Sarah Brown was surprised when we asked her for an interview because she's just a ''normal person''. But we just knew that she's really special and way too modest. This 37 year old from Minneapolis has visited 49 countries, and her latest trip involved Croatia, especially Dubrovnik. She caught our attention on the Instagram profile ''whereivebeenwandering'', where she puts really nice and colorful photos from all over the world. ''Not all who wander are lost'', Tolkien wrote and this water quality specialist is a living proof of that.
You have a full time job and you travel, how do you combine those two?
Luckily, I've been at my job for 8 years now, so I have 6 weeks of vacation and the flexible schedule. It's important that I work 80 hours in 2 weeks, so I can work 10 hours a day and take 2 days off for free.
When did you start traveling?
Right after college. I've got done with the university and my gift to myself was going to Europe. That was my first trip.
How does it feel to travel alone, do you get lonely sometimes?
I travel 60 percent alone and 40 percent with my friends or my husband. I stay in the hostels and I always meet people. But at this trip, because it's the low season, a lot of the hostels have been empty. I had one room all to myself, six beds and just me! I haven't met as many people, but on the Korčula, I went out to lunch and met owners of the restaurant. They invited me back in the evening, so I hung out with them.
How do you plan your trips? Where to go, what to eat..?
I have a long list of what to see everywhere. It kind of depends on the season, because you want to come when it's the best season. I like places with lot of history, wonders of the world. I also like to hike and scuba dive, so a lot of times when I pick a place it would be because of that - like Peru and Argentina, because there's a lot of hiking, or Philippines for scuba diving.
Which one of your trips has affected you the most so far?
That's a hard one! Well, I really enjoyed China, a lot, it was a great country, but it affected me the most in seeing all the pollution. By the end of my trip I was ready to go home because I come from the place where the air is clean and the sky is blue. There, you blow your nose and it's black. You see the ugly side of commercialism and industrialization.
What was the most beautiful place that you have visited?
For underwater – Philippines and for natural beauty – New Zealand. I come from a green place, so when I go to places that they say they are green, I'm like ''That's not very green''. But when I went to New Zealand I was like ''Wow''.
How do you like Croatia?
There is so much going for Croatia, nature, beaches, nightlife, history. It is a great destination and, I'm sure this is why it is growing in popularity so much around the world. When I told everyone where I was going, Croatia came up the most as a destination that people were curious about and wanted to see. During my trip, I spent the most time in Croatia, and because of my interview with you, and the rain forcing me inside, I ended up having a lot of interesting conversations with many Croatians. Really learning about the people and the culture makes you appreciate a destination so much more. A lot of times travelers just see 'places' on a trip and not 'people'. Getting to know individuals really enhances the experience. I feel I really got to know Croatia because of this face-to-face interaction, and I love it even more because of this.
And you liked the people?
Yes! They were so nice and hospitable. For example, on the island of Hvar, when I was out scootering, I was up on a hill taking pictures and I ran into an older gentleman who started talking to me. He invited me into his home and showed me pictures of his family and was so hospitable. It was amazing. In America, someone would never invite a random stranger into their home! That is one thing that surprises me about Instagram. I always post photos of people, but they seem to get the least amount of likes/activity. If you really think about it, a place wouldn't be as special if it wasn't for the people.
Photo by Sarah Brown
What are your impressions of Dubrovnik?
It was so different in the sun compared to the first, rainy day. The sunshine dancing on the white stones of the buildings in Dubrovnik is something special. I always try to get up really early in destinations that are busy with tourists so that I can walk the streets in peace and really see the city for what it is without so many people. It was just me and the locals going about their business. I really enjoyed those few hours in the morning. You can see what the city must have been like ages ago. I love imagining what it would look like- back in time. That's one of the reasons I was drawn to Dubrovnik, I really like places that make me feel like I am in a time machine, going back and seeing what things were like in the past. I am sure this is why Game of Thrones likes Dubrovnik so much- it is beautiful, and you feel like you are really in the past.
How did you spend your time here? What was your favorite thing to do?
Walking the city walls was one of my favorite things to do in Dubrovnik. You get such amazing views of every spot in the city. I did a sea kayaking tour starting from Fort Lovrijenac that goes out along the city walls, around Lokrum Island and back. It was really fun seeing the city from the water level. Different perspectives alway make a place more interesting!
Photo by Sarah Brown
Do you watch Game of Thrones?
I am a big Game of Thrones fan and it was really fun getting to see the spots where a lot of the filming took place. When I got home, I watched the first episode of the new season that just began and I was getting all excited and pausing the scenes when Dubrovnik was shown and I was pointing out what was real and what was CGI to my husband. It really makes you get into the show even more when you know what the place looks like in real life!
Do you take your own photos?
Yes. When I travel I don't buy souvenirs, so for me the photos are my souvenirs, my memory. One of the reasons why I travel so much is because in life you can buy cars, houses and fancy things, but you will never remember those. But, when I go on trips, those are the memories that last the whole lifetime and it's so fun to talk about places and meet people.
Have you met a lot of people on your trips?
Yes, I have many friends around the world on Facebook. I always tell them: ''Come to Minnesota'', but nobody wants to come because it's too cold! I keep in touch with them, it depends on the amount the time that we've spent together. For example, there was one guy in China that I've met in the first hostel I stayed and we travelled around together for a little bit, around week and a half. I've never had any bad experience with people, only positive.
Were you surprised with some of locations that you've visited?
One of the places that I really enjoyed and it was so much better than I imagined is Uzbekistan. It's still one of my favorite countries that I've been too, because there's not much tourists there and it was almost like I was an explorer, discovering the place. People were so interested in talking to me, seeing me, they wanted to practice English with me and take pictures. Architecture there was beautiful as well, I loved it.
Did you ever think of traveling only and making money out of that?
I think a lot of younger people are doing that but for me, I love my family and friends and that's why I choose to stay at home, travel and come back to my family, because that's the most important thing.
What do your trips mean to you?
It's a good thing to take a break from work, but I think the biggest thing you're getting out of it is that it changes your perspective of the world. A lot of people in America are closed and fearful because of the things in the media. But when you get to see the world, talk to other people, experience other foods and cultures, you can empathize with others and it all adds to your personality.
Do you have any ''dream country'' that you still have to visit?
I keep on wanting to go to India. I always wanted to go there, for photography. There are so much colors! And for nature, I really want to go to Norway. And Mianmar too... I want to go everywhere!