It happened in a little French town. Katie Francis had just arrived to Vichy for her semester abroad when she knew this was only the beginning of her life long passion for travel. She had just managed to lug two huge suitcases and a heavy backpack all the way from the US to Paris and from Paris to Vichy with only some broken French to help her. She was exhausted but excited. Outside of a few family trips to Colorado and Florida and some Caribbean cruises in high school, this was the first time she had been really able to travel.
“I loved everything about France; from being on my own in a foreign place to learning that not all cultures are like my own. What I loved most about studying abroad was meeting people from all over the world.” With a class full of students from around the world, Katie not only learned about French culture but others as well.
While Katie would go on to work a full time job after college, her passion for travel has never faded. With an understanding boss, she is able to take full advantage of her paid vacation throughout the year.
“My friends always ask me how many vacation days I have because it seems to them that I am always traveling. Let me tell you– I have two weeks! Not nearly enough, however I use it wisely. I pair my [paid time off] with time the company gives me off for holidays. So instead of using five days to take a week off, I pair it with a holiday and only have to use four days.”
It also helps, she notes, to not have a specific list of places you want to go. She’s game for anywhere. “Searching for airfare is one of my favorite things and the first step in my process of deciding where to go. Most people have hobbies such as running or scrapbooking; my hobby is finding cheap flights, and if I find a fare that I think is reasonably priced, I book it on the spot.”
This is how Katie managed to book herself trips to Finland and Russia this winter. While trying to find tickets to Brazil post-Olympics with her travel partner, she discovered going across the globe would be even cheaper. “And there you go, I am going to Russia in the winter. Brightest idea? Most definitely not. Will it be an adventure? Of course.”
This attitude has already brought her to two different countries earlier this year. She celebrated her birthday in Japan and then went on to travel to Colombia after finding both an willing travel partner and a steal of a flight.
Katie doesn’t just stop at finding a new city. She loves planning her trips. After the flights are booked, she takes to Google and Pinterest to begin researching what to do and see. She then plans her accommodation, opting to stay in more unique places. “One time I stayed in a school bus in New Orleans and on a houseboat in Amsterdam.”
While she loves the adventure of travel, she isn’t quite ready to be full time. “I enjoy my job and the company I work for, so packing up and leaving would be difficult. In addition, I love falling asleep in my own bed. After traveling a couple of weeks nothing feels as good as coming home to my own space and snuggling with Chocolate Chunk (my dog).”
She also enjoys traveling with friends. “I am partial to traveling with a buddy. I feel like experiences are better when shared. I am lucky to have friends who want to travel so there is always someone to go somewhere with me.” After all, something that could have been miserable– like a post-clubbing wait in the train station for hours in France– turns into a funny memory.
Her adventures around the world as a female traveler have taught her quite a few things. “I think the most important thing to remember is we can do anything men can do. If you want to travel the world solo, do it. If you want to go out at night and have a few drinks, do it. If you want to hang out with a group of fellow travelers you just met, do it. Be smart; be aware of your surroundings and trust your intuition. If something doesn’t feel quite right, then it probably isn’t.”
And, her best advice? “A smile can go a long way.”