Travel Inspiration: An Interview with Anna Zalazar

Anna in LondonA big welcome to Anna Zalazar this week, who has some really wonderful travel lessons to share on not only what she is doing now, but one of the bigger obstacles she faced in leaving to travel, one I shared as well, which was just buying the ticket and committing to travel.

I was fascinated to learn about some of the educational social work her family is doing in Philippines and the impact it has had on the rural communities there. Read on for a little slice of her travels and the lessons she has learned through travel (this links to one of my favorite posts on her site.

1) What do you do?

In 2011, I quit my job and went on a one woman adventure to South East Asia thinking I was going to travel only for 6 months. Somehow that 6 months turned to 1 year. On my way back to the US, I got a connecting flight to Europe and decided to stay. I spent about eight months traveling around the continent, volunteering, living and teaching English in Spain. Overall I’ve been traveling for 2+ years now.

2) What was your biggest obstacle to traveling and how did you overcome it?

I think the biggest obstacle with my decision to travel was in terms of my career. I left behind a very good and comfortable job with a company I was proud to work for in exchange of uncertainty and the unknown. But my dreams and curiosity were a lot stronger than me wanting to stay with the familiar. Though it scared me to death, I felt and knew that there was more to life than being on the ‘safe’ side.

How I overcame it was a bit funny. I stumbled upon a big seat sale with AirAsia and bought 16 flights all around the countries in South East Asia. I knew that if I didn’t do something drastic I would not pull the trigger. Making it irreversible meant that there was no turning back. So after almost half a year of delaying my travel plans, I set a date of departure and quit my job.

3) What are you most excited about right now?

Nothing is more exciting to me than seeing my dreams come to life. In the past I’ve had so many plans that didn’t work out. One example was that I’ve always planned to backpack around Europe but never realized it due to having few vacation leaves. Coming to Europe wasn’t exactly on my travel plans but after going down to Switzerland on a connecting flight and deciding to travel around Europe, I knew I would be back when the three-month visa period ended. I came back to live and freelance in Madrid. Before, I never thought that was even possible. I think that’s the magic of long-term travel. It helps you remove all your mental barriers to let you realize that anything is really possible.

Other than realizing my dreams, I am very excited about getting feedback from my family, friends, blog readers and solo adventurers that are inspired with what I’m doing and have started doing it themselves.  It makes me feel that I’m a part of something bigger. It has always been my belief that if everyone marches to the beat of his/her own drums, the world will be a happier place.

4) What’s next for you?

I’m already overdue for my yearly family visit in the Philippines. I’m off to Manila in a few days. 🙂

5) What’s a cause you’re passionate about and why?

I am passionate about learning and I’ve been fortunate when it comes to getting the best education both from traditional schooling and from the real world schooling with my travels. But it’s not that easy for everyone, especially in my home country.

Last year I went to visit my cousins’ rural province of Jagna Bohol. I found out why both of them had chosen to live the simple life in the province despite having doctorate degrees and amazing work opportunities even after receiving an Asian Nobel Prize award. I learned that their institution employs a dynamic learning program emphasizing independent learning over teacher lectures. The concept is simple and very much like traveling: learning by doing.

The students from my cousins’ school are people from humble backgrounds and so the school provides a low-cost quality education despite conditions of great scarcity and daunting poverty. The results of their program are amazing as a majority (if not all) of the students have passed national exams and university admissions test. Moreover, scientists and Nobel laureates visit them in their small town province in Jagna to learn more about their program. I’ve been lucky to include this small town in my adventures when I have been invited to talk and share with them what I’ve learned in my travels. I fully support and am very passionate about this cause not only because it’s a unique program that woke up the nation but also because of the generosity of my cousins’ hearts. They both serve an inspiration to me on how I want to live my life.

A big thanks to Anna for sharing ; if you’d like to connect or find out more about Anna’s recent travels, you can find her on her OHW profile.

Anna on Twitter and Facebook
Annzventures travel blog

We regularly feature inspiring travelers who have taken the leap into travel as a part of our travel inspiration interview series. If you’re a traveler keen on being profiled here, sign up for an OHW account and fill in your profile — then shoot me an email (shannon at ohheyworld dot com).

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Shannon O'Donnell

A storyteller and knowledge-seeker captivated by the world. Formally an actress and web-nerd, I left in 2008 to travel solo, volunteer, and hunt down delicious vegetarian eats all over the world. She recently published "The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook, and her travel stories and photography are recorded on her world travel blog, A Little Adrift.

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