Courtney Scott: Free & Loving It
Courtney Scott’s life would make a hell of a movie plot: she did the cubicle thing until she got burnt out then washed her hands of corporate life and decided to follow her heart. Her heart led her to travel—and since taking the leap things have worked out wonderfully. Although Courtney’s official title is TV personality/travel writer/ professional vagabond, even that sprawling description feels a little confining.
This month, Courtney embarks on a new adventure, as a cast member of the travel documentary, Jet Set Zero, a series about a group of 20-somethings who commit to work and live overseas for 90 days (think Real World but with travel & culture filling in for all the fake drama).
Some people travel to get it out of their system.
I think travel is my system. It’s the only industry that has quenched my curiosity and satisfied me professionally. Now, if you’re listening, Pay Check, come to Mamma.
My first travel memory is so original.
I went to Disney World. I was about 10, wore florescent pink sunglasses the whole time and chased a lot of lizards. I remember thinking Epcot Center was fascinating. There were all these interesting looking people speaking different languages. And food I had never smelled before. And lots of buxom blonds serving beer in lederhosen. I liked it all.
Who wants to go to Europe and eat carrot sticks?
Much better diet plan: eat anything that’s delicious and fresh. Walk a lot, and buy a second-hand bike. It’s a cheap way to cruise around a city, burn calories and chase down thieves who steal your luggage. If you’re going to go the distance to travel, don’t sell yourself short on the food. You can learn so much about a society through its eating habits and cuisine.
One of the best meals I’ve had was at a fantastical place in Chia, Colombia, called Andres Carne de Res.
It’s like Outback Steakhouse on acid. You eat meat you can’t pronounce while performers (think Cirque du Soleil) do weird things. There’s salsa dancing between courses and mojitos are served out of bowls. No further explanation necessary here. Just take me back.
As far as travel shortcomings go, I’ve seen many extremes.
I’ve seen the too lazy, too crazy, too homesick, too structured and then there’s the souvenir shopaholics. “Do you really need *another* I Love NY t-shirt?” I guess my shortcoming falls into the category of the “too long-term traveler.” I don’t like trips that last only a week…or even two. I like using travel as a complete lifestyle change. I like learning a language, buying my own groceries and cooking local recipes, meeting families and finding myself a job.
Convincing friends to take sabbaticals or flat out quit their lives is a hard sell, although I have succeeded three times (and counting).
But usually my long-term trips are solo missions. For many people that’s bizarre, especially for a woman. I don’t agree. You are your best company. I wish more people realized that. Traveling with best friends or large groups is fun. But the thrill of landing in a foreign city alone with no rules or schedules to abide by is pure adrenaline.
In the words of writer William Halzitt, “I would like to spend my whole life traveling, if I could borrow another life to spend at home.”
Long periods away from loved ones has gotten increasingly hard in my late twenties. My family gives me the support I need to take the risks I do and as my parents and grandparents age, Skype just doesn’t cut it.
I don’t do tour groups cause I know I’ll get left behind.
I’m the girl who disappears from the pack and surfaces hours later with a new group of buddies and a whole different agenda than was previously planned.
I barely give myself enough time to pack before a trip so research and planning are a challenge.
Wing it. You will find your way…or discover a new one.
The last guidebook I bought was from a street vendor in Phnom Penn, Cambodia.
It looked like a Lonely Planet. It was wrapped in plastic. When I unwrapped it and opened the cover, it was just a bunch of blank pages. I took that as a sign.
There’s nothing more humbling about travel than being robbed on the road.
This September in Rome, I put my luggage in a taxi before getting inside, and never saw the taxi or my luggage again. Standing in the middle of a busy Roman intersection, horns honking, watching the taxi fade into a blur, and realizing it’s not coming back…yup, officially humbled. When you are stripped of everything, alone in a foreign country, you realize that even the savviest, most fiercely independent travelers can get burned.
I go everywhere with a moleskin notebook and usually a couple of pens that I’ve stolen from TD bank.
I really like Moleskins. They’re durable and make me feel creative. Little notebooks inspire big ideas.
I never could have predicted how much I’d love speaking in a foreign language.
At first, learning and becoming fluent in Italian was a necessity of expat life. Now I can’t stop. My newest challenge is learning Serbian from my boyfriend. I still haven’t figured out how to avoid spitting on people when introducing myself, but I’ll get there.
One of the best travel decisions I’ve made was to teach English abroad.
Outside of travel journalism, it’s one of the only jobs that allows you to see the world and earn money simultaneously. Kids give you so much perspective on life too. Their innocence, resilience, and brutal honesty keeps me grounded and laughing: essential keys to a life well-lived.
I gave my backpack as a gift to one of my English students and my wheelie was stolen, so this summer I’m borrowing travel author Amanda Pressner’s pack which has been around the world three times.
The stories it’d tell if canvas could talk.
The beaches in New Zealand are crazy beautiful and no one ever seems to be on them.
Through travel I’ve found that I can consume an entire jar of Nutella in one sitting.
Also, that I like bicycles with baskets and fumbling through foreign languages and seeing the look on people’s faces when you tell them that they control their own destiny.
This new life of new-age travel journalism DOES suit me.
I have spent the last three years feeling gloriously free, professionally satisfied, and pitifully underpaid.
I don’t feel bad for inspiring others to quit their jobs or for wearing spandex as pants.
I do feel bad for people who are in a perpetual state of waiting…for what? Why let your pre-existing expectations of “grown up” hold you back? Dance more and extract yourself from the cube. I’ve tried it. You’ll love it.
I love travel because no experience can be duplicated.
I love travel for the goosebump moments. I love travel because it teaches me things about myself and about the world. I love travel.
“How I Travel” is a new BootsnAll series publishing every Tuesday in an effort to look at the unique and diverse travel habits of some of the world’s most well known and proficient road warriors. Got ideas for who we should talk to? Drop us a note.
You’ll find links to all the “How I Travel” articles on the How I Travel archive page, you can become a fan of “How I Travel” on Facebook, and you can follow the @howitravel profile on Twitter to get updates as soon as new features in this series are published.
all photographs provided by Courtney Scott and may not be used without permission