Fearless Friday No. 36 – Susannah, sustainable travel blogger, founder of Curiosity Saves

Name: Susanna (Sooz)

Pronoun(s): She/Her

Nationality: United States

Hometown: Eagle River, Alaska

Current location: Munich, Germany

Occupation: MSc Student and Founder of Curiosity Saves

Meet Sooz

Hiking among glaciers in Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway. I love hiking while traveling and seeing things from a bird’s eye view.

Small town Alaska is a wonderful place to grow up connected to nature. My backyard was like a living zoo with all sorts of animals passing through. I spent my childhood playing outside as a family, skiing to the supermarket because our car got stuck in the snow, eating roadkill moose, camping, extreme sledding, and community bonfires to light up the long winter nights.

My adventurous childhood was the perfect segueway for my first international trip: backpacking Europe. But, like many people who grew up in a small town, after my first taste of travel I was suddenly too big for my hometown. I had also just graduated from university in an economic downfall and couldn’t find a job. I packed up my car one day and drove to Las Vegas (of all places). I launched a travel blog and kept traveling.

Not long after I moved I met my now-husband, Ganesh. He’s a third culture kid born, an Indian-Australian born in Singapore, and brought a whole new perspective on things into my life. What happened in Vegas didn’t stay in Vegas, it moved to Germany. After moving to Germany with my partner, I returned to my roots in many ways. I reconnected to the sustainable lifestyle and appreciation for the nature I enjoyed as a kid. I found my true happiness and stride in launching my own media company, encompassing two websites, a travel blog dedicated to sustainability, and one covering environmental education. I also went back to school to fulfill a life-long dream, but more on that later.

On Education

Sooz overlooking a mountain range in Germany.  Her back is to the camera and there is a green field before gorgeous, snow-capped peaks.
I didn’t travel much in 2020, but I did trek all the way from Germany to Italy. This is me at the border of Austria and Italy. I’m always amazed at the places my own two feet can take me.

Did you attend college? If so, where, and how did you choose that school/those schools?

After high school, I dreamed of big campus life in a new city. Ultimately though, I couldn’t pass up the amazing financial incentive to attend university in my home state and enrolled in the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA). For many years I thought I would regret going to school in Alaska, but my lack of student debt is something I appreciate as an adult.

I recently decided to go back to school and I’m in the middle of my MSc dissertation at the University of Edinburgh (UoE). Even though higher education is free in Germany, I chose UoE because it is a progressive online program allowing me the flexibility to balance work and school – plus I don’t need technical German.

How did you choose your program? Did your decision change over the course of your time at school?

I wanted to be a wildlife biologist as a kid, so naturally, I got a degree in Journalism and Public Communication. 😛 Writing was another passion of mine, and a journalism degree was the ‘easy path’ to a degree. I spent most of my late 20s having some regrets in my decision, wishing I’d pursued a science degree.

It is never too late to go back to school though, and enrolling in classes in my 30s was my way of fulfilling a lifelong dream to get a science degree. However, my studies have taught me that communicating science is vital alongside hands-on conservation and I love combining conservation and communication.

Sooz paddleboards on turqouise waters in Norway, with mountain peaks rising in the background.
Slow travel with a campervan means I can pack my SUP and enjoy quiet solitude on the open water. Oldevatnet, Norway.

In your opinion, what makes travel uniquely “educational”?

Continuing with the theme of sustainable travel and environmental education, traveling to learn about the environment is critical for personal development and the future of our planet. I use travel as an opportunity to learn about new species and ecosystems, and how I can take action to conserve at-risk nature. I always take the time to learn about how local communities approach sustainability. For example, I learned how to reduce my food waste while visiting my husband’s family in India, lessons I use in my daily life here in Germany. Opening yourself up to see how different cultures struggle and overcome environmental issues allows us to have a more intersectional approach to embracing a sustainable lifestyle.

My first piece of advice to anyone looking to engage in sustainable travel is to engage in environmental education when they travel.

Professional Background

Sooz finds solace and quiet on the edge of an island on Sherkin Island in Ireland.
When I travel I love to find quiet nature and rural spots. I was never much of a city girl. Sherkin Island, Ireland.

What has working outside your native country taught you about yourself and the culture you come from?

My first travel blog was a side hobby. My real job was working 50 hours a week as a salaried manager for a large casino and working part-time for a lifestyle magazine.

I was exhausted, stressed, and sick all the time, but I couldn’t call in sick or request vacation. As a woman in management in Vegas, I was harassed and judged.

American work culture is toxic and I never realized that until I was able to end that toxic relationship.

After moving to Germany, I found the value in a healthy work-life balance as Germans are known to prioritize family, personal time, and mental and physical health. I realized the importance of fostering quality personal relationships and work ethic. I work for myself, but my husband, who works a high-stress job, is able to take six weeks of holiday with me and disconnects on the weekends.

How might your career path have differed if you’d stayed in your home country?

Having health insurance is often tied to your job in the United States, so I probably would have never taken the leap to be a full-time content creator. Instead, I would have been stuck at a corporate or office job unhappily working 9-5 just to ensure I had some health care.

When I moved to Germany I felt like I had the option to pursue a creative self-employment career because some of my more basic needs were met.

Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly difficult to get set up here in Germany with my visa and lack of income at the start, but I think I felt more secure here, like Germany had my back. Moving internationally allowed me to realize how brave I was, and my years of travel gave me the confidence to just go for it.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Every job I had prior to self-employment felt like a chore, like I was in an endless tunnel with no light at the end.

I hated dressing a certain way and living my life based on other people’s time.

So, I love being able to express my authentic self – wearing what I want and managing my own time. Better yet, I can take vacation days and relax when I’m sick.

Being my own boss really suits me; I am more productive and motivated than ever before.

On Lifestyle

Sooz and her husband walk in the Alaskan wilderness hand in hand after getting married.  Sooz is dressed in traditional Indian marriage clothes.
Our Indian wedding in Alaska. I met my husband because of travel and we did long distance for almost a year. Being in an intercultural and international marriage also brings a whole list of new travel and life experiences.

Do you think young people in your home country would benefit from traveling more? Living abroad more? Why?

I think both young and old can benefit from traveling and moving abroad. You’re never too old to change your ways or start something new.

As soon as I started traveling, I completely transformed in every way.

I gained empathy, and appreciation for so much more than the small town I grew up in. I approach problems, solutions, and all of life’s hurdles differently. Traveling and living abroad creates valuable characteristics that can help people in personal relationships, their careers, and even self-confidence. The United States, and especially Alaska is just one small piece of a beautiful global network, we could all do well to remember that.

Sooz smiles with her husband and in-laws during a day hike in Alaska
I traveled around Alaska with Ganesh’s family. Sharing travel memories with family means the world to me.

Have you ever traveled in the #vanlife style? How did you choose this lifestyle?

My husband and I actually planned a mega van trip across Europe in a campervan in 2020, but we had to cancel. Once we had access to the vaccine and the EU travel pass, we were able to plan a series of van trips to only a few countries, embracing slow travel. We love campervanning as it allows us to enjoy a camping experience while getting off the beaten path. We visited plenty of small towns, national parks, and nature reserves – places I would never have visited in Europe if traveling by plane or even train. In a way I’m glad we canceled that mega trip because I think we enjoyed exploring only a handful of countries more intimately – I fell in love with an entirely new side of Europe.

Sooz and her husband smiles beside their gray campervan, parked beside a mirror-like lake.
Ganesh and I enjoying our first campervan trip at Wolfgansee, Austria.

Why does the world need travel blogging?

I’ll edit this question a bit, the world needs authentic travel bloggers that are true to themselves.

Every traveler can bring something new to the table and showcase a unique experience. If all travel bloggers are writing about the same 10 things, it contributes to over-tourism and economic inequality.

The world needs traveler bloggers to go find those hidden gems and cultural experiences and share those stories so that travelers can then, in turn, travel to enrich their own lives and get outside their comfort zone.

Find your voice, find your niche, and showcase what makes you and your destination unique.

I wasn’t happy as a travel blogger until I started writing about the things that made me happy and I feel much more satisfied that I help people travel in a new and different way.

One last question

Sooz smiles with her in-laws and husband beside a river in India.
As an adult, I still love family travel! Two of my best travel experiences were being able to travel with my family to Australia to meet Ganesh’s family

What advice would you give to someone who knows they want to travel but aren’t sure where that fits in with the rest of their lives?

I listened to this podcast one time that talked about grouping priorities in groups of three, as it is hard to get to the bottom of a long list of priorities. So, if travel is one of your top three priorities you will find a way to fit it into your life. I would start by sitting down and working through your priorities and seeing what else you might need to move down the list to start traveling. Aside from that, travel doesn’t always have to be a lifestyle that defines you, you can start small and start local to get a taste for travel and what you like about it. Be careful though, once you get bit by the travel bug it might become the #1 priority, but that might not be such a bad thing.

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Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited.

If you are connected with Sooz’s feature and are interested in learning more about how to travel responsibly and sustainably, she invites you to connect across any and all of the following platforms.

Sustainable travel: https://curiositysavestravel.com/

Environmental Education: https://curiositysavestheplanet.com/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/curiositysaves.travel/

IG: https://www.instagram.com/curiositysaves.theplanet/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CuriositySaves

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