This week’s guest post comes from Leslie, travel blogger behind My Adventure Bucket. She explains ‘Over the last 9 years or so, my random list of adventures (now well into the 600s with no sign of letting up) has sent me hot air ballooning over breathtaking Burmese kingdoms, tracking wild mountain gorillas in Africa, exploring ancient temples in Indonesia, riding a train across Canada, and myriad other unforgettable experiences. In that time, nearly every story I’ve told, photo I’ve shared, or social media update I’ve posted has been met with the same response from friends, family, and coworkers: “You should be a travel writer!” As it happens, being a travel writer is really all I’ve ever wanted to do. I don’t know why it took me so long to take the plunge, but here we are.’
1. What is your name and where do you come from?
Leslie Pelshaw, originally from a small town in New Hampshire, currently a Florida beach bunny.
2. What sort of traveller are you? Full time / part time / business / backpacker etc?
I have been a part time traveller for the last 7 years working 60-70 hour weeks as a funeral director to fund as much travel as I could afford during my few weeks of vacation every year. I am retiring in March 2017 to be a full time traveller and travel blogger.
3. How do you fund your travelling?
I have been saving my pennies for the last 15 years (One benefit of those 60-70 hour workweeks is not a lot of free time to go out and spend money when I’m not traveling!) and will be setting out with a pretty comfortable nest egg. Of course I want my blog to become a full time revenue source, but I’m glad I have a little bit of a cushion to pay the bills until that happens.
4. Where is the best place you have ever been and why?
I’m sure you realize what a difficult question this is! I have left so many pieces of my heart in so many places around the world and there are so many places I know I will go back to again and again, Greece and Scotland are high on that list. But as far as the best place goes, I think I’m going to have to say Bagan, Myanmar (Burma), for several reasons. Burma was the first real solo trip I ever took, and it got off to a rough start. There was such immense culture shock from the moment I stepped off the plane and I was instantly homesick and terrified and thinking I had made a horrible mistake. The first few days of the trip I was terrified to eat anything, go anywhere, talk to anyone, all of the sights and smells and crazy traffic and unfamiliar language were just so overwhelming I felt like I was on the verge of having a panic attack all the time. (Spoiler alert: I survived!) By the time I reached Bagan, I had finally found my footing and was really enjoying the experience, which is fortunate because Bagan is such an incredible place. The light is soft and magical, the thousands of temples make it feel like you’re in some kind of alien fairytale, and the people are just so incredibly kind. One of the absolute highlights of my entire life took place in Bagan- a sunrise hot air balloon (with monks!) and it was just one of those experiences that burns itself into your memory forever. I even have a large tattoo if it to carry the feeling of floating above those temples with me permanently. In Bagan I gained confidence and stopped being afraid to walk down the street by myself. I went shopping, I ate in restaurants, I kept my chin up when literally dozens of people would stop and stare at my foreignness openly. Burma was not a huge tourist destination when I went in 2009, and many people told me I was the first American or the first white person they had met. I only met one other American on my entire trip. I felt like a celebrity during another one of those burned-in-my-memory-forever moments: I was in the back of a horse cart, bouncing along a dirt road winding through the temples when two young boys spotted me and gave chase. They yelled and waved their arms and shouted, “Hello! Where are you from?” “The United States!” I replied, and they whooped. “Ah, Barack Obama!”
5. Where is the worst place you have ever been and why?
Baltimore, Maryland. Non-travelers are always shocked at some of the more exotic places I’ve traveled in Asia and Africa (some of them can’t believe I would even go to Europe alone!) but I’ve never felt more unsafe than I did walking around Baltimore in broad daylight. I was constantly harassed on the street even though I was traveling with my husband, who is a fairly intimidating looking man. I’ve never felt so uncomfortable even traveling all over the world by myself. It’s unfortunate, because I would have liked to spend more time wandering around the city.
6. Do you have a Bucket List? If so where are the 3 top places on it?
My bucket list is my entire life! Not only do I have one, it has over 600 things on it and I use a random number generator to decide which thing I’m going to check off next. That’s how I ended up in Burma to begin with- I let fate decide. I enjoyed the randomness so much I’ve kept that method up ever since. My random algorithm has sent me tracking wild mountain gorillas in Uganda, exploring ancient temples in Indonesia, taking a train ride across Canada, etc., etc. I never re-select, even if I’m really intimidated about making something happen. The random selection is why I’m heading to Sri Lanka in the spring for the first three months of my digital nomad life. I’m not sure I could pick the top three since using random selection has kept me from ever having to prioritize them. But if I HAD to: watching the sun rise from the Great Wall of China, visiting Antarctica, and tracking snow leopards in the Himalayas.
7. What 3 things (apart from the essentials – food/water etc) do you always travel with?
A travel journal, a camera, and wifi. I’m pretty flexible with everything else- there’s not much I can’t live without. I don’t stress too much about making sure I’ve packed everything I need for a trip. Chances are I can replace anything I’ve forgotten, and if not, do I really need it?
8. What makes you happy and why?
Being on an adventure! I’ve been a funeral director for a long time, and I’ve sat across the table from a lot of devastated people who have told me about their regrets- their child died too soon, their loved one never made time to fulfill their dreams, they never took Mom on that cruise she really wanted to go on. And now it’s too late. Every time I check something off my bucket list I get such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because I’m fulfilling my dreams and I’m living the way I want to live. There are an awful lot of people out there who aren’t doing the things they have always dreamed about, and I hope fulfilling mine and telling my story encourages some of them to get busy making their dreams come true.
9. How long have you been blogging and why did you start?
I’ve been blogging less than a month, but since I never travel without a journal I have many stories saved up that I’ve been writing about. My friends and coworkers (and even strangers) have been encouraging me to start a travel blog for as long as I have been traveling. People have always been really encouraging about my stories and pictures and have told me I’m a natural storyteller and I really should be publishing them for everyone to read. Response has been very kind so far, so I’m hoping all of those cheerleaders were right!
10. What makes your blog unique and why should people read it?
The randomness of my adventure planning is appealing to a lot of people- they like the element of suspense that comes with waiting to find out what crazy adventure I’m going to get “assigned” next. I’m incredibly detail oriented and my readers tell me that I make them feel like they’re actually there experiencing what I’m writing about because I include so much detail. I’m always willing to go out of my way to find the most jaw-dropping experiences to photograph and write about- I don’t like to stick to the usual touristy stuff all the time. Also I’m frequently an idiot and don’t shy away from telling my readers about all the stupid ways I’ve screwed things up, which is apparently very entertaining.
From ESLT – thank you Leslie for taking the time to answer our questions. Safe Travels 🙂