Interview with Explorer Jo Hyun

Jo Hyun is an adventure traveler on the weekends and works at a tech company in San Francisco to support her travels. She first fell in love with travel when she studied abroad in college and became hooked on the outdoors when she moved to Northern California. In September she and her boyfriend are going on the ultimate adventure – to embark on a life of intentional travel, getting out of their comfort zone, focusing on language learning, new skills and adventures, and to create resources for others to do the same. She is starting first in North Africa – follow her journey on her Instagram. I came across Jo thanks to Instagram, where she saw some of my French Polynesia pictures and I discovered her profile. We immediately connected, because we are clearly both passionate about the life changing experience that traveling brings us. Even though I am currently no longer using Instagram, you can see Jo’s inspiring pictures and follow her journey there for the time being. She will be releasing a blog quite soon. In this interview, Jo shares with us a little bit about her story and what is it about traveling alone that makes it such a unique experience.

1 – When did your passion for traveling start?

I caught the travel bug when I studied abroad in France in college. It was so cheap to travel in Europe that I was able to check out a handful of beautiful countries (not nearly enough though!). Both living in another country and visiting others even for a short while was such an incredible gift. I really valued that it gave me the ability to deal with ambiguity, adapt to different environments quickly, and appreciate other cultures and perspectives. For anyone considering studying abroad, I’d absolutely say DO IT! It has definitely changed my life. After school, I got straight into rat race and have been saving up every vacation day to take epic trips ever since.

2 – What is it so special about traveling alone?

Traveling alone is incredibly special! Here are just a few things I love about traveling alone:

  1. You are forced to take on anything that comes your way – because you don’t have anyone else to rely on. This sounds scary at first, but when your back is against the wall, you WILL find a way out or figure out a solution. It’s amazing what we can do when we stretch ourselves beyond what we think we’re capable of.

  2. You have FULL control of your itinerary. I can be a challenging person to travel with. I am all about experiencing as much as possible everywhere I go, which means going to bed at 8pm so I can wake up at 4am to drive out 3 hours to some mountain to see the sunrise. When you’re traveling alone, you don’t have to compromise or drag a reluctant partner around.

  3. You learn more about, appreciate, and love yourself more! You really get to appreciate yourself when you’re experiencing travel alone. It’s hard to get this when you’re in the real world, surrounded by friends or significant others.

3 – How do you keep your health and wellness habits when traveling both for body and mind?

Usually my travel destinations have some aspect of beautiful outdoors and I try to pick somewhat remote locations. I actually find it much easier to have better habits while traveling vs when I’m at home because of the types of destinations I choose. The remoteness is important to me because it helps me reflect in a serene space. I switch up the gym for the mountains or the ocean and it’s a fantastic tradeoff.

4 – What are your main tips for someone who’s about to do the first solo trip?

  1. I’d definitely emphasize doing a lot of research – more research and prep than you would do if you were traveling with someone else. If you’re a woman, also specifically google countries or ask around for places that are solo female travel friendly. You’re going to get some curveballs thrown at you. If it’s your first trip, it’s good to have a good baseline so when the crazy things happen (which then will), you’ll have a good foundation to better be prepared for an unpredictable event.

  2. Keep your plans flexible. Have a general sense of where you want to go and the places you want to see, but don’t feel you need to book every excursion / accommodation. One of the coolest things about solo travel is meeting other people. If you have every detail planned, it will make it more difficult to join other travelers.

5 – In your opinion why are there more and more women backpacking around the world? What makes exploring the world so appealing?

I think a lot of it is because of the ease of sharing on the internet and social media. I have mixed feelings about many aspects of social media, but one thing I appreciate about it is that I believe this has pushed people to explore more. We’re able to get exposure to incredible destinations around the world and it really makes you lust after these experiences and want to see it for yourself. I also think it’s easy to fall in love with exploring. Once you get a taste of it, you’ll keep wanting more!

6 – How do you prepare for your journeys?

I tend to spend most of my time researching where I want to go. I actually love this part, because I imagine being in these beautiful places and it gets me really excited! After I have a location figured out and a type of journey, I pull up my different type of pack lists – ex: warm mountains, snow holiday, beach vacation, etc…

7 – Share with us one of the most special stories you have from your trips.

One of my favorite memories was when I went on the most amazing road trip by myself in Costa Rica. The first day I got on the road as soon as I picked up my 4×4. I raced to my destination – a small remote area – Bahia Drake in hopes of beating dusk. I heard the roads in that area weren’t paved well and could be challenging when driving at night. Unfortunately, I got incorrect directions (by a well meaning local), got extremely lost, and it was pitch black when I finally found the right road. The roads were indeed quite rough and there were a few moments where I had to cross rivers, not quite knowing how deep they were. In retrospect – I probably shouldn’t have attempted it but my adrenaline and fatigue got the best of me. Though this was one of the most stressful travel situations I’ve been in, it was my most memorable because I felt like a badass the entire time. It also made me appreciate this beautiful town even more.

8 – Any last words you would like to share with Skin at Heart’s readers?

I’m a huge advocate for growing and developing by constantly pushing yourself and getting out of your comfort zone. I love to do this by traveling, but everyone has something different that makes them feel uncomfortable. This could be speaking in public, the ocean, heights, etc… My litmus test for whether I should try something is I ask myself, “Does this scare me?” If the answer is yes, I know I need to do it. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t be putting yourself in real danger. You can start slowly and ease into it by accomplishing smaller challenges, but coming out of these trials will help you learn more about yourself, know what you’re capable of, and embrace change.

Skin at Heart is grateful to Jo for sharing her inspiring journey with us.

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