When I was younger, there came this moment when I truly understood
how vast & diverse the world was.
And I’ve been ruined ever since.
Because I knew I'd never be happy until I'd seen it all.
My name is Julia, and I’m basically as unoriginal as you can get….
…I mean, as far as people-who-trade-in-real-life-for-an-existence-full-of-excitement-and-freedom-and-adventure are concerned, that is.
Up until mid-2017, I was a successful, college graduate with a rewarding marketing, media, and public relations job at a nationally-recognized non-profit which I love. But in the end, my heart led me to quit my job (and adulthood in general) and buy a one-way ticket to the other side of the world with the intent to travel the globe like it’s my job. Naturally, I came up with a name for my new self-proclaimed, slightly-ridiculous, profession:
Wan·der·ol·o·gist, n. One who studies and practices the art and science of long-term travel; An avid adventurer; A constant seeker of new places and cultures; one who cannot be bothered to settle down and live a routined lifestyle.
I started this blog both to document my adventures for my friends and family back home and also to serve as a real and helpful (and hopefully, entertaining) resource for people just like me—the ones whose souls wilt away whilst sitting at a desk and who can’t help but constantly day-dream about distant lands—as I add more and more to this blog over time.
Side note: I apologize in advance for the myriad of play-on-words sprinkled throughout my musings…I’ve got a pretty bad case of Witzelsucht.
So why did I do this to myself? Why would I throw away my stable life and then throw myself into the lion’s den of scary solo female travel?
A Brief(ish) History
I come from a a little town called Gatlinburg, TN and it is beautiful! The Great Smoky Mountains that sandwich this little slice of tourist heaven are truly divine (THANK YOU, TECTONIC PLATES).
I grew up with a biggg family, the second youngest of five children (there’s Aaron, Mikaela, Laura, ME, Little Gretchen…and of course my mom Gretchen, dad Albert, and dozens of pets and foreign exchange students along the way). We were always crazy. Always busy. Semi-dysfunctional. Always laughing. Always camping and going to water parks and traveling to New York to visit family and tagging along with my dad on work trips across the country. Never a dull moment. For a time, I had a bowl cut, which has left me permanently scarred for life (thanks, mom…). We were poor for a while, but happy as larks. Though we fought and bickered growing up, to this day my siblings and I are closer than any others that I know. They are my best friends. My mom is my hero. My dad has always been there for me, no matter how busy he was. I am blessed. I have to give special credit to my brother, the eldest of us all. He is mentally handicapable and literally my favorite person in the world. I truly believe that he is the reason my family is so full of love and acceptance. I have three nieces and a nephew that have physically filled my heart to the brim with a love and an obsession and a joy that I have never known. But enough with the sappy family stuff…
In highschool, I worked a myriad of jobs. I sold Dippin’ Dots and hot dogs at our local Aquarium, sang Christmas carols in Dicken’s-esque garb during the holidays, and then worked with birds of prey at an eagle conservation organization founded and run by my dad. However, I had a strong desire to either attend medical school to become a plastic surgeon or earn my MBA and establish a multi-million dollar company. So, I studied hard. I read required books twice. I did homework on Fridays. I made the grades. And I parted ways with my cheerleading, partying friends to stay on the straight and narrow.
In 2008, after graduating highschool as Valedictorian with a 4.0+ GPA, I was drowning in high expectations not only from teachers and family, but also myself. I felt that I was ready to make my mark on the world.
I decided to earn a BBA with an emphasis in Entrepreneurship from a private 4-year university in Nashville, TN. As if that wasn’t enough work already, I applied for and participated in the University’s Honors Program and was part of a three woman team that built and ran a full-fledged candy store on campus.
College was awesome, life was sweet (literally), and I had a lot of fun. But it was a lot of hard work. A LOT. Draining. Little sleep. Lots of stress. High grades were an obsession. Running a business was time-consuming. By the time that 4 years had passed and I walked across that stage as a Summa Cum Laude scholar, I had completely burnt myself out, but I didn’t let myself believe it. I just thought I needed a rewarding reprieve after graduation to clear and prime my brain for taking over the world.
So, my older sister Laura and I went on a fantastic three-week backpacking trip through Western Europe and I became hooked on the idea of a lifestyle of travel. I dreamt of a time, in the not-too distant future, where I would travel the world like a queen. You know, after putting my degree to use and making my millions.
But, my post-college plans didn’t go—well— as planned.
I moved back home into my parents house and, for the next 6 months, focused on starting-up and running a candy company based around a product that my sisters and I invented when we were kids. The product is called “Lollipop Top” and consists of a lollipop with a straw through the middle that screws onto the top of your water bottle. For a time through my middle and high school years, my dad really pursued it with us and we sold three quarters of a million units under the previous name of “Soda Pop Top” (whose name I later changed in order to pursue water as the primary complementary product). We attended many candy tradeshows and had many meetings with candy companies who were interested in liscensing the idea, but in the end, it all fell to the wayside and we never even broke even.
I tried. I really did. I felt like it was not only a dream, but also an obligation that I must revive the business and justify and rectify all of the work that we put into it years ago but then let slip away. But the dream had become stagnant and lackluster. I was even more burnt out. The passion was missing. And where there is no passion, there is no will. Quite frankly, I beat myself up over it and felt like quite a failure. Still to this day, I sometimes wake up and resent the fact that I wasn’t able to make it go. But on with the story…
Knowing that I needed to make money somehow, I resumed working with birds of prey part-time. I also had the privilege of traveling all all around the United States with our famous Bald Eagle “Challenger” educating people about Bald Eagle conservation, so that was a major bonus! With both my dad and my sister being my bosses, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but it would add quite a bit of color to my life!
Unable to shake my wanderlust, I made a resolution to finish seeing all 50 United States before I turned 25, which I achieved by deferring all of my student loans and draining all of my part-time wages on a myriad of badass roadtrips. Thankfully, with being only a part-time employee, I was able to get away with gallivanting off for weeks at a time.
I may have had the travel bug before all of these U.S. expeditions, but it wasn’t long before I came down with a full on nasty case of Wanderlustitis. I reached the solid and unwavering conclusion that the United States was just too small and that I wanted to…nay, NEEDED to…see the world.
But, despite many scholarships I had gratefully received, I still had a hefty student loan balance, several maxed-out credit cards, no savings, and a unreliable Jeep that was running on fumes.
There would be a lot of work to do to make my dreams come true: unless one has a trust fund, preparation and planning are absolutely necessary to “quit your job and see the world.”
For four years, I worked my ass off, let my workaholic nature take over, and overcompensated in everything I did to ward off any appearance of nepotism. I ended up developing quite a passion and purpose within the organization and actually created a brand new position there (Marketing, P.R., and Social Media Coordinator) making several long-lasting, valuable contributions along the way (not to toot my own horn or anything)!
All the while, I kept my dream of seeing the world at the forefront. I diligently saved up every extra penny, cut expenses, paid off all of my debts, and hacked travel credit cards. I didn’t give a two-week notice, but rather, I gave a one-year notice so as to not cause my dad to have a heart attack. I figured a year would be enough time to fully accept my imminent absence.
It was all done in preparation for July 12th, 2017, the day on which my world adventures commenced.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has happenstanced across A Wanderologist….THEN YOU (YES YOU!) CAN BE ON THE GROUND FLOOR OF BRINGING THIS SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL BLOG TO THE MASSES! I will not try to bribe you…but if you love or laugh at anything on this website and decide to share it with your friends, I promise that you will feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I’m humbled that you’ve chosen to read this far and I hope I can inspire you to embrace your inner adventurer and GET OUT THERE! Leave your comfortable bubble of material possessions. Don’t shower for 4 days. Make out with a stranger. Learn how to build a fire. Climb a mountain. Sleep on some couches. Eat out of a dumpster!
Because. You could get hit by a truck in three years. And would you have rather spent the rest of your existence paying bills for a house and a car and shit you didn’t need…or would you rather spend that precious time aspiring to see things, to go places, to experience and taste the cultures of this world?
Maybe you’d rather have the house, car, and clothes.
To any naysayers out there who think this is a whimsical aspiration, I welcome you to press the little x at the top of this browser window and resume wasting time on your boring Instagram feed. Maybe you’re content living vicariously through others, but I’m not on that team. Never feeling complacent is what makes me tick. My firm belief is that if you come to a place where you’re feeling a bit too comfortable and routined, then you’re doing yourself a disservice.
For all of the rest of you…enjoy the contents of this site! It will revolve around travel planning, adventuring, connecting with nature, cherishing awkward moments, embracing taboos, living simply, building lifelong friendships, and ignoring the “socially acceptable” idea of what a female, successful college graduate should be doing with her life.