Kiteboarding, Surfing, SUPing, & Hiking: Grace Is An Extreme Nomad And A Full-Time Traveler (With Pets)!
Published by GAFFL
Last updated - 06:12 AM
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GAFFL connects solo travelers from with similar itineraries to explore destinations together. Whether you are backpacking in Asia, road tripping in Australia, or exploring national parks in the US, simply type the destination you are traveling to, find travelers who are going there at the same time with you, connect with them, plan trips, meet, and travel together.

Grace is one half of Extreme Nomads, travel addicts with a passion for adrenaline and adventure, Grace, along with Jim, began Extreme Nomads to help travellers discover the best spots around the world to do the sports they love. You can connect with Grace on GAFFL and through Extreme Nomads.

Why I Travel And Why I Continue To Do It

I suppose I was born into it, in a way. My dad’s family is English, Italian, and Greek (my grandmother was born and raised in Egypt in the 1930s and speaks 5 languages fluently - mind boggling really!) and my mother’s side is from the US. We moved around a lot as a family, and though we eventually “settled” in Ireland, I left during college for a transfer year to Shanghai whilst studying Mandarin and moved to China full time once I finished my studies. So, I guess it’s in my bones at this stage. Staying still feels a lot more alien to me than staying on the move.


I've Made Long Lasting Friendships During My Travels

Absolutely. I actually have been based back at home in Ireland for the past year - and it was a little strange to find that most of my friends had immigrated while I was away. Combine that with the fact that all my best friends were people that I’ve met over the past 5 years of living in Asia, and I realised that the closest people to me were actually the furthest away physically.

But to speak of the friendships you make on the road wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging the depth of those connections. Getting to know someone in a strange location, far from home, out of your comfort zone can really be a catalyst for powerful bonds. Jim (the co-creator of Extreme Nomads) and I met at a kitesurfing competition in Thailand a went on to spend three years travelling and living together around SE Asia, forming a business, adopting a few animals in Thailand (I’ll get to them in a minute), and way more than you’d do with other people in a whole lifetime.


  

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How I Choose Where To Travel Next

Since we run an outdoor adventure blog and our big squeezes are sports like kiteboarding, surfing, SUPing, and hiking, we tend to pick our next destination based on weather patterns and seasonal conditions. 

The Northern Hemisphere’s winter months constitute windy season in Southeast Asia, so we’d usually head for somewhere like Vietnam for kiting and exploring Thailand’s wakeboarding parks. Although this winter we chose to stay Europe side and spent a few weeks exploring France’s Serre Chevalier ski resort. Such incredible snowboarding, hiking, paragliding, rock climbing, and mountain biking conditions.


When it’s summertime, to me there really is nowhere like my home spot in West Cork, Ireland. Ireland’s hiking potential is second to none and you really can’t beat the live music scene, road trip opportunities, slow food farmer’s markets, and craic in the pub.

The Usual Length Of My Trip

This question makes me laugh - in sort of an eye-rolly painful way! I recently had a right ol’ job trying to explain to my car insurance company that I was “engaged in some extended travel for the past 5 years” which apparently technically means I wasn’t officially living here - or anywhere, for that matter - since 2014 and therefore my premium should be, well, outrageous.

So yeah, we tend to travel for long periods of time, creating a home-away-from-home in our chosen spot. Our last adventure was Thailand where we stayed for about 18 months.


Scariest Travel Moment

Oof, there’s been a few. Close calls on dangerous roads are more common than I care to think about. We’ve encountered friends who have fallen critically ill abroad and even some who haven’t made it. 

There have been times where we’ve had to really stop, turn around, and go back home to heal. During one of those most serious incidents, I arrived home only to find I felt far less comforted and understood than I did by my ‘nomad family’ on the other side of the world - so I left shortly after once again.

I suppose what that’s taught me is that home is something that exists inside yourself and amongst the people who matter to you the most; it’s not necessarily a place or a building with four walls. As for the incidents themselves, well, every day is a school day. Every dodgy encounter, close call, or painful loss has shaped who we are and how we view the world. We probably take more precautions in certain situations now because of our learned experiences.


Top Tips For Sustainable Travel

Travel slowly! Opt for overlanding where it’s an option to skip the flight. Travel light. Consume lighter. Be sensitive to the integrity of the local environment you’re visiting. We used to really look forward to participating in local beach clean ups where we lived in both Thailand and Vietnam; as part of the watersports community regularly using the beach, we felt it was a profoundly important thing to do - and a special way to honour the place.


Biggest Travel Challenges

I mean, what stops anyone doing anything really? Money and time! Although to be fair to us, we’ve always found a way of making more of both if it’s a trip we really felt we needed to make. I suppose one of the biggest logistical challenges for us is our pets; we rescued a street dog and a stray cat in Thailand and brought them - at great expense and a pile of paperwork - across the world to settle in Ireland. They’ll come on any future big trips for sure, but going through the bureaucracy of each country for a cat and a dog - nevermind ourselves - is definitely an added layer of complexity!


COVID-19 Challenges


Like most everyone, we’ve cancelled our plans and trips for 2020. We’re based at home now, which is definitely a strange phenomenon for both of us as we haven’t lived at home in years. But it is affording us the unexpected opportunity to connect with our homes in a way we never really did before - and that means discovering a bunch of amazing new spots to do the things we love the most.

My Advice For New Travelers

Wear sunscreen, rucksacks on sunburn is really REALLY not cool (neither is skin cancer). Coconut oil fixes almost everything. Drinking all that rice wine is probably not a good idea. If you can afford to pay the old lady weaving friendship bracelets on the side of the road the price she’s asking, pay her - you don’t have to haggle everything. Recognise your privilege, be compassionate, and if you can’t be humble at least be quiet. Smile at everyone you meet, make eye contact, and go to the effort of remembering people’s names. Stay vigilant and also stay open; the world ain’t as scary as they’d like to have you believe. Drink as many fresh coconuts as you can.

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