Hostels are such an incredible place to meet new friends. In Reykjavík, we quickly formed a circle of like-minded adventure seekers, such as Lauren C., a woman seizing opportunity.
You truly meet the most inspiring, diverse group of people when you travel, and Lauren is no exception!
Lauren was born and raised in Bayville, NJ; “In the pretty part”, she states, “right between the Pine Barrens and the Barnegat Bay. Only 30 mins from the beach.” Perhaps growing up so close to the beach has inspired Laurens career choice as a Wildlife Biologist.
“I’ve been working on Wildlife Refuges with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. I’m pretty lucky to have gotten my dream job so early in my career.”
A Family Journey
Lauren was born to a family of travelers. “I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been given many opportunities to travel. I’ve traveled with my family since I was pretty young since our family was all spread out. My parents immigrated from the Philippines, so I’ve made a handful of trips to those beautiful islands since I was 5. My Dad’s family lives in different cities in Canada so I’ve been going there, too.”
Though growing up as a traveler, Lauren has learned not to take any of her travels for granted.
“I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to travel so much as a kid until I got to high school and realized that not many of my friends traveled out of the country – let alone the state of New Jersey!”
Culture Craving Adventurers
“I’ve been traveling since I was 5, although the bulk of my solo traveling started in college and continues now.” Lauren’s parents instilled in their daughters the inspiration “to be fearless and explore, as well as emphasized the importance of learning from other cultures. Now, we all have the travel bug and live in all corners of the U.S.”
Lauren and her sisters have all branched out to where their hearts called them. While one sister “is a video game animator outside Seattle, my other sister is finishing law school in Honolulu. So you can see that we all radiated pretty far from our home state of New Jersey. I’m closer, working on a remote Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, but I have lived in other places for various research positions before this. I also went to Grad School in Indiana, so I got to explore some of those hidden gems out there. There is more than just corn!” she laughs.”
Taking The Road Less Traveled
Laurens wildlife trips have carried her around the world to places such as Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina, to Nicaragua and Peru. “As a wildlife biologist, I’ve traveled along the East Coast and even to the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica to work with sea turtles and endangered shorebirds. I’ve traveled a lot of coasts as a sea turtle biologist I have also done volunteer work in the Bahamas and Hawaii. The longest trip I’ve been on was 6 months in Costa Rica. I stayed there for the entire leatherback sea turtle nesting season for my first year there, then stayed for 3-month stints for the following two years.”
When she’s not headed off abroad, Lauren loves to take to the hills and forests, armed with her tent and cook set. “I like to backpack and camp in different national parks, so I tend to plan trips to camp with friends and see stunning cliff sides and beautiful beaches.”
Her North American travels have taken her to places such as throughout the East Coast, Canada, California, Hawaii, Washington and it’s Olympic Peninsula, Ohio, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and lastly, Virgina.
Lauren’s longest solo backpacking trip was 2 weeks. While camping, Lauren’s goals are “to hike, drink from streams, have starlit dinners and campfire s’mores.” Having all your current possessions on your back can really change your outlook on the world. “There’s something both empowering and humbling about traveling with only a backpack.” states Lauren.
Lauren’s general packing advice, whether hiking or heading abroad is to “travel light and pack layers! You may not need that 5th sweater when you can wear lots of long sleeves. If you mix them up, you can also look stylish without looking like you wore the same clothes every day for a week.” While odors can arise when re-wearing clothing so often, Lauren recommends packing laundry sheets to help keep your clothes fresh smelling and says it’s a great way to make friends in the hostels as well!
When the chance to travel strikes, Lauren jumps on it. “Last year, I had just finished my master’s, had a decent amount of savings. I decided it would be a good time to travel before I got a “real job”. Besides, when else would I be able to take a few weeks off just to travel as a working adult? Those chances would be pretty slim, so I decided to take the plunge and do a solo backpacking trip to Paris, London and Reykjavík.”
“I think traveling and exploring is the best way to learn. I find you can learn a lot about yourself by learning about others.”
Lauren is also a huge advocate of exploring what is available to you already. America is a huge country with so much to explore! “There’s a lot to see in the U.S. too!” she exclaims. “Many of us think that you have to go out of the country for a great adventure when there are so many stunning and interesting places in our own backyard. Take the plunge and see what areas are around you. You’ll be surprised what hidden gems you can find in your home country.”
The most amazing moment for Lauren occurred while she was taking advantage of an amazing travel opportunity. “Seeing the sea turtle Arribada in Playa Nancite, Costa Rica was phenomenal. An arribada is Spanish for “arrival” and in this case, means the “arrival of boatloads of turtles”. Literally, thousands upon thousands of olive ridley sea turtles all decide to nest at the same time and swarm the beaches. I was lucky to be able to see my first arribada on the third day of the six months in Costa Rica. I get chills still thinking about it!”
How Lauren Recommends Travel
Lauren’s advice for travelers comes from her personal favorite activities. “If it’s a site seeing trip, I enjoy museums, but if it’s a new city, I always recommend spending an afternoon in a coffee shop and just people watch. Local coffee shops bring you to the heart of the culture, and I don’t even like coffee! I also love visiting old churches.”
“I cried in the Notre Dame in Paris because it was so stunning. Come to think of it, I’ve also cried at the tops of mountains for the same reason.”
“I love that there are so many ways to see the world and so many different aspects of the world to see.” She continues, “I’m definitely a novice at solo traveling and camp backpacking but I love how fellow travelers and backpackers are so inclusive and it’s easy to develop camaraderie.”
While there are loads of different opportunities for places to stay, Lauren can’t recommend hostels enough. “Hostels are really eye-opening and help you make friends fast. I’m a very social person and like meeting new people and hostels are the best way to do it! However, very few accommodations beat sleeping in a tent or hammock.”
Additionally, she recommends finding a place you can be comfortable. For Lauren, this was a restaurant. “Kike’s Place in Playa Grande, Costa Rica was my home away from home. They had a true traditional Costa Rican “casado” dinner plates and they were my second family while I was living there.”
Dealing With The Bad
Travel can be so stressful, and everyone deals with the stress and the chaos differently, and Lauren tries to take an optimistic and brave approach. “Travel delays or getting lost are always stressful but it’s all in the moment and in the end, you get where you’re going and you’re good to go. I was lost in Paris on my first day of my backpacking trip and that was pretty stressful since my French is very limited, and I had been told not to get lost in that neighborhood. I just calmed myself down by taking a deep breath and acted confident. Although I was lost and shaking in my boots, I eventually found the metro and found my way home!”
“Be confident, and if you’re not, fake it until you make it. Criminals often try to prey on the weak, so don’t look weak and keep your purse close to your body. Always be aware of your surroundings. You’ve got this, don’t panic. Safety is always paramount so never put yourself in a risky situation. Going out of your comfort zone is a growing experience, just be sure to be safe while doing it.
Readers can follow Lauren’s adventures on Instagram at La_La_Laurena.