Savannah and I initially met through Twitter, but it turns out we live only an hour apart, her in Alkmaar and myself in Amsterdam. Over the past two years or so, I’ve gotten to know her and her family, hearing the stories and looking at the pictures. Their travels are truly an inspiration and every time I visit, I want to immediately hit the road. While many of you may know her already, perhaps as the co-founder of #TRLT or social media rock star, a world traveler or author, I wanted to take the time to share a bit more of Savannah’s tale.
Originally from Vancouver, she and her family sold almost all their possessions and backpacked around the world. In the span of four years, and living on next to nothing, the Canadian family visited somewhere between 70 and 80 countries. Leaving the house when she was 14 years old and on the open road until the age of 18, Savannah led a unique teenage life and underwent a transformation. To date, she has visited 100 countries.
Following her travels, she moved to the Netherlands to be with the love of her life, Kees, and has since published two travel memoirs. The “Sihpromatum” series shares honest, raw emotion, everything from inner angst to family conflict and breathless moments (literally) to laughing hysterically. Through her beautiful and descriptive words, she takes you along for the ride. I could easily imagine the sights, sounds and smells along the way. Through her books, I love watching Savannah grow up and mature as she travels the world, to see how she develops and changes along the way. The third, “Rusty Tracks and Booby Traps,” is in the works and next in line. I now have the pleasure to call her a friend and co-host.
The Road Less Travelled (#TRLT) chat, founded by Shane Dallas of The Travel Camel, Ariana Arghandewal of Point Chaser and Savannah, commenced in November 2013. #TRLT discusses destinations often overlooked on other Twitter travel chats, such as Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and Central America, hoping to generate more interest in these areas. Therefore, without further ado, please read Savannah’s responses to the interview questions below:
Initially you were reluctant to hit the open road. At what point did your perspective and attitude change?
Savannah: It’s really hard for me to say at what point things changed because I was evolving every single day. Part of me was still that rebellious teenage girl stuck in my grudge of having to leave my old life behind. One of my definite a-ha! moments was arriving in Yangshuo, China on my first sleeper bus, only five days into the trip. Looking out the window at the sunrise which revealed the bizarre scenery really opened my eyes to beauty I’d never known. It revealed the excitement travel could bring. Every single day from that day on I was amazed, appreciative, educated and everything about me was undeniably changing.
Being on the top of a hill in Mongolia at White Lake looking out over the world was another awe-inspiring moment, that was about 2.5 months into the trip. Although I certainly had many similar moments that made me stop and think about the unbelievable experience I was being given, I was still trapped within myself on a roller coaster of female, teenage emotions. The entire trip was a process of learning and discovery for me and I’m thankful now to have had that opportunity.
Over the span of the four-year journey, how did your relationship with your family change?
Savannah: OH boy! We are so close. After living 24/7 together for years in the most diverse and exotic places we have worked through and seen each other in every situation possible. There is an 11 year gap between my eldest brother, Ammon, and me. We were always a very close family; playing sports, going on camping trips, and playing cards and board games were part of our everyday life. Travelling brought us even closer than we ever were.
What is one of the biggest lessons you learned while on the road? How have you applied that to your life now?
Savannah: Appreciation. Traveling the way we did in the places that we did, gave me the severe kick in the butt that I needed in order to realize just how privileged I was living in Canada. Traveling as a teen made me see that I didn’t need as much as I thought I did. I managed to live with nothing more than a backpack and day pack for years. The simple company of my family, a deck of cards and a good book were the luxuries I had that brought me daily happiness. Now, things have changed. A lot! But I always remind myself of basic living and take a moment to appreciate the small things that are so easily overlooked. Without the trip, I never would’ve known how fortunate I am to have reliable electricity that keeps my house warm, heats my water, does my laundry, gives me internet…
Your memoirs are incredibly detailed and paint the perfect picture. What inspired you to write these books, and how did you remember all of these little facts?
Savannah: Writing became my passion early on in the trip. I hand wrote my journal every single day religiously. By the end I was writing a minimum of 1,000 words in each entry. I guarded my journals like gold. They were the absolute most precious thing in my entire world. I documented everything; thoughts, hopes and dreams, scenery, people, dialogue, history and everything I learned. I still have very vivid memories of our travels and having the journals, photos and my family to reminisce makes the books much more detailed and in depth. Each of us have a different perspective and certain things stood out to us differently.
If you could return to one of the places you visited during those four years, which one would you pick and why?
Savannah: I would absolutely love to retrace our entire trip. That would be incredible. If I could choose only one place though it would be Yangshuo which was the very first place I experienced that gave me that “wow” culture shock that I’ve never really had again. OR I would go back to Big Milly’s on the coast of Ghana where I met my partner seven years ago. Those were a couple very important places that greatly affected my life and future.
Would you do the experience all over again, knowing what you know now? What would you do differently?
Savannah: No doubt at all, I would do it all again. If I knew what I know now things would be SO different. I would take EVEN more notes, wouldn’t stress about high school and would LIVE IN THE MOMENT. My biggest regret is dwelling on what I was missing at home instead of realizing how incredible the experience I was being given was.
You can read more about Savannah and follow her travels on her website. Be sure to check her out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well. Visit Amazon for additional information and pricing in regards to her two travel memoirs, “I Grew My Boobs in China” and “Backpacks and Bra Straps.” All photos in this post courtesy of Savannah Grace and her family.