Jenn from The No Nonsense Nomad (Interview Episode 3)
Technology is infuriating. It breaks, makes no sense, and even puts an impossible-to-fix echo throughout an entire interview against your will. Unfortunately, the latter happened to us when we interviewed Jenn from the No Nonsense Nomad.
Following our mutual devastation, we all collectively decided that we wouldn't have another interview and that we'd just write out the interview instead because a lot of what Jenn said in our interview was incredibly insightful, hilarious, helpful, and enlightening and needed to be shared with you somehow, someway. So, without further ado, here is our interview:
Who are you?
I'm Jenn. I'm from Florida in the U.S. I currently live in London and I've been here for about three years now. I started traveling in 2009 after I finished college. I do have a full-time job, but I haven't stopped traveling. Part of the reason I moved to London in the first place was so that I could experience as much of Europe as possible.
What made you start traveling in the first place?
Right before I got my degree, I was working at a bar and I realized that I wasn't ready for a full-time job at all! At the time, a girl at the bar that worked with me was about to move to China to teach English. After she told me about it over and over again, I thought that it sounded cool, but not so much the "China" part. She then told me that her friend taught in South Korea and I instantly thought, "Oh! That sounds more interesting than China!" So, the three of us met for lunch, discussed South Korea, and I immediately searched for and found a job and moved there! There wasn't much thought to it. I just thought it would be cool to say that I lived in South Korea! It was there where I first learned to love culture, which quickly became my favorite part about traveling.
How long did you live in South Korea?
Two and a half years.
Wow! Where did you live in South Korea?
I lived in Seoul. When I first got there, I lived in the northern part of the city where there isn't much going on. Then, I lived in Bundang, which is sort of like the "Queens" of Seoul. After a year there, I lived in central Seoul.
What did you think of Seoul?
I've learned that when you live somewhere, at the time, you really take it for granted. When I was there, I constantly complained about it. But, looking back, it was one of the most amazing places on Earth. The food is so fucking good, it's fast-paced, the cost of living is low, and the people are so friendly. I actually really miss it a lot now and want to return next year some time.
How many countries have you been to?
26! At the end of the year, I'll have been to 28.
What countries have you been to?
Canada, United States, Mexico, Bahamas, South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, Malawi, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Poland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Romania, Greece, and Italy. Was that 26? I think I'm missing one, but I will go to Poland again and Switzerland as well this year. Next month, I'm going to Budapest. I've been to a decent amount of countries, but there are so many more!
In what country/countries did you feel the most culture-shocked?
This may sound strange, but I would have to say England. You wouldn't think so, but when I first moved here, I was walking up to strangers, saying "hello" and "how are you?" and everyone avoided me. No one talks to each other and no one expresses themselves here. I find it very difficult to make friends here.
How did you end up in England?
I met a boy from England when I lived in South Korea. We went backpacking, then returned home and he asked me to move to England one day, so, I did without a second thought!
What was one particularly scary moment for you while traveling?
When I was in Mozambique, we would be traveling like locals and there were times where I thought, "If we died right now, nobody would ever know!" That thought itself was scary. Africans are incredibly friendly, though, and they don't experience that many white people. So, when they see you, they don't want to hurt you. They just want to get to know you and talk with you. It was just scary to be in the middle of nowhere, really.
Can you talk more about your backpacking trip through Africa?
This was my first real traveling/backpacking experience. I didn't plan it really, to be honest. My boyfriend and I flew to Morocco from South Korea. We went to Marrakesh, Essaouira, and Casablanca, which was not nearly as glamorous as I thought it would be! I imagined caviar and things like that and there was certainly none of that! We then flew to Egypt for two weeks. After that, we flew to South Africa. which was very backpacker-friendly. They had a bus from the top of the east coast all the way to Capetown, which is how we traveled there. From there, we flew to Johannesburg, then took a bus to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique. Then, we went into Malawi, then Tanzania, and then Kenya.
Once you got into rural places, you were smashed into a bus with tons of people. They really tended to stuff people upon people into vans to make each trip worth it. Some rides were alright, and some were just not! On the whole, Africa was such a wonderful place to go. I would definitely recommend it because it is such a humbling place.
Where did you stay in Africa?
Mostly hostels. One time, we stayed at an apartment with people from the Peace Corps. We even slept on a bus one day because the road was washed away and we had to wait for them to rebuild it!
Do not buy the Lonely Planet book for Africa, by the way, because it is full of lies!
How was the internet in Africa?
Being that this was in 2012, we had to go to internet cafes to let everyone know where we were and that we were alive!
How was the food and sanitation in Africa?
Morocco and Egypt were cleaner for food. South Africa was as well. The other places we went to, however, some of the food was questionable. When we were in South Africa actually, we had unpasteurized milk. I got so sick from it that I went to the doctor and had signs of appendicitis! The doctor told me he would have to take it out--right there, in Africa-- but fortunately, it was just an infection from the milk I drank!
Just be careful and drink a lot of water, really. Just have common sense when eating not only in Africa, but anywhere!
However, if there's a restaurant with tons of locals, I'll risk it and try the food there because it obviously has to be good and relatively clean!
What did you like to eat in Africa?
I'll tell you the greatest food find I've had in all of my travels. In Marrakesh, if you face the main square and look to the far right, there's two or three stalls with men who take a lamb and roast it in this clay pot underneath the ground under the stall. Throughout the day, they'll sell cuts of the lamb. In the beginning of the day, you will get the best cut.
We saw this on Bizarre Foods, made our way there, and managed to be the first people there before they even opened. We literally picked up the bone and the meat just slipped off of it. Seriously, if you go there, find it and get there first the next day and it will be life-changing!
What is some of your favorite foreign food items?
I'm partial to Asian food. I love it! I eat it, I breathe it, and could eat it for every meal if I could. I specifically love kimchi! When I'm hungover, I always want that with sticky rice. Sushi is always good too, also when I'm hungover. Vietnamese food is to die for as well. Thai food is good, too, but I prefer Vietnamese food a bit more. Romania has really good food as well, surprisingly! Their meat and potatoes are amazing-- and they have American-sized portions!
I love all food, really. I think my ultimate favorite would have to be anything with kimchi, honestly.
What is your favorite country in Europe so far?
Either Sweden or Denmark. The cities are so clean and they make you feel like you're in Disneyworld, in a setting that just isn't real, if that makes sense.
Why are you returning to Poland?
My ancestors are from Poland, so I went for the first time this year for my birthday. My dad had always cooked us Polish food and talk to us about Poland when we were growing up. I went and was like, "Whoa! This is what dad was talking about my whole life!"
It was really cool to see the culture of where my family is from. It was a lot different from experiencing a place like Korea because I had a personal connection to Poland.
How does your family feel about your traveling lifestyle?
My mom is a typical Jewish mother and is very "Oh god, I saw this in the news, don't go there" and so on. My parents obviously miss me, but it's also exciting for them. They haven't traveled much at all, so they get to kind of travel through me. They are pretty supportive and my sister is actually fairly jealous of my lifestyle.
Before I went to Africa, my mom told me to not go to Africa because they're "in a famine." Ha! I just told her, "Mom! I'm going to Morocco! I'll be fine!"
My grandmother also had it in her head that I lived on a rice field when I lived in Korea! Definitely not the case.
Can you tell us about a particularly mind-blowing moment that really made you fall in love with traveling?
When I saw the Eiffel tower for the first time. You know, you hear about historic landmarks around the world all the time, but they aren't that great in person sometimes. But, the Eiffel Tower was a different story. When I saw it, I thought, "This is what life is about! This is truly magnificent and life is for seeing things like this." I was in awe at how it even existed! When I went there, I hadn't gone on a trip in a while, so this trip re-ignited the flame for me to go traveling more.
Why did you choose to be "The No Nonsense Nomad?"
I read travel blogs often and they severely annoy me! They're so over-the-top positive and all that crap. But, I really think that's boring. I want to tell people what stuff is truly like when traveling. For example, the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt are not worth the money at all. I want to be blunt and fair. I would hate it if people were to save money for a trip and have it be awful. If they could get a no nonsense opinion, it would give them more realistic expectations.
You go to places and you could see 100 pictures of something, then get there, and say, "This is full of tourists!" Like Venice, for example. I saw hundreds of pictures of it, of course, but when I went, it was just covered in tourists! It was cool and the food was quite nice, but it was ridiculously expensive, too. And then, I look at other travel blogs and they're just completely amazed by Venice and it's just a load of crap!
Go to Venice, but don't spend a week there. You only need two days or so. Just be real with people, travel blogs!
Do you have any advice for travelers or aspiring travelers?
If you are thinking about traveling, just shut the fuck up and do it! I didn't think about it once before I went to South Korea and it literally changed my life. I would probably still be in Florida, not leaving that state if I didn't go. If you want to travel, just book a ticket and go!
For those people already traveling, don't follow the bullshit travel blogs. Go to TripAdvisor and read the bad reviews. You have to see that, too. If you are going to go, do research, but don't delay going. Just go!
Thanks again, Jenn! We had such a blast chatting with you!
Thanks to you, the reader, for reading this awesome interview! Be sure to have a look at Jenn's wonderful and sincerely straight-forward travel blog: The No Nonsense Nomad.
(F.Y.I. All photos are Jenn's!)