Caroline LaFollette credits her parents with her love of travel. Growing up, the family took various road trips and Disney excursions. “Our first big trip was to Hawaii when I was 16,” she said. Since then she has visited several countries and spent an entire summer in Spain.
It was during her senior year at the University of Alabama that her mother suggested she travel more extensively after graduation. “I told her she was crazy; that I would be going to graduate school like a normal person,” Caroline said. But the more she thought about it, the more she was intrigued by the idea.
After graduation, with a degree in human development in hand, she began working on a travel agenda using National Geographic magazines, internet searches and suggestions from friends. “It originally started out as just a Europe thing,” she said. But her interest in different cultures inspired her to expand that idea. “Plus my money goes way farther in Africa and Asia,” she reasoned.
Her six-month travel itinerary is more like a “rough draft.” She’ll be in South Africa for the rest of this month before heading to Brussels, where she’ll meet up with her best friend from college. She will spend the first half of March “bopping around Europe,” with a tentative plan to end up in Budapest before heading off to Israel at the same time her family will be there.
Her parents, Stephen and April LaFollette, and her brother, Caleb, are traveling to the Holy Land as part of a group excursion sponsored by their church, Anniston First United Methodist.
Aside from those rendezvous points, Caroline is traversing the globe all by herself. After bidding farewell to her family in Israel, she will travel on to India, Sri Lanka and maybe Thailand and Malaysia. From there, she’ll visit Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan and Indonesia.
She secures accommodations at local hostels and takes advantage of public transportation to get around. “Also, I walk,” she said. “A lot.”
Traveling solo does have its benefits. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want,” she said. She decides when, where and what she’ll eat at mealtime or what museums to visit. “My schedule is totally my own,” she said. “I get to be completely selfish with it.”
But there are also disadvantages to traveling alone. “When I get really excited about something, I want to talk about it,” she said. Since everyone she knows is sleeping on the other side of the planet, she has to wait for them to be awake to share her stories.
Caroline has an adventurous palate and is willing to try different cuisines. While in South Africa, she has sampled kudu, which is in the antelope family, and she’s giving serious consideration to a meal of ostrich before she leaves. “I’m most excited about trying street food in Asia,” she said. “And Indian foods, mainly because I haven’t had that much of it.”
Tourist attractions are at the top of her to-do list when visiting various countries, but she is also enjoying other adventures, such as safaris and shark cage diving. “I love finding local grocery stores,” she said. “They’re so fun to explore.”
While preparing for her excursion, Caroline was advised not to be overly committed to a strict schedule. “That’s what we normally do on a vacation so that we can make the most of our time,” she said. But this is no ordinary vacation, which means she will plan her days as they come. “I have a bucket list of things I want to do in each country, and I’m working around that.”
Caroline is maintaining a blog of her travel experiences, complete with pictures. You can follow along with her at earthtocaroline.com.
Donna Barton’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at email@example.com.