The founder of ‘She explores’ is a wonderful woman named Gale Straub, her own words are much better than mine so here is a quote of hers:
She isn’t me. She is the novel outdoors woman: curious and ready-to-go; invariably planning her next endeavor. You could just as easily find her climbing in the mountains as rediscovering her home town.
She explores with an eye for color, an appreciation of technique, and a pull towards what’s next.
Gale has been travelling with Jon Gaffney aka @thevanman since August 2014 on the North American road in a Dodge Sprinter van. She has created the ‘She Explores’ page which inspires women all over the world to travel, it is a collection of women who are all passionate about life on the road and living freely. I was lucky enough to get a response from Gale when I emailed her and her insight is amazing.. here we are!
Q) What made you decide to travel? What influenced that decision?
A) I was looking to make a life change. I hadn’t taken many chances in my life thus far and I always wanted to take a long road trip and photograph the country. When I made the decision to travel with my boyfriend, I was 26 (almost 27) with a good job in a field I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in, no mortgage, no kids, no car. I had nothing holding me back, so when my boyfriend brought up the idea of long term travel I was on board. Just needed to save up some money first.
Q) Were your family and friends supportive in the decision that you made?
A) For the most part, yes. I’m at an age where a lot of my friends and family are getting married and buying houses and having babies. I think it was tricky for some to wrap their heads around wanting to quit their job and live out of a van. Those closest to me weren’t surprised because they knew something had to give in my life – I worked a finance job at a cubicle every day, but I’m pretty visual and driven by more creative endeavors.
Q) Would you say that you are happier now living life on the road than before when you lived a more ‘normal’ life?
A) Yes, but necessarily for living on the road. I feel like I have more control over my life direction. Before leaving my 9-5 job, I wanted to travel, but more than that, I wanted a lifestyle change. Even when I stop living on the road, I won’t go back to a busy city or a cubicle job. This, more than anything, has made me happier.
Also, I would never recommend that someone take a road trip or travel if they’re not comfortable with who they are first. I know some people try to escape themselves through travel or new relationships or the like. I say it all the time – you can and will take yourself with you on a road trip.
Q) What would you say has been the best experience of travelling?
A) Three things: 1) Growing & gaining confidence as a photographer 2) Getting closer with my boyfriend 3) Meeting new, likeminded people.
Q) What has been the worst experience?
A) Missing family. It’d be nice to have it all, but of course that’s impossible.
Q) How do you get by financially, is it tough to get enough money? Or did you save up enough before leaving?
A) I was an accountant in my previous profession, so I made sure to save sufficient funds for my travels. It wasn’t easy – I saved for 15 months before turning in my resignation and I was systematic about it. My boyfriend and I have also started a consulting company in the last couple months. We are setting ourselves up for life after the road trip and learning how to work as we travel.
Q) Do you prefer to go it spontaneously or do you always know what you’re doing and where you’re going?
A) We have a general idea where we need to be and when (for work and play), but we are pretty flexible. It would be difficult to keep a strict itinerary while traveling – you can’t plan for everything!
Q) Do you want company on your travels? Do you think it’s doable on your own or is company a necessity?
A) I’m in a committed relationship so I never thought about road tripping solo. Otherwise I would likely have traveled with my twin sister. Although I enjoy my alone time, I think this expereince has been enriched through sharing it with someone special to me.
Q) Do you think that there is a certain level of happiness and fulfillment that can only be achieved by travelling?
I personally do not believe you need to travel to see something new every day. I think it’s all about changing your perspective intermittently and having an open attitude. I believe travel enriches your life, but I know that everyone is different and happiness is relative. I also think that some people compare themselves to others and wonder why they aren’t “happy”, but no one really knows what’s going on in someone’s life. My advice is to work towards being content (about yourself, your life, your goals) and worry less about being happy.
Reading Gale’s inspirational tale restores hope and faith into me. One of her notes included saying that you cannot travel unless you are sure of yourself, because you cannot leave yourself behind. And I guess that’s all a part of travelling, having the confidence to be ready to leave, to accept yourself, to be the kind of person you are ‘happy to be on the road with’.
I’ve been writing this essay, reading books, finding articles, watching films, having long and deep wondering conversations about travel with anyone who will listen. And this is something that makes me happy. I may not actually be travelling but right now just talking about it makes me joyous, but I feel that a lot of other things are also capable of making you this happy – it might not be travelling or anything to do with it.
Perhaps the question is not ‘is there a certain level of happiness that only travel can achieve’, but instead to wonder why it is that people travel at all.