A huge part of travel for me is the people I meet and the friends I make in the places I get to experience. Some of, well most of my best friends are people I have met while living overseas & the number one thing we have in common is that we get it. Get what? This whole travel life. The coming & going frequently, the moving towns often & regularly. The fact that we will rarely live in the same place for long. And the feeling of saying goodbye/reuniting with each other. So when I meet people who share this same passion I immediately want to know more about them and where their adventures have taken them.
This month's WanderWoman comes to you from, yes again, Team Kaptain Kenny. I swear if I had a dollar for every person I've been able to connect with through that site, lets just say I'd be rich in finances as well as human connection. After hearing from Sam who was interested in being part of this series, and reading through her social media channels & website I was blown away. Not only has she lived in some incredible places around the World, but she has a passion for photography and bettering the planet that really impresses me. Read on below to learn so much more about June's WanderWoman, Sam!
Alright girl, tell all these wanderers about yourself…
My name is Sam, I’m a 29 year old French-Filipina living in Paris. I was born in French Polynesia and lived on the island of Moorea until I was 5. I then moved to Penang, Malaysia for 5 years where I attended a British school. I returned to Tahiti at the age of 10 and lived there until I was 17. I then moved to France, lived in several cities here (as well as Brighton in the UK) before finally settling down in Paris 6 years ago. I love animals and can talk crazily to my 10 year old cat for hours as if she were my child and deeply valued her opinion (I swear, she gets me !) I’m an island girl at heart that weirdly enough absolutely loves living in a bustling city. I believe in treating people the way you would want them to treat you, that whatever you give out, you receive tenfold and I’m a pro at finding the silver lining in difficult situations.
What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?
I lived in Tahiti for many years but never tried surfing or Tahitian dance until I moved to France. I thought it would be “cooler” to try something not many people were doing so I took hip hop classes instead. Also I’m terrified of drowning. (Actually just plain scared of not being able to breathe: choking, being asphyxiated, you name it. I think my biggest fear is crashing a car into water, not being able to escape and drowning. I have weird thoughts… and I don’t like crossing a bridge in a vehicle…) So turns out surfing is not definitely for me but I am passionate about Tahitian dance and have been practicing it in Paris for almost 3 years now (cause you know… almost nobody in Paris does Tahitian dance, so it’s cool 😉)
Did you always want to travel/what made you start?
Travel has actually always been a part of my life. I lived in French Polynesia and Malaysia with my sister and parents but the rest of our family was elsewhere in the world (France, Belgium, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Philippines etc.) so we often traveled to visit them or just to get away from such a tiny island. My parents both travelled a lot when they were young, my dad was even a tour guide in Afghanistan back in the days. Having kids didn’t change their lifestyle, they just took my sister and I along for the ride ! I was actually only 3 months old the first time I took the plane (which was a 24h trip from Tahiti to Paris ! If that’s not dedication to travel from my parent’s side then I don’t know what is).
You are quite open about being diagnosed with 2 different 2 chronic illnesses, what are they and how have they affected the way you travel/your every day life?
I was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis and endometriosis 5 years ago. They are both invisible chronic pain illnesses that affect the pelvic area. There’s so much to say about what they are and how they disrupt my daily life. I have actually just started a new Instagram account to openly discuss this topic (@mindfulwanderlens). Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammation of the bladder. It causes pain (both in the bladder and lower back) and the need to urinate very very often. Not much is known about this illness (where it comes from, how we get it, how to cure it) and there is no “one treatment fits all”. We basically have to figure out what works for us and how to live with it. I have had to change my entire lifestyle: left my 9-5 job and work from home, a lot of diet restrictions because food has a huge impact on flares, avoid certain types of exercise as well as dealing with severe fatigue. Endometriosis is another painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside your uterus. I recently learned that IC and endometriosis often come hand in hand and are called “the evil twins”. I get a lot of judgement from people (even close friends and family) who think I’m being a picky eater or I’m lazy just because my disability is invisible. In regards to traveling, I need to plan every single detail ahead to know where I am going, how long it will take to get from point A to point B, are there toilets along the way ? Are there toilets on that bus I’m going to be riding for 5 hours ? If not, how often is there a toilet break ? I need to stay in accommodation where I have my own bathroom because I wake up several times every night to use it. If 3 days is enough to visit a city, I’ll need 4 just because there might be a day where I’m too exhausted to get out there and explore. I no longer have an active pace and need to do things slower than the average person. I need to take naps during the day now cause I’m so tired (and I actually HATE napping). Moreover, I have to plan my medication which is always a hassle not to mention how much space it takes up in my suitcase.
What made you get into photography, and what tips do you have for anyone wanting to get into it too?
My mom was always taking photos when I was a kid, especially during our travels. She could build a house out of all the photo albums she has ! I love looking through them and remembering all our trips. That is mainly what got me interested in photography: to capture fleeting moments, look back on them and remember them. I’m a very logical/practical person and I was looking for a creative outlet that didn’t need manual skills (drawing, painting etc.) since I’m not good with my hands. There’s something very straightforward, almost mathematical about photography (getting the settings right) yet still creative that fitted my personality and what I was looking for. I think the best advice I can give someone is to just get out there and shoot as much as you can. If you have the possibility to shoot on manual mode, do it ! If you’ve just got a phone as a camera then work on your composition and developing your creativity. And don’t neglect editing using either Lightroom or Photoshop.
What is your travel style?
I do a mix of everything ! I love cozy or modern Airbnbs, luxury hotels but can also go for a cheap, grubby hostel or inn (as long as I have my own toilets in the room !) I usually travel with my boyfriend. We do a lot of cityscapes since there are so many amazing cities to explore in Europe that are easy to get to. We recently travelled 6 weeks in the Philippines which was definitely more nature and adventure!
Top 3 bucket list places you’d love to visit?
Japan: obviously for cherry blossom season but also because it looks like such a funky, quirky, crazy place and culture !
Bhutan: because Gross National Happiness !! And it’s carbon negative ! How amazing is that ?
Iceland: to capture all the mind-blowing landscapes and freeze my ass off in the process.
You refer to yourself as a "World Citizen" on your blog, but where have you felt most at home during your travels?
California ! I just love San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are such good vibes there and I can definitely see myself living there at some point in my life (if I can get a green card ! Any hot, rich American fella wanna marry me ?!)
What is something you wish you could share with your pre-travel life self?
I don’t remember my pre-travel life 😉 I guess that’s a good thing !
Best & Worst travel moment?
Best: A road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles, driving down Highway 1. The scenery was to die for and I was with awesome people.
Worst: The two weeks I got super sick in the Philippines and ended up in the ER 3 times, twice on remote islands where hygiene was not a priority in the hospital…
Traveling and living “mindfully” is a big part of who you are, what are some conscious efforts you make in your travel life to ensure you continue to do that?
I always bring my own reusable water bottle/flask, refuse plastic straws, use shampoo and conditioner bars instead of regular ones in plastic bottles. I also don’t eat meat and always have a spare reusable bag close at hand.
Famous Last words for all the wanderers out there...
Be kind and caring to the people around you, our planet and most importantly yourselves!
To keep up with where Sam is off to next be sure to give her social channels linked below a follow!
Instagram @samhemeryphotography & @mindfulwanderlens