visiting the town my great-grandparents are from. We were the first in our family to be able to go back to Alessandra Della Rocca and I feel so grateful to have this opportunity. People in the town went out of their way to help us find our roots. They took us to the town hall and we were able to see the birth records and marriage documents of our ancestors.
To top it off, they found their old houses for us and we were able to take pictures of where our family used to live. The feeling we had knowing we probably were walking the same paths our great-grandparents had, was indescribable.
4. Vietre Sul Mare, Italy
We spent our second week in Italy staying in an Airbnb overlooking the small town of Vietre Sul Mare, aka the ceramics capital of Italy. Staying in a town that is less traveled, but equally as gorgeous as Amalfi and Positano, was unique. The locals in the town were so friendly and welcoming.
One night, we wandered into a shop to get pizza takeout. We didn’t realize that the shop was closed and through a game of language charades, we finally realized they weren’t even open! Instead of kicking us out, they offered us a beer, showed us around the restaurant and then started to make pizza early. Every person in the shop spoke a different language, but that didn’t matter, soon we were all laughing and taking selfies. We stopped in to say hi every day we were there.
5. Mahe, Praslin and La Digue Islands, Seychelles
This trip will always hold such a special place in my heart, and not just because it was so breathtakingly gorgeous, with the clearest water I have ever seen, but because Jared proposed to me here the last night of our trip! (I said yes BTW). We spent this trip island hopping, body surfing at sunset, riding bikes, visiting animal sanctuaries, hiking, and eating with our host family. This was all done with an overall feeling of awe by the beauty that surrounded us.
Cons: Super expensive to buy tampons, ladies! BYOT or better yet, switch to the Diva Cup, which is exactly what I did after this trip! Another PSA- the water is rough during this time of year, so our ferry ride from Mahe to Praslin was extra bumpy. A couple of people threw up within the first couple of minutes. I bought some lavender and doused myself with essential oils, sat close to a window and watched the nature documentary they put on the TV and it was all good!
6. Kampala and Murchinson Falls National Park, Uganda
Lions and Rhinos and Baboons jumping into your campervan, oh my! In June, we visited my cousin Brian and his wife Muna in Uganda. Uganda was an unforgettable experience. It was my first time visiting this area and left me eager to go back and explore more.
Highlights: 1. Boda Boda tour around Kampala- hop on the back of a motorcycle and take a tour to religious landmarks and all 7 hills of the city. 2. Road tripping to Jinja, the source of the Nile River, and drinking a Nile beer while on a sunset cruise on the Nile River. 3. Whitewater rafting on the Nile. 4. Visiting the Rhino Sanctuary and trekking around to find Rhinos. We stumbled across a mama and her baby, Noel. 5. We won tickets to see a SOFAR concert that highlighted the talents of a local singer, storyteller and a singer/songwriter. 6. Two-day Safari through Murchinson Falls National Park- if you are an animal lover, you will cry. We spotted crocs, elephants, lionesses, warthogs, giraffes, baboons (a baboon legit jumped in through the roof of our van to try and steal our lunch), and so much more. We camped at a resort and woke up to hippos feeding outside of our tent at night. It was terrifying and magical at the same time.
8. Penang and Langkawi, Malaysia
Penang Highlights: I was lucky enough to live in Georgetown, a funky UNESCO world heritage site on the island of Penang, for the month of August. Georgetown is known for its incredible street art. I spent two full days roaming around in search of different murals. When we were there Malaysia was celebrating their 60th anniversary of independence. There were free cultural shows taking place all month long. Penang is the foodie capital of Malaysia. Their meals are influenced by the three main cultures found in Malaysia, Malay, Chinese, and Indian. The food was out of this world. There are so many hawker stalls where you can get a delicious meal for under 5 dollars. The national park is worth hiking through!
Langkawi: Be sure to check out the Skybridge! It holds the record for longest suspension bridge held up by one steel pillar and eight suspension cables. To get to the top, a cable car will whisk you up 2,000 feet above sea level, NBD. While we were in the cable car we spotted a waterfall that we hiked to afterward. Above the waterfall, there are a bunch of natural slides leading to cold fresh water pools.
9. Nusa Lembongan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
I fulfilled my goal of attending a yoga and surf retreat while I was on Nusa Lembongan. My surf instructor, Dewa, was amazing! He asked what my goals were the first day and then worked with me every single lesson to help my dream become a reality. The yoga classes were geared towards surfers and were the perfect start or way to wind down. The sunsets here were unreal. I met so many friendly, interesting people.
Ubud- I was surprised by how crowded this town was! It is a full-blown sprawling town. The highlight for me was the bike tour I took through towns, rice fields, and coffee plantations. The tour ended at our guides home where we enjoyed a full meal cooked by his aunty. Talk about hospitality!
Con: My hotel recommended that I did not walk from their hotel into town alone and also suggested that I only use verified taxi services.
I am obsessed with Singapore. I’m surprised by how much I loved it because so many people recommended two days maximum here. I 100% disagree, I could have stayed several days. A major highlight is how safe it is! As a woman, I felt comfortable wandering all over alone. I walked EVERYWHERE. There are so many neighborhoods to explore. The blend of ancient history, cultures, religious merged with the modern MRT system and Gardens by the Bay park create the most wonderful fusion to explore. I stayed in three different parts of the city, ate so much food and honestly can’t wait to go back.
11. Tokyo, Japan
On my way back to my new home, I had a 24-hour layover in Tokyo. My flight was from Singapore at 2 am, to Tokyo, to Dallas, and was supposed to end in Charleston. However, a major storm came rolling up the East Coast and my flight was redirected to D.C., which accidentally ended up canceling my flight from Singapore to Tokyo in the process. I found this out at 11:30 pm. The airline was incredible and worked quickly to ensure I still had a seat on the flight. After that was all taken care of, I explored Singapore’s famous airport, which I highly recommend spending time in! I ended up falling asleep in one of their lounges and waking up when an employee was putting a blanket over me.
I was only in Tokyo for one day and stayed in the Shinjuku area. Some of the highlights would be the udon restaurant I queued in line for, Standing Sushi Bar, visiting Harajuku at night, The Samurai Museum, my walk through Shinjuku Gardens, and the countries flawless public transportation that took a lot of stress off my short time there!
Con: I made my train by about 30 seconds and was so incredibly sweaty due to sprinting with an overly stuffed, end of trip backpack around the city. Pro: Narita airport has showers. $10/30 minutes. I showered, bought myself some soft serve and a beer and settled in. Pro: This was another city I felt super safe walking around alone in.
How many countries have you visited? What is the next one on your wish list?
I actually just won a scratch-off map at a white elephant party and had had the best time remembering trips and diving into where I’d like to go next! I have visited 33 countries and territories, and I am looking forward to the next adventure!
I could talk about my travel wish list for hours!! My sister and I are heading down to Guatemala in February for a couple of weeks and a possible dip into South America – will take any and all recommendations!
My best friends and I are turning 30 next year and are planning on hiking Machu Pichu together to celebrate!
I’m interested in exploring Australia and Antarctica, which after February, will be the only continents I have not explored. I set the possibly ambitious goal of exploring both before I turned 30, but I’ve found that setting the intention usually opens up some awesome opportunities! I’m also less concerned about the time frame now and more open to travel that allows me to pursue passions like teaching, hiking, and surfing.
For these reasons, Sri Lanka and Taiwan have skyrocketed to the top of my list.
I’d also love to visit Bhutan and Nepal and am trying to think about how I could combine both places, without rushing the visits too much.
This past summer I flew into Guangzhou, China on my way to Malaysia and the views were so spectacular. Now hiking around China is definitely on my list.
There are so many little islands around the world that are rich with culture and still have laid back vibes that I’d love to roam through as well. The Philippines just looks unbelievable and I just barely scratched the surface of the islands in Indonesia when I was there last year.
Jared and I were in Guam last year and that trip planted the seed of visiting Samoa. A lot of my students are from Tonga and Samoa and I’d love to experience these areas and take a ton of pictures of them.
I’d also really like to explore my own country in more depth. I’ve been lucky enough to have a seen a great chunk of it, but there is so much more out here! Jared and I are toying around with fulfilling a dream of renovating a camper van, to help us make the best use of the time we have on the East Coast.
Any advice you would give to women who want to travel alone?
You are strong enough and brave enough to travel alone. It will be life-changing. Be kind and patient with yourself. Put yourself out there, meet new people, eat amazing food and trust your gut! One bad experience does not ruin a trip. Be flexible and open to changing plans. Learning to rely on yourself, while having fun is an absolute game changer. Ask lots of questions! Jump on opportunities that enable spending time with people that live in the country. Leave the hair dryer, straightener, and makeup at home. Being true, authentically you is refreshing! No one cares if you wear the same dress three times. Pack light and bring home cool art!