Introducing Megan Stetzel!

A year and a half ago I introduced you guys to Kay and Jessica, two brilliant twenty-somethings who have been contributing amazing content to Twenty-Something Travel ever since. Today I’m thrilled for you to meet TST’s newest staff writer, Megan!

I met Megan this past summer at BlogHouse Milwaukee and was super impressed with her zest for life and travel.  Although she didn’t travel until age 25, Megan is making up for lost time and a full-time nomad flitting from teaching in South East Asia to waitressing in Martha’s Vineyard and more. She blogs about her adventures on her blog, Forks and Footprints. She’s also pretty accident prone and has some crazy stories to tell!

Hey Megan! Can you introduce yourself?

I’m a twenty something! My first passport didn’t land in my hands until I turned 25 and I am now well on my way to filling it up before my 28th birthday. I’m from a small town in NY and my parents don’t even own passports. I moved to a little island in Cape Cod called Martha’s Vineyard right after college graduation for the summer and that permanently instilled the travel bug in me. The island is full of travelers. Many of the seasonal staff chase the summer from New England to the Caribbean and beyond. Hearing stories and meeting awesome, like-minded people really sent me down the travel path.

I am not a person that should travel though. I’m accident prone and extremely clumsy and should never ever leave the couch or a padded room but somehow I keep finding myself halfway across the world with a big bruise on my arm or a hilarious story about getting chased by monkeys. If something is going to happen to someone it happens to me. I get bit by stray dogs in Thailand, I get into moto accidents, I break fingers falling UP, yes, I said UP the stairs…. I think you get it.

And finally, my true love: food. I’m in love with foods I haven’t even tasted yet. I do have some food allergies and Celiac disease (which means I’m gluten-free) but I don’t let that stop me from eating carne asada or noodle bowls on little plastic chairs in the streets of Asia. I have started picking destinations based on where I want to eat and then I figure out how I can actually eat there.

When did you start traveling, and why?

In my 25th year of life a lot of things changed. Ultimately, I finally decided to follow my dreams. I always dreamed of far off places, pristine beaches, exotically delicious food, and cultures that were far different from my own. I love meeting people from different walks of life and expanding my horizons. I’ve become the person who strikes up conversations with street food vendors or taxi drivers just to hear their stories. I love meeting people with stories that are just so different from my own. I’m an addict, and I don’t want to quit.

What would you say your travel style is?

I sometimes travel alone and sometimes with a side kick or two. Basically all someone needs to do is text me and say, “Hey, wanna go to India for 3 months? or Want to rent an apartment in Costa Rica for a month and learn to surf?” and I immediately go buy that plane ticket. I’m comfortable being alone, I’ve done a few countries solo and enjoy it and often travel completely differently alone than I do with friends. I typically travel with a little more money than a backpacker and don’t skip out on experiences because of price. Food is often my biggest splurge because I mean, ceviche exists, and so do cravings for guacamole. I like a social experience mixed with some quiet time. Writing on my laptop whilst laying in a hammock looking at the stars is a great way to take a night off of the backpacker party scene in my opinion.

Tell us a little bit about where you’ve been. Where has been your favorite destination so far?

I have traveled extensively in Southeast Asia. I got my TEFL in Cambodia for a month and then moved to Bangkok, Thailand to teach English for a year. It was a shock to the system for sure. I’m used to small towns not big cities, so how I ended up in Bangkok is still unknown to me. I was home for about a month before I immediately booked a flight back to Thailand for the fall to work my way through Vietnam and the Phillippines with a friend.

For the past two months I’ve been gallivanting around Central America. I started in Mexico and my stomach fell in love with Oaxaca. Anywhere that has an entire aisle of a market dedicated to carne asada stands with fresh veggies and tortillas to accompany it will forever leave a lasting impression on my tum tum. I’m currently writing this while laying in a hammock in Nicaragua and it’s quickly proving that my assumption of it being the Thailand of Central America is pretty on point.

My favorite place will always be Thailand. It holds a piece of me (quite literally, there is a rock somewhere in Krabi that has my knee DNA from a moto accident…) that I will never forget. It’s kind of like the saying, ‘you never forget your first love’, it certainly applies to countries too. And the food. REAL Thai food blows everything you’ve ever had in the US or elsewhere out of the water!

Boracay in the Phillippines is my favorite beach, I have yet to find another that is even close to as beautiful. But Haad Salad beach in Koh Phangnan in Thailand is my favorite off the beaten path beach and I loved the person I was during the week I spent at that beach, probably because I spent my days doing yoga and cleansing my spirit at a yoga retreat there.

Basically everywhere is my favorite for different reasons!!

Do you have any upcoming travel plans? Where are you dying to go?

I’m planning to come back to Central America in January to look into Mexico a bit more, maybe teach some English there, and then explore Belize, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama, maybe even venture to South America and visit some friends down there.

I am absolutely dying to go to the Mediterranean. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave though. Spain, Greece, Italy. They are my food trifecta. Paellas, pasta, and feta but there is also AMAZING WINE there. I honestly think that’s the only thing Mexico is missing, I fell passionately in love with real Mexican food and if only it had the wines from the Italian wine regions to pair with it I would have easily lived in Mexico forever.

And Bali. Confession, this is purely from Eat, Pray, Love. But also recommendations from others. And research. I think I could live in a jungle near the ocean in a hammock and go to medicine men and help a single mother build a house… too far?

What do you do when you’re not traveling?

That’s a good question. I often shack up with parents or friends for a month or two at a time and eat all the chicken wings. The greatest thing ever invented is Frank’s Red Hot. So when my cravings get too strong, or a friend is getting married, either/or, I head back home to remind everyone that I love that I still love them and to shower them with gifts from the road. If my bank account gets depleted I’ll pick up a few shifts bartending or shack up in Martha’s Vineyard for a summer. But I’m always writing and looking into ways to further my plans for myself! I often take downtime to catch up on work and look into things I am interested in.

Why do you think that your twenties are an important time to travel?

At 27, I’ve already felt the effects of getting older. I can’t bound up a mountain trail like I used to be able to, I certainly can’t drink like my 22 year old self. If these things are happening on the physical side what’s happening in my mind? It’s getting narrower and narrower, I want to experience places, people and cultures and foods before I am too close minded and before I lose my taste buds! I don’t have a career or boyfriend and I am lucky to have parents that support my dreams no matter where this crazy world takes me so why not go!?

Tell us a bit about Forks and Footprints.

Well, I started writing here when I first moved to Thailand. It was my way of keeping in contact with people back at home without having to send out a thousand emails and photos every day. Eventually people started asking me more and more how I traveled with all my allergies and Celiac disease. So, I started writing more about that. I share stories from travels, guides on eating safely in certain places and tips and tricks I’ve learned and developed along the way. I even talk about pooping my pants sometimes… I hope to show those with allergies or sensitivities or Celiac disease or veganism or whatever food restrictions they’ve got that traveling and experiencing the real side to travel is still possible. I eat at street stalls, I go on overnight camping trips on top of a mountain in Guatemala and I don’t starve. Sometimes I make good friends with toilets but ya know, what’s the fun in eating plain rice all the time!? But I often let my tummy decide where to go, I just arm myself with the tools or words to be able to eat as a safely as possible and I have an awesome doctor at home that I check in with often!

What do you hope to bring to Twenty-Something Travel?

I hope to inspire people to go out and eat. I really love food, if you couldn’t tell. Even if it doesn’t always love me back. I also hope to provide a real account of my travels. I’m not afraid to talk about the time I pooped my pants in Vietnam or when a flounder fish taco wound up with my getting epipened. I love talking about the real side to travel, especially the real side to traveling with food allergies. Shit happens (see what I did there?), and isn’t it better knowing that the same shit happens to other people not just you?

Any other weird facts about yourself to share?

I LOVE COUNTRY MUSIC. Give me a Garth Brooks or George Strait concert over Kanye any day. Yes, I know how to line dance. My country side will pop out every so often after some rum and cokes, it’s made me so many friends over the years! So many people have secret hidden country sides!

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