Everybody has a unique experience when they travel and choose differing levels of comfort. Today’s interviewee has been a participant in the squatter community on her travels. Please meet Yara of Heart of a Vagabond.
What’s your name?
I’m Yara Coelho
Which country do you come from/call home?
I was born in Portugal, near the coast and lived there for the first 18 years of my life. Once I turned 18 I hit the road and since then I haven’t called any other place home. When I’m in Portugal I feel at home, everything is familiar. I have memories of my childhood and teenage days, but I don’t identify with the culture or mentality, since I spent all my adult life away. I almost felt at home while living in the US, until my visa expired and Immigration was kind enough to remind me that I wouldn’t be able to call it home any more. The closest to home would be Spain. I feel at home in Andalucia.
Are you a backpacker/ long term traveller /business traveller / work abroad?
I’m not a backpacker, since I never owned a backpacker, even though I’m moving around for 16 years. I never stayed at a hostel till a few months ago and always though backpackers were people with nice budgets who could afford hostels, comfort and restaurants. I actually never had any interaction with backpackers till I went to Thailand in 2013.
I’m more of a long term vagabond (literally) who relied on a lot of creativity and network of squatters who always welcomed me into their homes and helped me keep on moving. More than 10 years ago, the squat movement was huge in Europe and people were very generous and kind to other fellow squatters. I was lucky to live at a very famous Squatted house in Barcelona, so it was easy to network and get contacts of friends of other friends who had stayed at my place at some point.
Before that, I had been an au-pair and so I managed to travel and get a pocket money at the same time.
You’ve been travelling for 16 years! Wow, how do you fund your travels?
When I turned 18 I became an Au-pair which allowed me to live in London and in the USA for a long period of time and get paid for it. I’m currently living in Zurich, the most expensive city in the world as a temporary au-pair without spending a cent and saving for my next trip.
During the 9 years I was squatting, I relied on the generosity of other squatters to host me, sometimes I slept on the beach, dumpster dived and asked for food donations at the local markets, where I got a lot of fruits and veggies. Mostly I had no money, but couldn’t sit on my butt all day complaining. I had to go out and find ways to move. Those were the most adventurous times and I miss them a lot. That’s why my blog is called Heart of a Vagabond, no matter how much money I might have one day, I will always travel light.
What was the first trip you remember taking and how old were you?
My father was a fanatic for Andalucia – Spain, so every summer we would go there for a few weeks. Andalucia is filled with wonderful childhood memories and maybe that’s why I love it so much and feel at home there. I always heard the story on how I was already attending the “Feria de Sevilla” (the most important festival in southern Spain) even before I was born, when my mother was pregnant.
On my first trip without my parents I was 16 and went to Berlin on a school trip for a week. I remember very well I was determined to miss my plane and stay there longer. That’s when I noticed I loved traveling and was not even scared to be alone on a foreign land so early on.
Have you ever been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined? If so, why?
Yes! India! I’ve dreamed of traveling to India since I was a kid, and in 2009 I finally gathered some money to go there. I went through such a brutal cultural shock I ended up crossing the border to Nepal before I had an emotional breakdown. I traveled through most of the subcontinent’s coast for 5 full months with a ridiculously tight budget. That was the first time in my life where I felt racism towards me (http://www.heartofavagabond.com/patna-the-racist-city-what-a-nightmare/ ), where people tried to scam and rip me off at least 10x a day, 7 days a week, for 5 months. I had situations where no one would help me out unless I would pay them. I experienced too many hardships while I was there. I’m glad I did it as I now appreciate where I come from, but I would never repeat it again.
Have you had bad experiences whilst traveling?
Only one, on my first night in Penang – Malaysia. I was stuck in a horrible situation where a few of the men who were staying at a certain hotel started to masturbate outside my door and peeking through holes in the walls. I even wrote a post about that to inform other females about that place: http://www.heartofavagabond.com/sexual-harassment-in-penang-safety-facts-for-female-travelers/
India was also not a positive experience I’m afraid.
Favorite country, if any?
I love Spain; it’s my favorite European country. I love people’s friendliness and informality.
Any travel plans for 2014?
Yes! I’m spending January and February in Zurich, where I’m actually taking a lot of time to work on my travel blog.
I’m planning on doing a mega trip from Lisbon to Asia by land on my own, while exploring the vegan and vegetarian foods along the way. But if this dream will come true or not will depend 100% on the amount of money I’ll have. So all donations are welcomed!
Website URL: http://www.heartofavagabond.com