Sunday, June 24News That Matters

And the winner is….

The winner of the Round the World Giveaway
I know you all have been eagerly waiting to hear who has won my round the world giveaway…and today, the wait is over.

We got thousands of entries and it was really hard to narrow it down. It took me a lot longer to read the entries than I originally thought and it took even longer to narrow down a winner. There were a lot of good submissions but, in the end, there can be only one and I had to pick a winner.

And that winner is…

Heather T. from California.

Heather, 26, attended Carnegie Mellon University as a Materials Science and Engineering major and currently works as a Senior Consultant for IBM. Inspired by the life and death of her mother, she decided to start treating her life with urgency. Heather filled her free time with singing, salsa dancing, scuba diving, amazing friends, and as many adventures as she could fit in. At twenty-six, she’s recently applied to grad school so that one day, hopefully, she’ll be making a difference with an advanced degree in Public Policy.

In her own words, here are ten facts about her:

  1. I’m a scuba diver
  2. My sister is 10 months younger than me. For one month, every year we are *technically* the same age.
  3. I make homemade artisan ice cream in flavors like sour cream, mango jalapeño, and sweet potato.
  4. I earned my degree in Materials Science and Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University before taking a job in Business.
  5. I’m used to moving around a lot. I’ve moved more than 20 times (I’ve lost count). I went to 5 elementary schools 1 middle school, 2 high schools and three colleges.
  6. I’m learning Spanish. I’ve always loved the language. Growing up in LA I was surrounded by it and always wanted to learn. I’ve been taking lessons but I’m excited for more hands on experience!
  7. I’m extremely allergic to cats and strongly dislike them. Technically allergic to dogs too but I’m a dog lover so I don’t mind so much!
  8. I haven’t eaten fast food since I was 16. I saw Super Size me in high school and gave it up instantly. Soda too.
  9. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart.
  10. I have a huge family. My dad is one of 5 and my mom was one of 14. And I have 9 siblings.

She’ll be leaving next month and we’ll be getting updates from her journey. Heather will be starting in South America before heading over to Africa then Southeast Asia and looping back to Europe before grad school! I’ll feature her each month to share what she’s been up to!

Heather in Cartagena

Here is her winning essay:

At 16, after 10 years of separation, I met my mother. She had previously been incarcerated in federal prison and I barely remembered her.

My mother was wild and warm. One time, she picked me up wearing bright green shoes, blue pants, a red top, and her hair newly dyed purple at the roots. Puzzled, we stared at her.

“Mom, what are you wearing?!” we asked.

“What? My shoes match my pants, my pants match my top, and my top matches my hair.”

In January 2015, she was given 3 months to live when she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer that had metastasized to both breasts, lungs, liver, bones, spine and brain. My mother was tough, so she lasted 8 months. I saw the pang of regret in her eyes that only comes from a life unlived. She always waited, believing there would be more time to fulfill her life.

My mother had the power to make anyone laugh and she could talk anyone into almost anything. She taught me to live more and take risks. Over the 7 years we shared, she became my best friend. We talked every day. She completed a part of me I never knew was missing. She was the most remarkable person I’ve ever known. Even after all the pain in her life, she knew how to find joy in life and she taught me to do the same. I am so thankful every day that she found me and saved me from who I was becoming.

I feel cheated most days over the short time I had with her. When she passed, something awoke in me. Six months after she passed, I took my first trip abroad. I visited Spain with my sister. Four months later I spontaneously traveled to Iceland and got scuba certified so I could dive between the continents in 0°C water. Two months later, I got an unexpected break from work, so I traveled to London, Paris and Geneva on a whim. 5 countries in one year. I was on a roll. Earlier this year, I took a solo trip to Colombia and in a month, I am headed to Berlin, Prague and Budapest. Travelling is now my favorite hobby, especially solo travel, which gives me the opportunity to break out of my shell.

Each day I feel chained to the job that I worked so hard to earn. I dream about taking off and travelling for an extended period of time. This trip would be the perfect opportunity to do so. I would share my adventures through travel blogging and photography. I think my perspective as a single female black traveler is largely missing from the travel blogging domain.

Life is short and beautiful and I want to make the most of it. I would much rather have my mother here on this earth, but in her absence, I’m glad to have learned how lucky I am to have the adventures in front of me.

Heather and her mother
(Heather and her mother)

****Thank you to everyone who entered. I wish I could have picked you all but, sadly, I didn’t invest in Bitcoin or any other weird cryptocurrency, so I’m can’t!

I hope this contest inspired you to take action, plan a trip, and dream big. I wish you well on your future travels and hope my book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day helps you learn how to travel cheaper, better, and smarter!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

As this is the last post of the year, see you in 2018!

– Matt

P.S. – I’m hosting a meet-up in Bangkok on Christmas Day! Let’s grab drinks and talk travel Follow the Facebook event for updates.

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