No Ordinary Adventure

An American Overseas in a Pandemic - Bite Size Stories with Writer Todra Payne

April 24, 2021 Season 1 Episode 13
No Ordinary Adventure
An American Overseas in a Pandemic - Bite Size Stories with Writer Todra Payne
Show Notes Transcript

Dan joins international travel writer and slow traveler from the other side of the world for a chat about creating personal growth and healing through travel and international experiences. If you are a traveler at heart, you'll love this fun bite-size travel story conversation.  Find out how to unplug, and unpack in countries around the world for your own slow travel experience from coach Todra Payne and discover sublime experiences by following your travel dreams. Todra goes from celebrity make-up artist in Los Angeles to traveling the world as a working professional, coach, writer, and house-sitter, with a full-time job in travel. If you’re looking to travel and explore life in unconventional ways, check out this episode and connect with Todra online.

In this episode, we hear the tools of how to support your travels starting out, and what it's like traveling as a woman, female of color, and an American overseas during a worldwide pandemic. 

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Hey adventures. Welcome to the no ordinary adventurer podcast, a place we call home for adventure and the conversations you want to have. We bring you inspiration stories from the field and talk with adventure travelers and industry experts from around the world. This is a place to fill your heart and head with travel knowledge. Now, your host Dan Blanchard, a lifelong Mariner traveler, and CEO of UnCruise Adventures, a small boat adventure company defining the UN in UnCruise. Let's get started. Well, welcome Todra welcome from Montenegro. You're speaking to Dan, Captain Dan, here in Seattle today, headed off to Juneau for the weekend traveling a lot just like I know you do. But you know, we're really looking forward to talking to you. You've been known in the industry for a lot of different things. But maybe rather than me share that you could just tell us what makes your type of travel so special. How did you get to travel through all these countries and such? Oh, my goodness, okay. Well, you know, my mother actually instilled in me a great love for travel when I was a teenager. So at 13, my mother allowed me to go to Canada with my high school, right? And then at 14, I went to, oh, no, I'm sorry, it was 14 to Canada, and 30 and 15, I went to Europe. And we did a summer in Europe with my high school. And it completely changed my life. Like I was just like, Oh, my God, I have to travel, I have to do this. Fast forward, I was a celebrity makeup artist in my 20s. And so I got to travel a bit with that. But you know, it was work, shooting magazines and things like that. And I got to go to some far flung places like Iceland and the Philippines. And so that was a lot of fun. And then I really decided, you know, I was kind of sick of doing makeup and being in New York, and I started writing it. So throughout all of these transitions, career wise, I kept having such a longing to travel, you know, and try to figure out how to do that. And so finally, when I was in Los Angeles, I was writing, and I was also doing a little bit of acting, because if you're in LA, you have to do that. I would imagine so, yes. And I had a vision board next to my bed that had all this travel on it. And I didn't really know how that was going to happen. But I, I look at it every night before I went to bed, you know, and I was like, this is a lifestyle I want and I didn't just want vacation. I wanted to actually immerse myself in cultures and but you know, you think of that you think this is going to be expensive? How the heck am I going to do that? And then, you know, sometimes the universe just helps you out. I lost all my clients. Oh, my gosh, yeah, I lost all my clients and my partner who lives with me, who is a professional photographer and worked for an art school as an instructor as a professor. He lost his contract. This all happened within two weeks, you know, the first response is to panic, you know, but then we said, what, what if this means something? What if we lean into this and see what this is instead of like just automatically freaking out, right? So I said, I would like if we traveled and he was like, cute idea. We don't have any money. Minor detail figure that part out, you know, what we actually I had been house sitting Are you familiar with house sitting? Like, you know, I've have done that. You remember back in the day when couchsurfing first started? I will admit I was one of the first couch surfers so kind of goes along with House city and a little bit as we count served. The problem was there was just no control there. You know what I mean? So yeah, I, I'm a little bit of a luxury girl, even I don't have the money for that. So I really marketed myself as a luxury house sitter. So we were in places that were 7000 square feet that belong to like Hollywood moguls and you know. So having already done that, I was like, we can live better if we give up our little apartment and house it around the world. So we thought okay, we still need income, of course, but not as much. So we started looking at what do we do? And so we thought, well, let's first make sure we're not romanticizing this, you know, let's see if being on the road full time is fun before we change everything. So we hopped in our car, we set up some houses along like the west coast where we were living in California we were in LA and we just left it open in we were like let's just drive let's see what happens and and we talked to our landlady and she said, why don't you put your apartment on Airbnb since you're going to come back? We were shocked. So we did that which was We didn't have to work because we were in a great neighborhood in LA where people want it to be. So 10 days of our apartment on Airbnb covered our rent and are expensive, and the rest of the money was ours. So we hired a manager housekeeper, within four days, it was crazy. We checked out our apartment with this very cool thing that you can put on your door, that opens the door with a phone app. And I can lock the door from anywhere in the world. So we were like, Let's do it. So we did that just before heading out the door. We threw our passports in the car and said, Let's just leave open room for something fun. Who knows? So we stayed for three months, we went up all the way from Southern California into Vancouver, Canada. And all along the way we house that we sometimes did Airbnbs. And finally, when we came back three months later, we were like, Yeah, we're doing this. We're gonna make this a lifestyle. Yeah, so I would outside of the United States. Sure. But what a great time to be. But you know, one thing you mentioned, and I just love that you are sharing tools, you're sharing tools on how you did it that enable people but one tool, you mentioned that I just because it resonates with me so strong, as you mentioned, a vision board. And I am really curious to know what your vision board looks like and how you develop that because I kind of have my own version of it and found it's a secret to getting things done as well. So what pictures look like, okay, so I started, I started out with like an old school where it was just literally magazine pictures, cut out, put on a whiteboard and put next to my bed. Right, which I needed to do back then because I needed it to be effortless like I'm going to bed I see it I wake up I see it right. I've done this for so many years now that I have it on my phone now. You know we're traveling, I'm not carrying this little piece of cardboard around. I love it. I love it. Yeah, yeah, it's on my phone. It's on my phone. I just took a bunch of pictures and put in Google Keep and you know, it's there. One thing that I did make a mistake with back in the day, which was interesting was I had this vision board and I had both pictures of all my like, I want to be on the red carpet. I want to be in this film. Oh, yeah. But I want to travel the world full time. Those obviously are contradictory things. And I think that that's what took so long for it to materialize. And why it materialized in a kind of weird, funky way that was a little bit stressful. Like we lost everything. Yeah, we weren't specific, you know. So I'm much more specific now. It's interesting, because it sounds like I mean, I and I will relate the same. I used to have one of those first dry erase boards that I ended up taping magazine articles on back in the 80s. And because that's what you did, right. So it's, it's cool that you've converted that vision board into something you can carry on your well, in your home computer in your pocket. Yeah, that's, that's excellent. So one of the things that you mentioned in and I love the idea that you went for luxury home city, and that's very novel in my mind. I mean, that in itself is was the start of slow travel, I think for you. But how has that progressed as times gone on? You mean how sitting itself or more the like, like the whole idea of slow travel, which back in that day wasn't really even probably a term, but it sounds like it's something you've kind of developed as life has gone on? Yes. Because when we started out, we my partner and I were saying we're digital nomads, right, that has a certain connotation to it these days, you know, a lot of really young people bopping into places where the cost of living is really low and acting poorly. You know, already leaving trash on the beach? And, you know, in the mountains. Yeah, we truly, yeah, not being respectful of the culture that they're in. And we are both older people. We're in our 40s and 50s. And so we were like, that's not the image we want. So slow travel. Really, I obviously did not invent that term. But when I heard it, we were both like, Yes, like that resonated with us, because we tend to stay places. Three months to six months, depending on how long we can stay before they kick us out. So it works for us, you know, slow travel is the perfect definition. Yeah, and the kickout part and and for those listening, you know, I'm sure what you're talking about is that it's not just physically getting kicked out. But a lot of nations will only have you for so long, right? Yeah. Usually about the amount of time for Americans. Some places are one month and the UK and six months which is wonderful. I took every single second of it. And Albania is when which is where we stayed all of last year to avoid being around a lot of people in the pandemic. Yeah. Well, in speaking of the last year, I mean, how is that, that transition from you and I would consider kind of our adventure, some slow travel mentality to what happened in COVID. I mean, that had to be life changing. Oh my God, it was like, Okay, we made this really big decision, we sold her stuff, and we're like, we're doing this. And then two years later, we're like, Oh, crap, what do we do now? How's it stopped. But you know, I had a premonition about the house sitting, coming to an end. And I didn't know why. But we were in a gorgeous house it in France, in the the end of 2019, for three months, and we had people contacting and asking us to come to Croatia come to the UK come to. And each time we tried to commit to that, I kept saying to my partner, I think we should say no, and just pay rent somewhere. And he was like, why don't we do that? And I was like, I don't know. But it just doesn't quite feel right. And so we did say no. And then some friends in China started saying, Hey, there's this thing going on. And they were like, we were like, we feel bad for you. But we're in Europe that kind of has nothing to do with we're not going to come to Asia. Now if there's a problem because we plan to and they thankfully were like, well, you just never know. And so we said okay, we're gonna hunker down somewhere inexpensive, and see what happens. And we went to Albania. And not even a month their borders started closing like crazy. And we didn't have any houses. Thank goodness, that we had decided we're going to start looking for a place to rent because we have a lot of friends. Who are house sitters that were like freaking out because they were basically homeless going, what are we going to do? Because if people travel, there are no houses to watch. You know, the we ended up last year renting a farmhouse in the mountains of Albania. Interesting. I it's not as romantic as it sounds. You caught me. We had scorpions in our house, we had snakes. Very scary things in our beds. We had electricity going out numerous times of day. I mean, it was crazy. That's the adventure side of the travel right. Luxury at all. So So where's that leave you out today? Are you still in Albania? Well, no, we we did our year there. And then we had to leave. And we were like really trying to get into Portugal or somewhere like that, like back into Western Europe. And they were just like, nope, not doing it not gonna happen. So they were like, oh, so we're used to being able to kind of say, hey, we'd love to Let's go here. That's just not the case. Now. It's like what's open, and he's gonna accept that was very, very limited. And so we ended up coming to Montenegro. Honestly, nothing about it just was like, it's open. Let's go. And it's, yeah, absolutely gorgeous. So we're very happy to be here. Unfortunately, we have to leave on Wednesday. Our time's up Wednesday. Well, that's interesting timing. Because, you know, really, there are a few countries in the world that, you know, are getting vaccine vaccine up to a high level. And so we're kind of I know, in my business, and I expect in your travels, that it's really now there's in certain places, there's this major lifting tied in other areas, it's it's actually very problematic right now. I mean, how are you? What's your view of the next six months to a year in travel? You know, I get the people are, like, chomping at the bit, you know, people are like, tired of being locked up and all of that stuff. I honestly think that we should just chill out for a little bit longer and give more of an opportunity for vaccination. You know, for us, you know, I've got people contacting me saying, Oh, you're so lucky, you get to travel. I said, No, we have to travel. Because we're immigrants in a sense when we're in a country and then we can't just stay there illegally. We have to leave. But if we weren't doing this lifestyle, we would be staying put. Yeah, I can understand that. It's a it's really interesting. The disparity that's going on with fax donation around the world. i i My home is in Juneau, Alaska, where, you know, we're up at close to 60% now, and how which, you know, Alaska, I think Israel probably leading the world at this particular moment. But so it's so strange to be in an area where we're gaining back many of the freedoms we had, you know, based on the fact of vaccination, but yet you don't you don't have to go across line in the in the mountains into Canada. And things are very tight because the axe hasn't got there to that level. So it's I'm finding it to be just very interesting how how the world is cycling through this. And unfortunately we're having a, you know another surge even in the United States right now even with all that vaccination happenings which I am agreeing with you, particularly internationally the challenges that exist right now, and we haven't been able to get vaccinated we have every time we're right at that place. And we really want the Pfizer when you know, you have about a month in between? Yeah, so then it's like, we have to leave by this date. And we can't guarantee that we'll get it by that date. You know, I'll make a deal. We now I'll make a deal. Todra. You and your mate, come to Juneau we'll find a place to put you up. And because at the airport, you get free walk up vaccinations. What? I'm not joking, that that's the level it's gone to. And they've set up mobile vans to be allowed to, to small communities and this type of thing. And they actually anyone doesn't matter on citizenship, as long as you're over, you know, either 16 or 17, depending on the type of vaccine you can. You can fly to Juneau and get vaccinated at the airport today. Oh my god, I'd love to see it. You know, come on girl, bring. Bring that guy along. Let's take some pictures. Spring in Alaska is unbelievable. I bet guys, I'm just just tossing it out there. Okay. It would be fun what a story that would make. I don't know if you'd want to call it vaccine tourism that might not go over well, but you can say you you were determined to get vaccinated, that's for sure. Well, this is you know, as we're coming out of this it it obviously you must aching for travel to return even though you're, you're doing the right thing, and I appreciate your wisdom and, and your stance on this, I think we'd be in a much better place. If a lot of us had followed what you're saying right now and be more conservative with all this. Lessons Learned. You're kind of thinking of, you know, this next phase, and particularly the way you to travel, what do you seen in your your crystal ball, say for a year from now? A year from now, you know that that feels like an eternity for us? Like five days before we have to leave somewhere? We're like, gosh, where are we going? Where are we going to where we can. But a year from now, you know, honestly, I think I think a year from now, I would really love to be in the UK renting a place. And just staying there for six months. I would love that now that that right now feels like pie in the sky because the UK is on lockdown. It's bad. They're, you know, and they had the variance and all the other stuff. So even if you do fly in there, like you stay in that room, and don't you dare leave. So who knows what's going to be happening at that point. But that's what we that's what we hope for it, you know? Oh, man, I feel that. So feel like you're saying it's almost almost brings tears to my eyes to think about getting out of this and kind of kind of a maybe a new norm that we're all going to reach? Well, do you have you know, when you think about this, this year coming out? And let's let's like, say a year from now. And as a personal color? I mean, how do you what's the advice that you give other folks about travel? And and particularly people of color? Who who who might find that? Oh, you know, this isn't something where I've ventured before? I mean, how do you encourage them to move forward with those dreams? You know, one thing that has been really vital for me traveling as a woman of color is that don't bring my American baggage with me. I find that people are curious about me, especially if I'm in rural Albania, people are just like, What the heck, what are you doing? Where are you from, you know, but that curiosity is not malicious. You know, it's not racist. It's just curious. Going there with, you know, the idea of the micro aggressions that I and all black people suffer in America on a daily basis would be unfair to them and to me, and so what I find in in and I can only speak for myself, I've heard horror stories from other people of color, visiting places, but I have had amazing, very fun, open experiences. I'm a person that it takes a lot to trigger me so I'm not easily offended by stuff. I don't have a problem asking like, Well, why are you asking me that? Or what do you mean by that? Or, you know, what if you heard that make you think that and it's opened up really great conversation. Love conversation. I love correcting people kindly if they have a wrong impression, you know, again, we only know what we know, or what we think we know. And so just slapping somebody down or being mean to them is not going to help the situation, right? I've had people want to ask me like, Hey, can I ask you about like police brutality in America? But they're very, like, kind of scared? Like, are you going to be mad at me for asking them? Like, no, please, we want to talk about it, you know? So I've, I would say, you know, don't go with the idea that people are going to be mean to me, or people are going to, you know, I have to be on guard all the time, of course, be wise, but that's just as a traveler period, not. And, for me, I noticed that most of what I encounter are people seeing me as American, which is a very interesting thing, being a woman of color in America, I feel less welcomed, or less like I fit in than I do when I travel abroad. And they're like, Oh, you're from America? You know, like, there's this excitement about kind of a novelty in a way almost it sounds like, yeah, they're so excited. And they want to ask me questions. And for some reason, they all think I'm from Chicago. I don't really know why. Well, I might add that you have one of the most beautiful, beautiful voices, maybe part of it is that you have this really awesome. Are you a singer? No, I wish I can't carry it. Just your voice seems like you should be at that front of the choir or something. But I just love listening to you. And I'm sure people will as well or do all the time. Well, that that's interesting that you know that the novelty of an American and the perception of how people see America in terms of you know, race relations and all this kind of thing. You would think that, that that would be more of a common question. They might ask you, but they it's kind of intermingled with just the fact that you're an American. Yeah, absolutely. That I find that amazing. But probably in a way it opens up doors that may not have been open for you for conversations. And I just think that's fascinating. Me too. Yeah. So you know, is is there, you know, specific advice, let's let's talk about you. And I may be when we're in our 20s and or teens, late teens, as you were when you started traveling? I mean, what would you say to that young person that's listening right now. And they are aching, they're in the same situation, they probably haven't traveled, they're probably in their late teens or 20s. And the doors are just opening up, give us some of the most specific advice you could give those kind of being set free into a life of slow, purposeful travel that you've been talking about. I think the the first thing the best advice is don't be boxed in by what people around you are doing. Right? Because most people are not living. I hate to say that I'm How do I say this nicely. Most people aren't living the dream, right? Most people are afraid to take the risk. And I get that, you know, we all have different levels of risk aversion. If you're a person that your soul is calling you to do something different than everybody around you. That's okay. You know, and find people who are doing the thing that you want to do. You can find them on Instagram, you can find them on Facebook, you know, with social media, there was no social media when I was in my my late teens at all. There's that advantage that you can reach out to people you can ask advice. There are Facebook groups for nomads. A lot of the young people in there are not in their teens, but they're 2021 22 You know, so you get a lot of advice from people who are actually doing it. Be creative. Don't think that Well, only these four places I can go like a lot of nomads go to Southeast Asia because it's cheap, right? Because I'm doing it. I'm in London, I'm in Barcelona I'm in you know I'm in some really expensive places without having to shell out that kind of money just because I'm resourceful and creative. Think of ways outside of the box. If you're like well I would like to be in this place. Well des gonna figure out a way to get to that place. It's doable. It is. Tada. You're so encouraging. You should be a motivational speaker. Seriously careers for me. Well, you know, you find like hearts, and you just can't help but be attracted. And I've enjoyed this time, but I, I think you should share with everybody. I mean, I I've enjoyed our conversation so much. I really want you guys to come to Juneau and get vaccinated, we'll go up to the top of the mountain, and you would love my mate as well. Yeah, that was a very adventure some woman in her own right. Tell us I mean, how you do some coaching, how can we get in touch with you, I mean, I just got a feeling people are gonna want to follow you. Every night when before they go to bed, they're gonna want to listen to us something. Well, I have my website, which is travel live And on there, I write about my travels, as well as some lifestyle things, some motivational things, as you just said, a little bit of manifestation and vision board, just a tiny bit woowoo around the edges. And I have some audio on there because someone else said to me, you should be doing audios. on there. I also have a workbook on there, that helps people who are thinking they want to do this start planning. So it's a six week workbook that you do like week by week, it covers everything from finances to what do I do about residency? If I'm not in the country? How do I know what country I'd like to start in, like, it's all kinds of stuff like that. So you can get the workbook and just work on that on your own if you like, or I have coaching, that is six weeks to go along with the workbook to help you work through it and figure out how to transition. Now some people can do that in three months. Some people can do it in six, and some people can't leave for a year. Right now with everything going on. We don't know what that timeframe is. But people can definitely start putting the pieces in place. And I help them do that. You're amazing. Oh, that's just I just just, I mean, I wish we had more time Seriously, I've enjoyed this, seriously believe and live a very similar ethos and life that you do. I look forward to the time of Crossing Paths, maybe the post COVID Or maybe as we start to exit and actually seeing you face to face someday in the flesh because I I think feel like similar hearts and mindsets sometimes the path the track lines, as we say as mariners the track lines, paths paths each other. So I'll leave you with that. And and best of fortune, as you're starting to look at the next destination. We can help in any way to promote what you're doing. I love the travel of travel live breathe Yep, that's it. Yeah, I mean, to me, that's just says it all right there. But thank you very much. And we'll look forward to talking down the road. Yes, ditto, I enjoyed this. Thank you for having me on. All right, Tundra, take take care and best to your your photographer, mate. Gotta be great. Like, wow, that was a great interview with Todra. You know how when you speak to somebody, you just connect, and I really feel that strongly with her and I hope she takes my offer and comes up to Juneau and gets vaccinated would be just a great story. And maybe we can even talk her on get into coming on board the boat and sharing her life story with us. But, you know, these are so many facets of travel that we talk about whether it be UnCruise Adventures and how I started this business or how people found us oftentimes have to do and toddler brought this out very well have to do about that initial decision to change the way I'm living and moving into a different arena in life, whether it's work, play travel or whatever. And I find with our guests that that's very true too. Because UnCruise is not traditional travel it's very different. Thus the name so I really what resonated to me the most when she was talking about being a young woman of color, and and breaking out of the mold and you know, really living her dreams as a woman and and traveling both solo and then later with her mate. I think it's just a fascinating story. And I think each one of us, particularly my UnCruise family have those same similar stories. So if I can take one thing home for what Todra shared, it's breaking what we consider our current norm, and continuing to grow. Continuing to travel continuing to get to know people of different cultures. It's really one of the richest things we can offer our world. Thanks for listening to no ordinary adventure sharing locally harvested stories about adventure Be sure to subscribe, leave a review tell a friend and help spread the word we are a community of nature lovers, intrepid travelers and outdoor adventurers mostly from the comfort of Have a small boat and we want to spread our love of this fascinating planet that's it for this episode