Travel Insights

Gabrielle Secomb-Flegg: What Makes a Traveller?

So this is freakin bizarre. When I called out to travellers far and wide to find out why they travel, Gabrielle Secomb-Flegg was one to respond to my call. And as I read through her answers, my immediate reaction was: “Holy shit. This person is me.”

And that’s the darnedest thing about travel. You’re not alone in this lust for adventure, this constant need to discover new places, new people, new … everything.

This girl has a chunk of experience behind her, right down to being toddled onto a plane for her first solo flight at the ripe age of two (seriously?!?!).

But anyway, there are more than a few anecdotes here that most travellers will relate to – constantly quitting jobs to head off again. Check. Life crisis upon returning home. Check. A fear that you won’t get through it all before you die. Check.

“My motivation is driven by my own fear that I’m missing out on amazing experiences, meeting new people and trying new food, and that I won’t get to experience absolutely everything before I die.”

How often do you travel?

I’ve always made a goal for myself of ‘3 new places a year‘ – whether that be international or not (Ideally international but beggars cant be choosers!).

In saying that, I’ve found that by projecting my goal out into the universe I somehow manage to acquire the time and money to end up overseas at least 3 times a year.

How do you make it happen?

I’ve always been a big believer of the saying: “If you want it bad enough you’ll make it happen. If not, you’ll make an excuse.”

So to resonate with that mantra I have gained a wonderful commitment-phobia towards holding down a steady (normal) job. I’ll save like a maniac for months on end (these tips are sure to help you with that), quit my job, throw caution to the wind and hop on a plane to embark on my next adventure.

Obviously this has its repercussions as I can come back with a regular hefty debt. But I simply throw myself into a new workplace and pay off the last trip whilst saving for the next.

After my big 2 month adventure to Europe I came home with close to $10,000 worth of debt and no job lined up when I returned. I was lucky enough to land the job I have now that is incredibly accommodating with my travel bug and allows me to take unpaid leave to see the world. Amazingly enough I’ve now been here for close to 2 years!

This outlook towards jobs/life isn’t for everyone (I regularly give my partner heart palpitations due to my lack of money stress) but it works perfectly for me!

if you want it bad enough quote

What was your first travel memory?

My first international travel memory was boarding a flight to Vanuatu to see my father and stepmum get married on Iririki Island. The first thing I did was spend the Vatu that was burning in my pocket on anything and everything at the local markets.

I was completely overwhelmed by the underdeveloped country, the friendliness of the people and how incredibly cheap everything was.

I spent my pennies on kava (regrettably), a slingshot, countless sarongs and anything with the word ‘Vanuatu’ on it.

What are the greatest lessons you’ve learnt from travelling?

I think you never stop learning lessons when you travel. Every country has a completely different set of unspoken rules and I feel like you’re in a different mindset or stage in your own life each time you see a new place. But after my years of wandering, I’d have to say these would have to be my 2 greatest lessons:

1. Don’t accept drinks from strangers!

This should be common knowledge but embarrassingly enough I forgot this one golden rule as a grown woman. I wound up with a very upset stomach, the police knocking on my hotel door, a fractured foot and an $800 medical bill. Learn from my mistakes! While you’re at it, avoid candy from strangers too.

2. Keep an open mind & try new things

After experiencing a massive variety of cultures (particularly in Asian countries) my greatest lesson has been to always keep an open mind. Not everyone thinks/acts/eats the same way as you and they often have a completely different way of life.

You don’t have to agree with others beliefs or customs, but whilst you’re in their country, respect what they’re into and others will respect you for it. For example, I think it’s completely insane that crickets are a delicacy in Cambodia, but bon appetit!

What is your favourite travel memory?

Yeesh, that’s got to be the hardest question you could ask any traveller!

Personally my favourite travel memories are ones that have moved me to tears (happy or sad, I’ll take either). Imagine sitting on an 8 hour train with what felt like the entire population of India.

Add 35 degree heat, a stranger’s child across your lap, sitting next to a squat toilet with some crazy ass back pain thrown into the mix, being unable to reach your bag for medication.

A few hours in I simply dropped my head into my hands and sobbed in front of hundreds of people … but before I knew it I felt a little tap on my shoulder and glanced up to see a small Indian boy holding a sweet biscuit out to comfort me.

I burst out into laughter (still crying) and ate the biscuit, and thanked him and his mother for the sweetest gesture at the perfect moment.

What are your favourite countries to visit and why?

Another impossible question! Here’s my top 5 and why in very brief detail…

Russia – An old school country with incredible history. Not to mention the remnants of Communism, the embalmed body of Lenin and the generous servings of dill with almost every meal.

India – A country that makes you firstly question why you left the comfort of your home to then soon realise how lucky we are to have what we have and reassess what we really need to be happy

Italy – Pizza, gelato, cannoli, pasta, tirimasu … Do I need to continue?

Vietnam – The new Thailand. A country with amazing street food, a modern history, very little tourists and $1 beers!

New Zealand – No dangerous reptiles or insects (a far cry from what we have to deal with in Australia), the perfect temperature, a plethora of crazy adventures to go on and scenery that will take your breath away.

What do you think are the greatest challenges to travel?

The greatest challenges aren’t experienced when you travel, but when you come home.

I always go through an existential life crisis when I get home and realise how much I hate routine, mundane days and working 9-5.

I enjoy being home for about 15 minutes, getting to see my family and partner, but am desperate to grab my passport and run out the door immediately.

The only way I’ve figured out how to overcome this challenge is to start looking into your next trip pronto!

Where are you headed next?

I solved my most recent post-holiday blues by booking a short 3 day trip to Bali to surprise my Grandma for her 70th birthday – can’t wait to see her reaction!

But my next big trip is either NYC for my sister’s 21st birthday (been on the top of my list for years!) or Japan with one of my best friends who I met in India a few years ago. Why? Japanese food, that’s why.

Why travel?

The second I hop on a flight I’m filled with nervous excitement. I travel solo quite a lot and love when I tell people I’m heading overseas, to which they question:

“Oh, are you going with your boyfriend?”
“Nope, just me.”
“Oh you’re so brave, I could NEVER do that!”

There’s some weird satisfaction in doing what others fear they couldn’t do.

Obviously that’s not my main passion and motivation, I don’t sit here going, “I want to Bear Grills my travel experience and frighten and dazzle everyone with my braveness”.

No, not quite. My motivation is driven by my own fear that I’m missing out on amazing experiences, meeting new people and trying new food, and that I won’t get to experience absolutely everything before I die.

I’m so passionate about seeing AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE before I’m no longer around, so it’s safe to say my bucket list is ever growing. I’m also driven by the fact that I want to give back to the community everywhere I travel and hope to set up some sort of foundation or charity event that will contribute back to those in need someday … (that’s on the bucket list).

Damn straight, Gabby. I hear ya. Before you head off, check out James’s Treacher’s travel passion and how he gets it done.


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