Jessica Wright thrives on new experiences. An advocate of trying anything (at least) once, she’s been all over the world, first as a 22-year-old independent travel consultant and now as the full-time face behind Bon Traveler, a travel blog committed to displaying the world in all its beauty and breaking down your self-imposed barriers to travel.
But Jessica is also a proponent of making yourself vulnerable, no matter where you are. For every 5-star resort she enjoys, she’s got a $5 hostel story to match; for every Michelin dish she’s tried, she’s tested the food stall down the next alley, too. And every day, whether it’s from the sand dunes of Jordan or her quasi-home of San Francisco, she’s working to get one step closer to her goal: to inspire others to be open to exploring our beautiful world. Follow Jessica’s ever-changing journey on Instagram.
I’m Jessica Wright, and this is How I Travel.
What do you love most about traveling?
The people. Traveling has always been about the people for me — meeting a local in a cafe, or the restaurant owner who shares their passion for the local cuisine through their dishes. You really never know who you’re going to meet, and that’s one of the last remaining surprises of travel. The relationships formed, the global community, and the familiar faces waiting for me in a new city remind me how diverse, yet how small, of a world we live in.
Reflecting on my time on the road, the memories I carry with me are all are centered around a moment shared with someone else, either someone new or someone I’ve been traveling with. All the same, it’s all about people. As cliché as it may be, it’s not about where you’re going, but who you’re going with.
How has travel changed you as a person?
Travel has given me flexibility and patience. The positive aspect of travel is beautiful — stunning scenery, wildly tasty cuisine, and incredible experiences – but on the other side of the coin lie the woes of travel, the missed flights, fatigue, loneliness, delays, sickness, and learning to go with the flow. Because you often don’t have control over your circumstances when traveling, I’ve learned to accept the constant change, albeit sometimes the hard way. It’s given me an opportunity to be patient both on the road and at home, and helps me to be flexible when need be.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through all your travels?
There are so many lessons to be learned through travel. Heck, the first one is realizing what you can and can’t fit in an overhead bin — a lesson in necessity. However, the biggest lesson for me comes through a second chapter on personal change in flexibility and patience. Patience is a virtue, flexibility is an attitude, and from there, in practice, comes the lesson of leaving room. Leave room for a last-minute adventure, a late-night conversation around a bottle of wine, a second chance on friendship, and an opportunity to learn something new.
At home, I realized how many times I had to say No to things I would have loved to do because I had said Yes to things I was mildly amused by. This stood in contrast to how I approached life on the road: when I travel my days are limited in time, but wide open to do exactly what I am passionate about, which means I fill my days exploring museums, taking walks through new neighborhoods, meeting locals at cafés, hanging out on lazy afternoons, and so on. Why couldn’t I have the freedom to do this when I was at home? The answer, of course, is I could have that same freedom at home — if I left room for it.
This lesson in leaving room has given me an opportunity to be just as passionate about the work I do at home as I am about exploring somewhere new. I may have a slightly different tempo on the road versus at home (more office hours/things to do), but I’m passionate about what I am doing no matter where I am. Leaving room has been about taking the time I do have and being incredibly specific in what I choose to do with it.
What’s the one travel experience/story that has had the biggest impact on you?
It was Vietnam in the fall of 2015. My travels, in large part, have been dictated by the words Comfort and Preference. Vietnam was the first place where these parameters had no say and I was truly out of my “comfort zone.” I arrived in Hanoi around 9:30 pm and took a taxi into the Old Quarter to go to the hotel I had reserved, which were the cheapest accommodations I had ever stayed in at just $30 a night.
As I arrived in Hanoi, I really couldn’t fathom what I had signed myself up for — the smells, the traffic, the noise, the trash — the city was something I had never experienced before. At first I was in shock, and I griped through my discomforts with my less-than-pristinely-clean room, bizarre food, and the culture shock. It took me about 24 hours to realize a profound truth: travel isn’t about me. And this shift in perspective completely changed the way I saw the rest of the trip.
In that moment in Hanoi, I found myself pushing “me” to the background, and immersing in the local culture instead. Understanding how the people lived, how they ate, how they moved about the city, and giving myself an opportunity to be a part of the Vietnamese way of life. And this realization from Vietnam went far beyond my time spent there. I realized how much of my life is often about me and centered around comfort, and this lesson in pushing myself aside gave me an opportunity for bigger lessons in life, which yielded more meaningful experiences. Now, not just Vietnam but all travel constantly reminds me of this lesson. My only regret: I wish I had learned it a long time ago. Oh, how much more enjoyable some of my “uncomfortable” travels could have been.'You never know who you'll meet - that's 1 of the last remaining surprises of travel' @BonTraveler Click To Tweet
Jessica’s 7 Favorite Travel Items
I can’t go anywhere without this camera — my work is centered around telling stories via photos. This is definitely an investment piece, but the camera has radically changed my photography, and I love the ability to send the photos straight to my phone.
These are for two purposes: you never know when you might want to wear them in a not-so-clean shower, and you never know when there may be a body of water nearby to enjoy!
I upgraded to Premium a while back, and it’s changed my life. I love having music with me wherever I am, and having offline access is especially key when you’re off the grid or at 30,000 feet. When I listen to a song back home that I listened to a lot on the road, it takes me right back to that place.
This lightweight and easily packable backpack is a great one to toss in the suitcase because it’s so small. I use it during the day while I travel, and often throw my camera in there, as it’s just the right size.
A backup phone charger has saved me multiple times. Using my phone for work, social, and connecting with others often means a drained battery, so having a backup is crucial. [Editor’s Note: Of all the items that our travelers bring with them, a portable battery pack is the most common, yet everyone prefers their own brand. Pete, Rachel, and Sean all like different brands.)
This little purse is everything: I can use it as a clutch, or it makes the perfect crossbody while traveling. And it fits virtually everything: passport, travel docs, wallet, phone, and more. I love all the sections, they make it so easy to keep organized all the things I take with me.
A hydrating, conditioning lip balm, this has saved my chapped lips more than once. It’s also nice to have a tiny bit of luxury after a long day of travel.
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