Interview With Travel Blogger Yara Coelho Of Heart Of A Vagabond @Heartofvagabond

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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.

Yara Coelho of Heart Of A Vagabond

Yara Coelho 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.

Heart of a Vagabond experiences different cultures

Heart of a Vagabond experiences different cultures

 

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.

Yara and friends

Yara and friends

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.

A beautiful sunset from Yara's travels

A beautiful sunset from Yara’s travels

 

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.

Looking out at the sea

Looking out at the sea

 

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.

Header banner for Heart of a Vagabond

Header banner for Heart of a Vagabond

 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Heartofvagabond

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HeartOfAVagabond

 

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Comments

  1. Francis Corbett says:

    Yara not only looks inexperienced , but she has taken her adventure in Asia nonchalantly. When you step out of home or continent don’t assume to think it will be the same. Where Grass looks greener at the other side of the fence. There are also pets roaming around to p#@s off.

    I visit Indian sub continent every year. My aim is to explore different culture, so of-course there is gonna be a culture shock which took me there at first place to experience. But what I usually do is gather insights into what city I’m stopping by and where should I stay, so as I do in Europe or America.

    If combined all Europe there petty reason experience of Racism, reciprocated same towards Africans and Asians. My Ghanian friend was declined hostels and even Car rental in many European cities.

    But he too was same as Yara ill-informed, trying to book into last minute look alike tourist may always result in to rip off.

    I hope she would have been aware of it, but she still wanted to experience herself on first place served with platter.

    Well I hope she learned something!!

  2. Dear Francis, unfortunately there’s racism in every single country in the world, it’s sad and unfortunate. Europe, USA are not different, of course there are people being discriminated there. The difference, was being kicked out like a dog with scabies from every guest house and hotel in Patna. In some they didn’t even allowed us to step on the front door. We got stuck in Patna because of the Holi holidays, which we had just found out about and were trying to escape. I’ve never heard of anyone experiencing such brutal and intense racism anywhere. This episode was limited to Patna, which many Indian people later told me was a complicated area.

    Lonely planet, the travel guide book, had a list of hotels and guest houses, we tried them all, but were kicked out by the front door. They were all empty.

    As far as the scaming, I don’t agree that just because someone books a hostel or a guest house last minute should be scammed as a punishment. Seriously, here we have fixed prices for a room or a bed and everyone from every nationality pays that price, independently of color, gender, last minute or not.

    I spent a whole month in Nepal and can only say wonderful things about the people I’ve met and the places I’ve stayed at. everyone was so welcoming, honest and nice to us. We felt in heaven.

    The problem with India has more to do with ethics than anything else, please, let’s not blame the travelers for being responsible to get scammed or suffer discrimination.

    When I go to another country I want to experience the culture, not the constant rip off and annoyances.

  3. I enjoyed reading her interview, Thailand and Malaysia have always been my favourite destination in south east-Asia, It’s sad what she experience in Asia on the other end, I agree Francis as it looks like see went in ill informed, Further why not call police when someone was watching you from Holes or why to stay, when holes were found in first place.

    Further all Indian’s are minority in their own country due to numerous differences in Caste, Creed, Colour, Custom and Costume. It’s true not all of them speak the same language, eat same food or share same values they themselves stand out it while Travelling from North to South or a South Indian going to Eastern India.

    Indians themselves have experienced tourist scam while travelling in their own country. As Yara’s, pointed out she felt Racism against white, so as all Indian’s feel the same in Jobs, reservations, Quota’s. Still I admire the unity of diverse India, considering Geographical size of India. Where many cities or population are bigger than many Countries.

    Few of my Indian friends had to get down from Eastern European Trams, because commuters stared , grannies yelling at them. They didn’t knew what was going on until a passer by Translated that they were mistaken as a Roma Gypsies.

    Many of such stories you never happen to hear, coz their are never passed or written some where. It’s in our own interest to blend with locals and choose appropriately wise hotels or hostels. Don’t sacrifice your safety to cheap ones.

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