RareJaunt has recently had the privilege of speaking with Kathryn Rivers of RunawayTeacherTravels. She and her travel companion Alex are truly global wanderers of the highest caliber having traversed many of the most interesting countries and most formidable backpacking challenges one can encounter.
You can learn more about her journey at her Instagram page: www.instagram.com/runawayteachertravels
Rarejaunt: How old you were you when you first went overseas?
I was actually a pretty late bloomer when it came to international travel. I didn’t have a passport or travel outside of the United States until I was 23 years old when a friend dragged me along to Belize. That was actually the first time I ever set foot on an airplane as well. That was a pretty big trip for me and travel quickly sucked me in. About 6 months late I landed my first teaching job in China and within the next few months I would be on a plane headed there. I did manage to sneak a quick trip in to Mexico first though.
RJ: What do you remember about your first travel experience, or what is your first travel memory?
Like I said, international travel was something I didn’t really experience until I got older. While I was younger though I spent a lot of time travel around the States playing softball. I think one of my first vivid travel memories was getting ready for my first out of town tournament and packing my bags up for the weekend. I was about 11 and had absolutely no idea what you bring for a weekend away so I literally packed just about everything I own. I had a massive suitcase of clothes for every scenario imaginable and even backed a separate bag of just shoes. Luckily, I’ve managed to get my over-packing under control and can now manage just a backpack for all my trips.
RJ: What is something you would never travel without?
I tried really hard to think of something really cool or niche but I don’t think I could honestly answer this question if I didn’t put my phone. It is my absolute life line when I travel. I use it to book flights and accommodations, find places that I can eat (which can be a challenge being vegan), and pretty much rely on it to make sure I don’t get so lost that I end up in a new city plus loads of other things. I’m sure I could manage all this without it, but it just makes things so much easier.
RJ: Where is the nicest establishment you have stayed? Why was it special?
Once while travelling for softball, our whole team ended up staying at this Adam’s Mark hotel in Tennessee I believe. I’m not actually sure if it was really that fancy but I remember it had robes and a massive indoor swimming pool and approximately 30 floors. There were also loads of people walking around in suits and I looked really out of place in dirty uniform but I thought it was the most amazing thing at the time. Since then, Alex and I have spent a few special occasions in some rather nice hotels for special occasions like birthdays or Christmas which is always nice just because it’s a treat from our usual hostel/AirBnB stays.
RJ: If you could recommend a place to a fellow traveler, where would it be?
Belize was the first foreign country I ever went to and it still holds such a special place in my heart. It is always the first country that pops in my head when people ask for recommendations. Everything there is just amazing from the locals to the beaches to overall atmosphere. I actually head back there later this year to spend more time exploring different parts.
RJ: Describe a culinary experience that stands out from a vacation abroad.
While I was in Ubud, I convinced Alex to do a cooking class with me. There were so many options but we chose to go with Cafe Wayan partially because it was well rated and mostly because it was about 2 minutes away from the guesthouse we were staying at. The whole experience was incredible. We got to make everything from basic rice to traditional Balinese dishes that of course I don’t remember the name of or how to make. They did give us a copy of the recipes/menu that we made but I have since lost it. It was absolutely delicious though and far too much for just two people eat. I think we had about 6 different dishes plus some banana pancakes. I would easily go back to the city just to do another cooking course there.
RJ: What is your idea of an enjoyable vacation?
I actually have two ideal vacation styles and they are polar opposites of each other. I adore warm weather and beaches and there is nothing better than the idea of lounging by the ocean with a cocktail in hand and occasionally going to dip in the water. This type of holiday usually just involves me being lazy and there are usually a lot of naps. On the other hand, I also love trekking and hiking. If I’m not going to be sitting beach-side, I want to be in or around a mountain walking multiple miles a day and exploring nature. There’s not much of an in-between for me.
RJ: Who would be your ideal travel companion?
I suppose if I have to say Alex considering he’s the person I drag the most places. If I’m not going to travel with him, I prefer travelling with people who are pretty independent. I think compromise is important part of successfully travelling with someone. Odds are you will want to do different things or have different travel styles. This is why I like being with someone who is fine doing their own thing while I go off and do what I want to do. Alex and I have finally worked out the nice balance of doing things together and also working in some time apart.
RJ: What do you miss the most when you are away from home?
My closet and a stocked kitchen. I cook about 95% of my meals when travelling but obviously I can’t really load up on groceries while abroad and constantly on the move. Occasionally it gets rather annoying having to go to the shop everyday and only being able to buy what I need for the next couple of meals. I also start to miss my closet on long trips. I don’t have a huge expansive wardrobe, but after months of just having the same 4 shirts to wear, I start to get sick of them.
RJ: What country do you believe to be under-rated? What about overrated?
There’s a very funny story behind answering this question. I actually originally answered these a few weeks ago and then accidentally deleted the file from my computer. Since then, I actually visited a new country that replaced my answer to which one is the most underrated. I originally wrote about Cambodia but I just spent 10 days travelling around the southern coast of Uruguay and fell in love. It has so much to offer from historic cities to beachside towns. I saw some gorgeous sunsets and got to lounge around on some gorgeous beaches. The towns are so colourful and the people are so nice. I even accidentally stumbled into a parade in Montevideo with drummers and dancers which is apparently a common occurrence there. Most people seem to pass it by though for larger, more popular countries like Argentina and Brazil. I would definitely add it to any South American travel itinerary though. Plus, it’s only an hour away by ferry from Buenos Aires.
My overrated country answer still hasn’t changed though. My first year in China, I made sure to make a trip down to Thailand because I had heard so many things about it. Everyone seemed to think that you couldn’t see Southeast Asia without seeing the Thailand islands. While they were fun, I couldn’t imagine spending more than a few days on Koh Phi Phi, Koh Samui, or Koh Phangan. After all the partying and tourists attractions, I just needed a break. Obviously, I cant judge the whole country just by three islands and I would still love to explore some of the quieter ones and the north of the country but I definitely don’t feel like I need to go back to those islands any time soon.
RJ: Where is next on your list of places to travel to? Why?
Well currently, I’m roaming around Argentina. I’ve spent most of my time so far in Buenos Aires and the north and am preparing to start heading south towards Patagonia. Then it’s on to Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and then we’ll see where else in South America. The idea to tackle this continent really came because I wanted to do an extended backpacking trip somewhere that was easy to travel around overland and was pretty inexpensive. I’ve already seen a fair bit of Southeast Asia so I wanted to explore somewhere new and Europe is pretty close to where I eventually want to settle down so it seemed easy to do that at a later date. South America just seemed so new and exciting compared to the places I’ve been before. Also, there was a bit of hope that my Spanish would improve but languages are not my thing. Hopefully, the next 8 months prove more effective than the first one in that realm.
Be sure to read more about Kathryn’s journey at her Instagram page: www.instagram.com/runawayteachertravels