Teresa Ko is one take-charge chick. Recently she decided to make a life change (including a brand new career). She needed a big move to show people she was serious, so why not kick it off with a big trip. She zig-zagged through Europe on her own, eating and laughing and photographing all things red (!). Now she’s back and ready to hunt down her new career in holistic health with what she refers to as “insane intensity”! The right trip will do that to a girl.
1. Dearest /funniest/ strangest childhood travel memory?
Back in Vancouver when we were kids, every year we would go camping. All the same spots became predictable, but were also highly anticipated. First, we would hit Harrison Hot Springs, camp for a few days, and then on the way home we would go to Flintstones Park and Splashdown waterslides.
It’s funny having flashbacks to marshmallows catching fire (sometimes pretending it was an accident) or thinking I was actually driving those caveman cars. Oddly, to this day, the only song that reminds me of those times is the West End Girls from the Pet Shop Boys. We were driving on a hot sunny day and I remember thinking, “who are these guys on the radio and what does this song even mean?”
2. What was your most comfortable home away from home?
My friend’s couch. It felt like we were roommates and it was just another day in south London.
3. Who makes the best travel companion?
My journal. I always look forward to writing down my thoughts and experiences to help me remember what happened that particular day or where I was. And it’s pretty easy to keep jotting down things you’re grateful for. After a couple of weeks, it’s amazing how easily you forget little moments.
4. What do you always pack?
On my recent travels, I bought a Swiss Army Knife from no other place than Switzerland! I will continue to bring that with me wherever I go as it really came in handy, like to remove a gargantuan piece of proscuitto in my teeth, slice bread or tear into a much deserved bottle of wine. It’s one of those things you wonder how you lived without before. Just remember to remove it from your carry-on or kiss it goodbye at airport security!
5. Is there anything particular that you collect/photograph/save on your trips?
I like getting business cards from places I enjoyed spending time at. Plus, I’m a sucker for interesting designs—I like to see the format, colours, card stock and all. Also, it’s handy to use them as bookmarks or pass on to someone, as I always forget the exact location of “this great little place I went to”.
6. What would you change about the way we travel today?
It would be great for people to really soak in a place they visit and experience how it feels to live there. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing tourist attractions as well, but it’s nice to sit for a while and just be aware of what’s happening around you while your brain turns off. Sometimes you’re so rushed to see all the attractions that you forget how the air smelled, what sounds were really in the background, or feel real emotion while looking at an artist’s work.
I find it fun to go grocery shopping and cook with friends on a trip. Trying to figure out what you’re buying when you’re reading German coupled with funny packaging is always entertaining also. Always remember to ask lots of random questions as you make dinner together regardless of how well you know them. You might be surprised where the conversation takes you!
7. What lesson can you share from a mistake or misconception?
I used to believe that I could never travel by myself or that it wouldn’t be as enjoyable alone. Rather, I’ve realized that it’s just a different experience. For women, safety could be a concern, but, as long as you have your wits about you to avoid getting completely smashed drunk and risky situations/places, you should be fine. Plus, the people at your hostel/accommodation are typically helpful for advising which areas to avoid, especially at night.
8. What’s your trick for blending in, avoiding looking like a tourist.
I usually just wear and bring the most practical things, even though it means I look like a tourist. I’ve noticed people sight seeing in high heels. For me, I can walk upwards of 8 hours a day; so sneakers, yoga pants and a backpack tend to be a part of my outfit.
9. If you could teleport to another location right now, where would it be?
A penthouse suite on the moon.
10. And realistically where are you off to next?
I recently chatted up a Cuban tourist on the subway and have always wanted to go there for my next beach vacation. He recommended dining at a paladar, which is a way to get some homemade food, as it is a small restaurant typically run by a family.
And if you missed it, here’s the previous Q&A from long-distance biker Snežana Radojčić