This week we spoke to Molly Jones of thehappinesstheory.org about her traveling dos and don’ts, most memorable experience on the road and more. You can follow her adventures at either the above website or head to Instagram.com/molly_namaste
How old you were you when you first went overseas?
My first trip out of the states was to Ireland when I was 19. I wanted to travel to the land my family descended from, so I convinced a friend to book a trip together. We decided to do a work exchange through WWOOF.com on a small Organic Family Farm in Wicklow; we wanted to experience Ireland from a local’s perspective and not the fast track of tourism.
What do you remember about your first travel experience, or what is your first travel memory?
My trip to Ireland is still one of my favorite travel experiences because we were so immersed in the Irish culture. We spent 3 weeks on the family farm, working in the fields and greenhouses 5 days a week. One of my favorite memories from this trip was just another regular day on the farm: we woke up early and slipped into our still wet raincoats and headed for the potato fields. The driving rain was quickly turning the field into mud and as we turned the beds and planted the sprouted spuds our motivation quickly faded. After a few soggy hours we turned in for lunch and upon warming our bellies with fresh potato leek soup our host family looked out to the muddy field and called off the remainder of the work day. Elation overcame us, knowing we could slip into our dry clothes and spend the day fireside. We spent the rest of the afternoon in our hosts tiny kitchen brewing homemade beer and baking fresh bread together. It was one of those moments when home becomes an experience and not so much a place, time fades as your heart settles in and the whole world seems at peace for a few moments.
What is something you would never travel without?
I know this is going to sound cliché but… I never travel without a sense of adventure! Traveling is about letting go of our expectations and finding the truth of the world. It’s not about staying safe in our comfort zones but rather putting ourselves in new situations that challenge the way we see ourselves and the world. I was recently in Thailand and we were getting ready for a caving tour and my anxiety was tricking me into thinking I no longer wanted to go. I sat there on the boat trying to give myself confidence by going over my safety list: bug spray, headlamp, first aid kit, water, snacks. Okay, I thought, you have everything you need now just relax! It was in this moment that my friend called out, “Don’t forget your sense of adventure!” My anxiety melted instantly and my face lit up with relief. I shifted my mind set and prepared for the adventure ahead as the boat pulled out into the wide lake and headed for the cave.
Where is the nicest establishment you have stayed? Why was it special?
The nicest establishment I have stayed in wasn’t actually an establishment, it was in nature. I was on an 3 week canoe trip down the Rio Grande, the river that creates a border between the US and Mexico. We spent the days carving our way through the rust colored canyon and our nights on the sandy beaches that hugged the river’s edge. Those beaches we called home for 20 nights, left a mark on my heart. Nature became my home, the only walls being those of steep canyon rock kissed by the late afternoon sun, the only ceiling being that of an inky sky dotted with constellations, and the only floor being that of ancient rock and sand blowing in the wind beneath my bare feet. Each night the slow riffles of the Rio filled my dreams and each morning I awoke to the stillness of the canyon that made me feel so full and alive.
If you could recommend a place to a fellow traveler, where would it be?
From my recent experience, I will have to say, Cambodia. This country is often overshadowed by it’s neighbors Thailand and Vietnam, but is no doubt a travelers paradise. My favorite part of traveling is hanging out with locals, and we made some amazing friends in Cambodia. I loved it so much that I scrapped my time in Vietnam just so I could stay longer.
Describe a culinary experience that stands out from a vacation abroad.
I have been a vegetarian for the better part of the last 7 years. However while traveling I occasionally partake in cultural experiences where I bend this dietary restriction. Recently, I was traveling through Baja California on a 3 week overland tour with some friends. We were determined to stick to the roads less traveled and unspoiled Baja beaches. We had just landed in a remote fishing village along the sea of Cortez and settled in for a few days of relaxing in the sun. Quickly we met a few of the locals, one being the chief of Police, and struck up a friendship. One of our fellow campers had inquired with our new friend about the goat farming in the area and if it would be possible to purchase one. An hour later our friend still in his navy uniform showed up with a plump goat for harvest. I swallowed hard at the idea of the creatures fate, but decided to take part in the harvest. Within an hour the goat had been butchered and the family had agreed to cook it up for a family style dinner. As the sun begun to set we returned and we’re greeted by the 5 generation family and a steaming pot of soup and fresh tortillas. The 20 of us ate together as a family, cultural and language barriers aside, food had brought us together.
What is your idea of an enjoyable vacation?
My ideal trip involves spending time in nature, getting off the beaten path, meeting local people, and exploring local art scenes.
Who would be your ideal travel companion?
I’ve traveled with so many types of companions; ranging from friends, family, my partner, total strangers, coworkers, and universities. Overall my favorite companion is my husband and our pup Luna. We love traveling with those who love dogs as much as we do and have a mixed personality of serious adventure and master chilling.
What do you miss the most when you are away from home?
Hummus plain and simple; and my husband and dog when they aren’t with me.
What country do you believe to be under-rated? What about overrated?
I feel the most under rated country, is your home country or state. Traveling to new parts of the world is remarkably life changing but I am a big advocate of exploring one’s own backyard as well. When taking the time to explore your homeland it lends itself to developing a sense of place. An appreciation for the spaces that may not be new and exciting but hold value in the stories they tell.
Where is next on your list of places to travel to? Why?
My next plan is to do a great North American road trip through the US, and parts of Canada and Mexico. I absolutely love road tripping because you can get deeper into landscapes and off the beaten path. I like to find hidden gems of nature and spend some quiet time there.