Teaching Traveling: Curious how the Peace Corps can lead to a life of travel? Wondering what it’s like to travel as a Black, solo female traveler? Read on!
Welcome to Allison Meredith Smith, also known as “Bag Lady Meredith San Diego,” an expert in these topics. Meredith, tell us about your background.
Meredith: I left my hometown of San Diego to serve my country overseas in the United States Peace Corps in the Fall of 2014. It was during my service that the opportunity to teach and facilitate courses was introduced by way of summer leadership camps for youth.
Having never formally “taught” before being granted the chance to do so for the first time via the co-funded project GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp in Macedonia, I found myself extraordinarily moved by the impact my courses on positive body image and creative writing had on these gifted young minds.
This experience impacted my being to the core, and highlighted the importance of “being the change” and the power of helping children steady their own two feet while finding their poetic voice.
I have always strived to be a positive female role model, not only in life, but in the eyes of the younger generation of my own family. This deep-rooted morale has served as the catalyst for many courageously terrifying ideas I’ve executed in my lifetime.
TT: So inspiring! Tell us more about the impacts of teaching youth abroad.
M: The impact of participating in now three different summer leadership camps in two different countries over these handful of years continues to produce evidence of outward ripples to present day: Past campers entering undergraduate programs abroad, successfully-executed community based humanitarian projects, and most memorably, a young man finding his poetic voice and by default his confidence through creative writing; these are the ripples that will morph into waves of change for the future.
These young adults crave so much to learn, experience and to embrace the different as something beautiful. They aspire to ask the right questions and seek positive solutions for real problems by starting with themselves.
They are hungry for productive outlets that teach them more about the importance of mindfulness then the societal norms; insert your social media outlet of choice here. These motivating young minds are the foundation of social change and hope for the future. (Initiatives like these Latina and Black dolls help teach kids young to have a positive self image!)
TT: Beautifully put. You are clearly a role model for so many. Could you share your thoughts on travel as a person of color?
M: As a woman of color I feel empowered to travel as I do. I find there’s a huge gap in the tourist industry in this regard. I repeatedly encounter this gap in most places I adventure to, often being the only dark face in the bunch.
There are grand numbers of traveling POCs, however, and an abundance of social communities around the world supporting this very notion. I’m grateful for these communities, what they represent and the opportunity to contribute to the cause.
TT: Absolutely! Now, how do you handle unwanted attention as a solo female traveler?
M: Unwanted attention is unavoidable. In my hometown as much as during international travel, I apply common sense and remain vigilant about my surroundings as much as possible.
These situations are so individual, but some coping mechanisms I’ve developed over the years include adopting various accents, flexing my story-telling muscles when necessary, but in all honesty, I have an unwavering confidence in the power of positive energy, faith in human kindness, and lean on Jesus for the rest!
TT: Interesting! So, how do you afford to travel so much?
M: As a Peace Corps volunteer my basic living expenses and set living allowance were funded by the U.S. Government. Now that my service time is wrapped I’ve been taking a gap year (and a half-ish) to travel, process loss, and rediscover myself.
Productively, I’ve leaned on this time to launch my own travel blog and social media personality. My “globe-trotting”, adventure-mandatory lifestyle is made affordable primarily as a result of personal savings and freelance creative writing jobs.
I’d be remiss if I failed to note how discount dot coms chock-full of convenience also contribute to making my thirst for adventure financially possible.
TT: Nice! What drives your passion for adventure and travel?
M: My desire for up close and personal, cross-cultural experiences on different continents provides me a different glimpse of humanity.
Facing my own vulnerability and acknowledging the challenges that grieving plays on an ambitious, business-minded female in her mid-thirties also makes for quite the emotional rollercoaster.
Despite these challenges, I found the courage to channel my grief from a personal loss into living my own dream and to make the best of a not-so-fortunate situation.
Today I’m blessed to seize an opportunity to travel at great length, while sidewinding these experiences into poetry and short stories, many of which are featured via my blog, BagLadyMeredithSanDiego.com. My creative expressions document and share my experiences, while navigating my adoration for writing into a career.
TT: Fabulous. What’s next for you?
M: On this side of my lofty travel goal of 7 wonders in 1 year — documented primarily with only my iPhone — I can honestly say I surprised myself the right amount, empowered myself enough to keep going, and inspired myself by inspiring others.
I cannot capture in words the emotion I’m filled with, knowing what I’ve been blessed to accomplish, or the excitement of knowing I’ll continue to feed my thirst for adventure.
TT: Thanks so much, Meredith! Readers, what questions or comments do you have?
The author, Lillie Marshall, is National Board Certified Teacher from Boston who has been a full-time public school educator since 2003. She launched Teaching Traveling in 2010 to share expert global education resources, and over 1.6 million readers have visited over the past decade. Lillie also runs Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog, and DrawingsOf.com for educational cartoons. Do stay in touch via subscribing to her monthly newsletter, and following on social media with the links below!