The strapline on Pam Mandel’s website reads “a camera, a passport, a ukulele’. I like that. I wanted to ask Pam for her take on adventure as she lives a far more ‘œnormal’ life than many of the other crazy folk I feature on this site for the Grand Adventures project. I hope this will be reassuring for ‘œnormal’ people reading this site who are nonetheless dreaming of adventure.
Alastair: You’ve travelled all over the world. Can you give us an idea of your adventures and how adventure affects your life?
Pam: It would be easy to pick an epic adventure as an example, but instead, I want to use a very small story. Last spring, on a whim, I took a three hour bus ride to have dinner with some friends in Portland, Oregon. If you’re lucky, you can score one of the rare one dollar tickets. Mine was 10 dollars down from Seattle and 15 dollars back. I packed a picnic lunch, an overnight bag, and went to a very nice — but not particularly expensive — dinner with three friends in Portland. I crashed on a girlfriend’s couch, we went for a long walk in the morning, and then, I took the bus back to Seattle. It was totally unplanned, and it was great, because it was a break from routine.
Adventure doesn’t have to be big, any thing that shakes up your daily life can be an adventure [Note to Pam: you don’t know it, but you’re a fan of microadventures!]. You can play hooky and get up and go somewhere, anywhere, and say, “Yeah, that was an adventure!” –because it is. I say this as someone who’s traveled on all seven continents — if you can bring the same state of mind to all your travels, everything is an adventure.
I have always written about travel; postcards, letters, journals, I have been running around the globe since I was an exchange student at 16. But before I got paid to write about travel — and that is NOT all I do to make my living — I worked in a deli, sold art supplies, waited tables, was a fact checker for a software project that became a company called Expedia, wrote software documentation… I’mve done a lot of things to get by. Now, I make about 1/4 of my living selling travel stories. Nowhere near enough to live on.
Being an adventurous person is just how I approach the world. I’mm not afraid of new things. Most importantly, it’s okay to fail, for things to be imperfect because there’s always another adventure out there, big or small.
Alastair: Can you offer some advice for people dreaming of getting more adventure into their lives?
Pam: I’md rather break the “This is my dream!” mentality and go with something much more practical: “This is a thing I would like to do.” I had long *dreamed* of seeing the temples of Angkor Wat, but until I turned it into “I want to go to Cambodia,” It didn’t happen. Once you say, “I want to go to Cambodia,” you begin to think, “How much to plane tickets cost, do I need a visa, where should I stay, are there health concerns…” and you can make a plan. I can lie on the floor with my eyes closed picturing those temples as they appeared in my art history books, dreaming of Cambodia, or I can say, “Round trip airfare is 1200 US. How am I going to save for that?” Being so practical isn’t very romantic, but it gets you to your destination.
I do not make my living writing about travel. Most of the people I know that do so actually have full time office jobs for large travel brands and don’t go anywhere. But here’s the thing — I have work I really enjoy that’s *not* travel writing. I don’t know that I love it the way I love to write travel, but I do enjoy it. I don’t think I can make a living writing first person travel essays, which is the kind of writing I love.
Travel is very different now, it is very hard to become disconnected — I sent email from my ship when I went to Antarctica! But when I started, I was so far off the grid as to be almost invisible.
If I could tell my past self anything, it wouldn’t be for me, it would be for my parents, who must have wondered where the hell I was and if I was okay. I’md say to my younger self, “Write home once a week, why don’tcha? Is that so much to ask?”
But everything else — why deprive my past self the pleasure of learning those things?
Find out more about Pam on her website.
My new book, Grand Adventures, is out now.
It’s designed to help you dream big, plan quick, then go explore.
The book contains interviews and expertise from around 100 adventurers, plus masses of great photos to get you excited.
I would be extremely grateful if you bought a copy here today!
Thank you so much!