We’re happy to do a short interview with our former Frankfurt Spotter Ginger Kern. Since she moved back to the US she could no longer be a Spotter for us unfortunately, but we’re very happy to see she is really making a name for herself in the travel industry. In October she’ll be speaking at TEDx!
Could you first introduce yourself (nationality, studies, what brought you to Spotted by Locals, or anything you feel like the readers should know about you)?
I’m originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city on the coast of beautiful Lake Michigan. My Midwestern childhood was safe and comfortable, but after a wonderful, eye-opening trip to Europe when I was 14, I made up my mind that I was going to live there instead one day. To do that, I figured I should learn some languages, so I chose to study German, French and a bit of Italian at university.
The first extended amount of time I spent in a different country was in Bonn, Germany during a semester of study abroad. After I returned to the United States I knew I wanted to go back to Europe, so I applied for and won the Fulbright grant to teach there the following year.
After the school year ended, I started a job search that ended up being shorter than I thought! I landed a job with the American Chamber of Commerce in Frankfurt and worked there for two years, while blogging for travel websites like Spotted by Locals. I loved meeting all the creative people who were a part of the Spotters’ network, and making friends across the continent to explore with and learn about their cities.
Three years in Germany turned out to be the perfect amount, and I decided to move back to the US – to a sunny city called Boulder in Colorado.
Now I’m excited to speak at TEDxBrookings about the “Traveler’s Mindset”, a mentality that gets you out of your comfort zone and into the zone where the magic happens.
What do you love about traveling, and what is the most memorable trip you’ve ever been on?
What I love most about traveling are the moments and feelings of bliss. It’s the pure happiness from a discovery waiting for me around each corner in a new city I’m exploring, and the intense curiosity I feel when I meet a local who I just know has an interesting life story. It’s feeling free, calm, and nostalgic while I’m sitting alone on a black sand beach on the other side of the world.
Each trip is memorable for its own uniqueness, but one journey that stands out was my first trip to a developing country. I lived in Cambodia for about a month and helped my friend run his movie house in Phnom Penh.
When I learned that nearly a fifth of Cambodians live on less than $1.25 a day, I woke up to my own definitions of “normal” and what’s truly necessary to have a good life. The trip left me with a huge sense of gratitude for the opportunities that I’ve had, especially the freedom to travel.
Is there a way we can make traveling more equitable? Not just a thing to be enjoyed by a jet-setting class?
Travel is not always a luxurious event…at least, it doesn’t have to be! Making traveling accessible regardless of your budget can be as simple as registering on Couchsurfing or Servas (global platforms that connect you with locals to stay for free) or by checking out sites likeSpotted by Locals in advance to scope out the best tips on what to see and do from people who actually live in the cities you’ll visit.
My advice? Start small. If you’re nervous to hop on a plane and cross an ocean, then start expanding your comfort zone by hopping on a bus or carpooling with friends to a new city.
The best thing to do is to pick one place you’ve always been curious about, but still haven’t gotten around to actually going there. Leverage your resourcefulness with a Google search or two, and always look for destination articles written by travel bloggers who have already taken care of the budget research.
Where did you get the idea for the Traveler’s Mindset?
The Traveler’s Mindset is an idea that hit me as soon as I decided to move back to the United States. I wanted to keep the open, adventurous mindset that travel had taught me, even after I returned home.
See, the few times I had gone back to the States to visit, I had felt isolated and discombobulated from the reverse culture shock. I knew there must be a solution, so I experimented with ways to stay in touch with the traveler’s spirit I had while I was on the road.
A lot of that had to do with intentionally reaching out to the people around me, wherever I was, and just trying to connect with them – regardless of language barriers or superficial differences. I had amazing connections and relationships grow out of simply spontaneously striking up conversation with people around the world, and I wanted to continue living life that way.
How do you define the “Traveler’s Mindset” and why do you think it’s an important thing to cultivate and keep, even when you’re not traveling?
The Traveler’s Mindset is a movement that gets you out of your comfort zone and into the zone where the magic happens. It’s a mindset that you already have inside of you – all you have to do is activate it. When you do, you unlock the power to shatter any illusion of isolation you feel and start having adventures, no matter where you are.
Anytime you’re feeling alone or like the world is against you, remind yourself of the Traveler’s Mindset and reach out to the person next to you, wherever you are. Most of the time, within five minutes you’ll find yourself in a conversation that turns your mood around for the rest of the day.
How do you hope your online platform to grow and expand? What’s next?
A Passport Challenge! I’m passionate about encouraging U.S. citizens to get their passports, so I’m excited to be teaming up with The Daily Travel Podcast to raise the stat on Americans who travel internationally.
What are the lessons you’ve learned living or traveling abroad?
There’s a common denominator in all of human experience, a combination of emotions we all experience. Loss, love, pain, bliss. No matter where you are from, or what language you speak, or what you look like, the things that unite us in human experience are exactly what we can rely on to relate to other people around the world.
That also means we’re in luck: even without a common language, I’ve learned we can still connect with anyone, anywhere. That little revelation made travel a lot less scary for me, and a lot more fun!
And finally, a practical question: what are your top four essential travel items?