Here’s where Sarah Gallo, the Five-Foot Traveler, journeyed this past year: Chernobyl, Mongolia, Transnistria, and beyond – six continents, 33 countries, 52,000 miles. Sarah blogged, wrote articles, instagrammed, snapchatted and tweeted every day from these distant outposts, illuminating to her followers and clients the value of the path less travelled. Many of her readers are working corporate jobs and looking for more meaning in life. Sarah’s journey conveys first hand that this is how you stretch your horizons, challenge your assumptions and stumble onto new ideas. Even better: while on the road, she found her own life’s calling.
We first wrote about Sarah in May of 2015, and since then this petite, fearless young woman – once terrified of flying and now hooked on bungee jumping – has turned her thirst for the open road into a blossoming career. She’s already seen far more of our world in her 24 years than twenty normal humans. And she’s found a way to turn her love of unique experiences into a job as a brand ambassador, travel and adventure consultant, and writer, helping others to take chances and learn from new cultures. Here are just a few of the places Sarah has been in the past year that have made her stop and think:
Mongolia: “We slept in cow fields, by canyons and next to waterfalls. We stayed in gers (yurts), heated by burning cow manure. Mongolia is a country that so many people never get to. They still live a nomadic lifestyle. With the change of the season, they pack up everything and move. It’s ungraspable for us. But they love their family, and their life.”
Transnistria: “Visiting Tiraspol, the capital, is like going back to the USSR. Everywhere you see hammers and sickles (symbols of the old USSR), statues of Lenin and tanks. At the border control we were interrogated by KGB-style guards. They wanted bribes.”
Chernobyl: “It’s open daily for tours. We walked through various villages hit by the nuclear disaster. We entered a kindergarten and you could still see the dolls covered in ash. We saw an abandoned gymnasium, abandoned apartment blocks, abandoned schools, and a room full of gas masks. It’s so haunting.”
Japan: “They were hit with two atomic bombs, parts of the country were demolished, and yet they rebuilt and became a global force. Everything is high-tech, everything is beautiful. I’m in love with Japanese toilets. They have these incredible heated toilet seats with built-in bidets.”
Bolivia: “The places I see generosity most are where I would expect it the least. I found it in the poorest of places, from people who have nothing. Yes, there are Americans who are generous, but not like you find like Mongolia, Brazil and Bolivia, places where people will open their home to you, feed you, and give you their bed. In Bolivia, we were in the middle of nowhere, and it was very cold, and people came and gave us blankets and fed us. I’ve seen it so many times.”
Great thinkers and writers have always understood that you can’t let the grass grow under your feet, that we learn the most from unexpected, serendipitous turns. Recent studies have shown that traveling extensively and living abroad can make you more “consistently creative.”
It’s my hope that our snapshot of Sarah’s extraordinary travels this past year might inspire more of us to hit the road and seek out discoveries that spark new insights.
Inertia and habit can reign us in, but challenging experiences broaden our lives.
Where are you headed in 2017?