Have you ever dreamed of traveling the world as a career? Meet Shoestring Warrior Yosefa, who has lived and worked in eight different countries and traveled to 30+ countries!
After graduating college, she taught English in Greece, then had a stint in the travel publishing industry, and finally ended up in the field of international education, creating and facilitating cultural exchange programs for teachers and students. Yosefa reminds us dreamers that there are many different ways you can travel for a career, and you should always be open to trying something else if your first go isn’t fulfilling.
Follow your heart. It’s never too late to make your dreams a reality!
We were lucky to have Yosefa join the Shoestring Family in 2017 as our blog editor. She interviews inspiring members of the Shoestring Warrior community and contributes articles on helpful topics like Wilderness Medicine, Adventure Racing and Hiking With Kids. Read on to learn more about Yosefa, including her favorite destination and funniest travel mishap, then check back every week for more exciting content!
Hometown: Escalon, CA
Current Location: Palo Alto, CA
Profession: Special Programs Coordinator
What are your passions outside of work?
Traveling, running, hiking, writing, and exploring new cultures and landscapes.
Tell us about yourself!
I’m an identical twin, outdoor adventurer and a travel lover! I enjoy writing and had a stint working in the travel publishing industry. I wanted to encourage people to travel and learn about other cultures and initially thought the best way to do that was through writing about my own experiences living and traveling abroad. I ended up learning about the field of international education and study abroad and got a MA in international education so that I could create and facilitate cultural exchange programs for students rather than just write about my own experiences. When I’m not coordinating someone else’s experience abroad, I enjoy hiking, running, and traveling domestically and internationally.
I’ve lived and worked in eight different countries and have traveled to 30+ countries.
When did you first discover your love for the outdoors?
My parents are outdoor enthusiasts so they took my sister and I camping and hiking often. I went backpacking for the first time while I was at summer camp at age 10. Hiking was always something I did but I don’t think I truly appreciated the mountains until I was an adult. I remember I was in Bhutan on a work trip with students and I was at the top of Dochula Pass (10,171ft) and as I stood there looking at the Himalayas I remember thinking how amazing the view was and that there was something magical about the mountain range in front of me. I had done quite a bit of hiking in the US and abroad before that and had enjoyed it but I credit that moment in front of the Himalayas for increasing my passion for the outdoors.
I always incorporate hiking or running into every trip as a way to engage with the location.
Funniest outdoor experiences/mishaps?
I have had quite a few but most recently I was in Australia visiting family and my cousin and I decided to go for a sunrise hike up Mt. Warning. We left the Gold Coast at 1:30am and were supposed to reach the trailhead in the Tweed Range of New South Wales around 3am. At around 3am we turned onto the road Siri (Apple Maps) told us to turn on and before we knew it we were traveling down a dirt road in my cousin’s little Suzuki. We kept going and had no phone service/data all the while thinking maybe we had been led astray. I spotted a kangaroo on the side of the road and kept saying,
If we don’t make it to Mt. Warning, at least I saw a kangaroo in the wild.
We eventually realized we must be going the wrong way and turned around and headed back to the main road. By 4:30am we finally reached the trailhead and were only 20 minutes into our hike when the sun rose. So we missed the sunrise from the top but the hike through the rainforest was gorgeous and I’m actually happy we went up and down in the daylight!
What inspired you to become a writer?/When did your love for writing begin?
After I graduated from college I had no clue what I wanted to do so I moved to Greece to teach English. I ended up on Evia, an island just east of mainland Greece. I was really lonely and taught less than 20 hours a week so I had a ton of time to myself. I began writing about my experiences in a journal and on my laptop and used to send really long emails to friends and family when I was at work where there was internet. I remember getting wonderful responses from people and began thinking maybe I could become a travel writer. I then moved to Israel and had the best time of my life living on a kibbutz and was surrounded by people from all over the world. It was then that I thought that through my writing I might be able to inspire people to explore the world and learn about different cultures.
Which authors/books/blogs inspire you to travel?
Pico Iyer is my favorite travel writer. His essay, “Why We Travel” is fantastic; he vividly and eloquently describes everything I appreciate about traveling. My favorite travel magazine (I love print journalism) is AFAR. Every issue features a story titled, “Spin the Globe”. The editors ask a writer to spin a globe and then within 24hrs the writer is sent wherever their finger lands. Oh how I’d LOVE to be that writer! My favorite outdoor adventure magazine is Backpacker. I love how they list specific hikes across the United States. There are so many places to visit in the US! I don’t have a favorite travel blog but I’m open to suggestions!
What is your favorite travel destination so far?
I have had wonderful and challenging experiences everywhere and have learned something from every encounter. If I had to choose one destination related to the outdoors, I’d say Alberta, Canada and specifically Banff and Jasper National Parks. I traveled there last summer with friends. Leading up to the trip, Lake Louise and Moraine Lake were clogging my Instagram feed and I had really high expectations for the beauty that we were going to see. I can honestly say that Banff and Jasper National Parks exceeded my expectations. No lake or hike with a lake view will EVER be as amazing! I will never forget the majestic colors of the water and the sheer beauty I witnessed on that trip. My friends and I were on a nature high the entire time. It is a MUST SEE destination for anyone who loves the outdoors.
Have you traveled solo? What challenges have you overcome as a female solo traveler?
I have traveled solo but I wouldn’t consider myself an experienced solo traveler. I recently traveled to Australia to visit family and stopped in Fiji by myself on the way. As I was researching islands to visit and places to stay I learned that Fiji is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination. I was apprehensive at first but I eventually found a resort that had different kinds of accommodation (bungalows, rooms, and small dorms). I settled for the 7-bed dorm room; the fewer beds the better when it comes to dorm rooms. There were other solo travelers and I ended up having a wonderful time!
What advice do you have for Shoestring Warriors who want to travel for a career?
There are many different ways you can travel for a career. Think about what kind of career you want and what kind of traveling you want to do; live in another country and travel regionally or have a home base wherever home currently is and travel frequently, or a little of both.
Be open to trying something else if your first go at it isn’t fulfilling.
I wanted to get paid to travel the world and thought travel writing was my ticket. I found it challenging to make ends meet so I pursued a different career path and ended up working for a high school that spent every semester in a different country. It was an incredible opportunity and I loved facilitating experiential education experiences for youth. Ironically, I finally got paid to travel the world but didn’t have time to write about my experiences. Now I work at a university and coordinate programs abroad for faculty and students and travel for work and for pleasure and I’m writing again.
Follow your heart. It’s never too late to make your dreams a reality!
What are your favorite local adventure spots in NorCal?
I love Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. It’s pretty close to where I live and there’s a moderate/difficult trail which has gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean. There are many other great hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area: Alamere Falls (there’s a waterfall on the beach), Mt. Tamalpais, the Santa Cruz Mountains to name a few! I’m a mountain girl who also loves the beach so most of my favorite hikes involve a mix of both.
Where’s your next adventure?
I’m heading to Scottsdale, Arizona in February with the same friends I went to Banff with. I’m looking forward to walking among the massive cacti and can’t wait to laugh and soak up the sun with my friends.
The perfect s’more?
I can’t eat gluten so I prefer a banana boat! Nothing beats a banana sliced down the middle with chocolate stuffed inside, wrapped in tin foil, and roasted in the fire until the banana becomes mushy and the chocolate is melted!
Photos © 2018 Yosefa Gilon