Back in May, The Travel Word was an official sponsor for the summer contest of an up-and-coming travel site called Triptrotting. Triptrotting is all about connecting travellers with locals and then providing both with authentic experiences and opportunities to make new friends. Earlier, the Triptrotting founders had decided that the best way to tell the world about what they are doing is by showing the world what the Ultimate Triptrotting Experience looks like. So a contest was soon launched to identify the ‘Ultimate Triptrotter’ to have the ‘Ultimate Triptrotting Summer Experience.’
For five weeks, the Triptrotting team, along with the judges and sponsors, searched for the lucky winner. As Kelley Ferro, one of the judges, remarked, we were looking for someone “passionate about travel, authentic and unique, with a sense of adventure.” With over 300 entries and dozens of videos, we had our hands full.
On June 9, 2011, a decision was finally made and Yolanda Clatworthy was named the Ultimate Triptrotter! Check out her video here and see for yourself whether she fits the description. We think she does.
Yolanda is an International Relations student at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, although she is currently studying abroad at the University of Melbourne in Australia. We got to catch up with Yolanda right before she took off for an amazing five-day snowboarding adventure in Falls Creek, Australia.
THE TRAVEL WORD: Yolanda, congratulations on becoming the Ultimate Triptrotter! You clearly have a travel bug and the chutzpah to do adventurous things. Tell us more about yourself and your travel background.
YOLANDA: Thank you! I still can’t believe I won. I love travel more than anything else. I had my first solo backpacking experience when I was just 15! Since then I’ve been completely, utterly and hopelessly hooked. I can’t even begin to outline my travel experiences, so I’ll just list a few of my favourites instead.
I participated in the Revolucion Pinguina in Chile at age 16, wherein high school students across the country camped out in their schools for weeks to demand better public education. I explored a coal mine under the Pacific Ocean, caves in Central America and the Catacomb tunnels deep under Paris (including bones from the Plague era).
I worked for a student tourist company in Barcelona and blogged for an NGO in New York. I’ve swum with wild dolphins, rescued orphaned baby goats in the Atacama Desert, built houses in Honduras and been rickrolled on a broken bus in a flooded-out town.
Oh, and I once observed a three-day silence in a monastery in the French countryside. (I’m not religious or quiet, so my friends had a hard time believing this one!) But most memorable of all, I’ve met incredible people and made amazing friends all around the world!
TTW: If we were to ask one of your friends to tell us a bit about you, what would he or she say?
YOLANDA: Funny question… They would probably say that I eat the foam off my cappuccino with a spoon. I’m obsessed with bubbles. I speak four languages fluently, a bunch more passably. I can’t raise one eyebrow or roll my Spanish “r”s correctly. I sleep better outside. And I find one thing each day that makes me happy!
TTW: That’s quite an interesting set of descriptions. Looks like you have travelled quite a lot. What is the strangest experience you’ve had while travelling?
YOLANDA: Ironically enough, it’s coming home that’s bizarre! I grew up on an organic farm in the middle of nowhere and it was always a shock to come home after months of life-changing experiences to find that life at home had not changed a bit.
It’s strange too to come home to the opulence and orderliness of Canada. Or even, to come home to people! I spent the summer of 2010 working at an exclusive floating resort in a temperate rainforest the size of Switzerland. For three months, I saw no houses, roads or cars, and the only way in or out was by floatplane. Coming back to Montreal was a bit of a shock: I needed to use cash again, and keys, and sit in lecture halls that held more people than I’d seen all summer!
TTW: Of all the amazing places you have been, what is your favourite and why?
YOLANDA: I know that this is a cop-out answer, but really, everywhere has been fantastic! There’s not been one place I’ve been that I wouldn’t go back to. And you get something different out of everywhere you go; it’s not fair to compare the museums of Paris with the markets of Marrakech or the beaches of Fiji. They all offer different things.
One thing I will say, though, is that the people you meet are what make the difference between a great experience and a mediocre one; you can revisit the same city multiple times and have a completely different experience every time!
TTW: Many people say that music is the the ‘great communicator’ because it enables people to get through to one another in spite of cultural, linguistic and other boundaries. What is your take on this? Have you had any specific experiences that were especially memorable?
YOLANDA: DEFINITELY agree. No matter where you go, there will always be someone around a campfire with a guitar, inviting you to sing along. Or a kid asking you if you know/listen to “x” musician in your home country (usually someone like Beyoncé).
Some of my favourite travel memories revolve around being invited to share in people’s celebrations – everything from festive singing and dancing at a wedding in Nicaragua to an impromptu jam session with locals in a small town in southern Spain.
I teach English to refugees back in Montreal, and focusing on music is the best way I’ve found to bring together people from all languages and backgrounds. It places a focus on unity rather than on the divisiveness of politics or religion or socio-economic differences.
TTW: With technology increasingly connecting people around the globe, why is travel still so important for today’s young adults?
YOLANDA: NOTHING replaces travel. It’s about connections, and meaningful ones will always be found in person rather than online. Technology has greatly facilitated travel, but it shouldn’t repudiate it.
TTW: What do you hope to accomplish in your role as the Ultimate Triptrotter?
YOLANDA: Ha! Ultimately it’d be to change the world, of course! But realistically, if I can convince just one person to hit the road, or to share his or her life with outsiders, or to look at someone or something in a different way, I’d be happy.