As we get ready for our Final 5 Interviews in Abu Dhabi, we’d like to take a little time to allow our Jauntarista community to get to know our Top 5 candidates. Over the next 5 days we will be posting Q&A with each candidate so you can get to know them better. Thanks to many of our Jauntaristas who submitted questions for our candidates to answer. First up, Annie Cheng:
1) If you had to put down roots in one place and call it home for the rest of your life, where would it be and why would you choose that location? (Credit to Cassidy for the question)
If I HAD to settle down in one place, I would tap my ruby slippers three times and repeat, “There’s no place like home.” I was born and raised in and around Seattle and it’s where the majority of my family still lives.
I’m lucky enough that after years of sibling rivalries in our household growing up, I have matured and have great relationships with all my family. Additionally, I have life-long friends that call Seattle home, and have built an incredible network of loving, supportive people. I love the laid back culture, non-judgmental people, and the flair for the bizarre.
Plus, us Seattleites may always complain about the gray and rain, but for 3 months during the summer we have the most spectacular city. You couldn’t ask for a better place when the sun is out – there is an abundance of outdoor activities, water sports, music festivals, entertainment, and FOOD to last you until the rain returns!
2) Describe an experience in your life that defined or solidified your passion for travel and voluntourism. (Credit to Heidi for the question)
When I was 13 my parents took me out of the U.S. for the first time. After what seemed like an eternity stuck between my two brothers on flight upon flight upon flight, we arrived in Skukuza, South Africa. Our first stop was a safari, and when I woke up in a thatched-roof hut with elephants and giraffes just steps away in viewing range, everything changed.
It was such a rush to step away from my everyday life. I absorbed everything like a sponge. I delighted in tagging along with my mom to local fabric shops (something I normally detested…errrr still detest). I was intrigued by all the new foods and flavors. But most of all, I was fascinated by the people I met. Their lives were so different than mine, and yet somehow so similar at the same time.
We moved from the safari to the city, to small towns; from tourist activities to local homes for dinner. We talked with locals about post-apartheid changes and the citizens’ efforts to move forward, united, and helping one-another. We drove through townships; and I saw for the first time what real poverty meant. I realized what it might be like to be born in a place without opportunities, without a fighting chance. And I noticed how people from all walks of life in that country were putting the past in the past, and working to give everybody a fighting chance in the future.
Although we didn’t volunteer on that trip to South Africa, I realized just how fortunate I was, and how many people were struggling to survive around the world. That motivated me to join a local youth group a year later on a trip to Tijuana, Mexico where we built houses for families in need and that ignited my passion for travel and volunteering.
3) How has technology changed how we travel and how will you use it on your worldwide adventures as Chief World Explorer? (Credit to Christine for the question)
It doesn’t seem that long ago that travelling meant you were totally disconnected from the rest of the world. Even when I was in college (which was more years ago than I care to admit) and studying abroad, my host family didn’t have Wi-Fi in their house let alone a smart phone with which I could use Skype. If I wanted to call home I had to go to school to email my parents, arrange a time, go to the local internet/phone café, dig around for coins, and call long distance back to the States. Try explaining that to a 10 year old!
One of the greatest joys that technology has brought to my travel experiences is connecting with new people and staying in touch with friends and family even when I’m on the go. I love posting updates for friends to see via social media – pictures, blog posts, little snippets of travel finds, and brilliant advice from people I meet on my journey. I hope these things are educational, entertaining, and inspiring to people who want to create journeys of their own.
As the CWE, I would use technology to document and share the best experiences off the beaten path. I’d use it to connect you with the resources you need to make the most of your travel adventures. And I’d share thoughts, challenges and recommendations such as recipes, reading lists, and music from different cultures that would be beneficial and applicable in your daily life no matter where you are.
4) What characteristics, attributes or personality traits make you the most qualified applicant to be Jauntaroo’s Chief World Explorer? (Credit to Sonia for the question)
My first time in New York I was having dinner with my parents and a friend in Little Italy and all of a sudden it dawned on me that Carlos’…infamous…Bakery…was 3.7 miles away. 3.7 miles?! How could I NOT go?! So – that sealed my fate. The next morning at 6 AM while my travel companions slept soundly I ventured across the water to Hoboken. Never mind that I was the only non-local in the bakery at 7 AM on a Monday; never mind that I was the ONLY person going FROM New York TO Hoboken on the train. That morning was genuinely me – spontaneous, curious, and persistent.
I confront every situation as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become a better person through that experience. As the Chief World Explorer, I would take you on that adventure with me and nothing would hold me back from going the extra 3.7 miles to show you the best ways to maximize your vacation experience.
5) Jauntaroo has made a point of raising awareness for voluntourism and travel related causes. Is this something that is legitimately achievable when visiting a destination for such a short period of time? How would you best “give back” during your Chief World Explorer visits, utilizing the platform, media and technology provided to you?
The majority of places where I have volunteered I felt like I made an impact and I walked away proud of my work. Unfortunately, I’ve also had one disappointing volunteer experience where I felt the organization did not know how to use its eager volunteers in a meaningful way.
Although the latter experience was disheartening I learned that not all advertised “volunteer opportunities” are as altruistic as they may seem. As the Chief World Explorer, it would be my mission to find and vet short-term volunteer opportunities where we can make a noticeable impact on the world.
In addition to volunteering myself, I would use that short time in a location to document the true needs of the local community and create awareness about the organizations that are solving them. With Jauntaroo I could reach a much wider audience with the potential to spark interest in other Jauntaristas who want to donate their time and resources to a worthy cause. Working together we will have a more powerful impact on this ever-shrinking world we call home and our neighbors within it.
6) Jauntaroo is about travel inspiration. What would you do during your travels to not only experience the world, but inspire others to do the same?
Somebody once told me that the decisions we “don’t” make are a result of some fear…fear of looking dumb, fear of being embarrassed, or fear of not knowing how it will turn out. On that day, I made a decision to not let my fears hold me back from living the life I wanted to live and I started planning the Round the World trip of my dreams.
Sure, I had numerous dumb/embarrassing/uncertain moments, but we all have! And after I accepted that I will continue to have those moments I opened a door to enrichment beyond my wildest dreams. During my travels as the CWE I would capitalize on my imperfections and “just go for it”. Nothing would hold me back from seeking out the best local experiences and sharing them with you.
I’ll also encourage Jauntaristas to translate the challenges, excitement, and growth we experience in our “travel mindsets” to our “everyday mindsets”. It’s easy to be on Cloud 9 when you’re off on an adventure. It’s not as easy to be as conscious, aware, and appreciative of your surroundings when you’re going through your everyday motions. Part of my travel inspiration is motivating people to live their everyday lives with the same spirit they live their greatest adventures. And incorporating that joy into today, tomorrow, the next day…