Lauren Juliff has experienced just about everything a traveler fears. Brake failures, monkey attacks, scams, disasters…everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. But Lauren not only keeps traveling, she keeps writing about it on her site, Never Ending Footsteps. Lauren chatted with us about anxiety, travel, and how to get past traveling setbacks.
Tell us a bit about how you started Never Ending Footsteps.
I started Never Ending Footsteps to document my one-year trip around the world. I wanted my friends and family to have somewhere to go to find out where I was and what I was up to. After a few months, I realized I wanted to keep doing this forever.
You mention anxiety a bit in your work. How do you deal with the anxieties of travel?
I’ve found that having complete control over my life has been fantastic for my anxiety – being able to decide to go where I want, when I want, with who I want has made me realize that a lot of my anxiety issues were to do with not feeling in control. I found that regularly pushing myself out of my (very narrow) comfort zone has helped me to see that most things you’re anxious about never actually happen. Prepare for the worst and you’ll nearly always be pleasantly surprised!
One of the best sections of your blog is your “Incidents.” What’s your favorite?
I think my favorite incident would have to be my cursed month in Cambodia. Over the space of one month, I managed to contract food poisoning, get attacked by jellyfish, had my entire body covered in pus-filled sandfly bites, caught a fish in my bikini bottoms and fell off a curb, spraining my ankle and ripping half the skin off my knee, which then became infected. And then I poured a margarita over my brand-new laptop. It was not a good month.
How do you recommend travelers deal with setbacks, whether it’s failing brakes or just being lost?
By trying to maintain a positive attitude at all times. When something terrible happens to me, I force myself to smile and laugh, and to remind myself that this will make for a great story when it’s over.
What are some of the unexpected challenges you ran into with running a blog while traveling?
Finding time to actually travel! Running a travel blog takes up as much time as a full-time job does, so I spend an awful lot of time on my laptop. It can be tough to remember to shut it down and step outside to explore. Because of this, I aim to spend one to three months in each location so that I can get to know it while still getting some work done.
How do you navigate a country where you don’t speak the language?
With a lot of miming! I usually find that in the places I stay, there’ll always be somebody who’ll speak enough English to help you find what you need. If not, then miming helps a lot – saying “choo, choo!” to find the train station, miming eating to find a restaurant, miming sleeping to find somewhere to stay. If I want to get somewhere in particular, I’ll write down the address in both English and the local language so that I can ask for directions if lost.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently going to be holing up in Southeast Asia for the rest of the year while I write my book. I’m planning to spend time in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos, with brief stints in Nepal and Taiwan.