Q+A with Stacey Venzel, Solo Traveler, Zoologist + Writer

Stacey reached out to us last month with a lovely stream-of-consciousness piece describing the immense love she has for her sisters. We were truly touched and wanted to know more, and she did not disappoint! Stacey is an Ohio native, but currently living and working in Long Island, Bahamas as a zoologist and freelance writer. On top of that, she is also a solo travel enthusiast and a dedicated vegan with a strong sense of intentionality, self-awareness, and zest for life and adventure, all of which she combines into a riveting reading experience on her personal blog, Stacey Venzel: Just Another Adventure. Stacey’s journey, mindset, and lifestyle are captivating, and she is certainly not afraid to laugh at herself when she finds herself a bit lost in translation along the way! 

THE BASICS

  • Age: 27
  • Location: Long Island, Bahamas
  • Education: BA in Zoology, minors in English + Environmental Studies from Ohio Wesleyan University
  • Field of Interest: Zoology specializing in exotics, wildlife conservation, laboratory analysis and animal rescue. Also freelance writing on pretty much anything – travel/animal anecdotes, embarrassing truths, inspirational musings, healthy living.
  • What Inspired You Today? A time lapse video my friend made of his hermit crab moving into a new shell home.
  • What’s Your Favorite Thing About Yourself? That I’m a risk-taker chasing after the unknown.
  • What Are You Currently Listening To? Oldies (‘40s-‘80s). I’ll unabashedly admit sometimes I listen to Christmas music in the middle of the summer; it puts me in my happy place.
  • What Are You Currently Reading? Tell Me Where It Hurts: A Day of Humor, Healing and Hope in My Life as an Animal Surgeon by Nick Trout

QUESTIONS + ANSWERS

Traveling throughout the world (oftentimes solo), encountering completely foreign cultures and lifestyles, not to mention navigating language barriers are without a doubt challenging, albeit very rewarding. What is your favorite funny traveling story?

Oh boy, there are so many.  I tend to do a lot of stupid things—like doing Beyonce’s Single Ladies dance on the London tube just because—so I’m constantly laughing at my predicaments.

But a favorite that comes to mind took place during my summer working at an animal rescue center in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  Some of the rescued animals were free-roamers, including the monkeys.  They became extremely adept at handling doorknobs to the point where the kitchen door would mysteriously open.  My co-workers and I once got locked in our bamboo hut by a woolly monkey who refused to stop hanging on the doorknob.  There wasn’t much we could do, so we just waited it out.

Why do you choose to travel solo? What is it about traveling alone that makes it so unique and valuable? What are your most and least favorite aspects of solo travel?

Solo travel is addicting.  I’ve met more people traveling alone than I have in a group.  You have so much freedom to change your plans if, for example, you meet people at a hostel and want to go on more adventures with them.  You can be spontaneous with no plans at all! (Most traveling partners would never go for a trip without a schedule.)

The two biggest myths or worries about solo travel are loneliness and safety.  Honestly, you’re very rarely alone unless you choose to be, at which point, all the more power to you.  I find solitude to be an incredibly sacred and necessary experience for growth, and so I actually make times for just me when I travel.  As for safety, you keep your wits about you and trust your gut.  Most people in this world are harmless.  We don’t think twice about picking up a hitchhiker on Long Island, Bahamas; everyone just does it!

machu picchu

My least favorite part about traveling solo is having to pack up every bag with me just to take a trip to the bathroom at the airport or train station, only to find when I get back someone took my seat.  Maybe a personalized “Reserved Seating” sign would help.

You have rescued sea turtles, bunked with a tribe in the Amazon, and built a school in Brazil. Is there a moment for you when you realize that you have fully immersed yourself in a completely foreign culture? Can you describe what that realization feels like?

I come to this realization often on my travels.  In fact, it is what I most yearn for when I’m experiencing a new locale.

When I find that moment, I bask in it.  I reflect on how very different this lifestyle is from my comforts of home, and how I can learn so much from it.  The journey toward this realization is daunting and adrenaline-pumping; reaching it is exhilarating, pacifying, and almost like a resolution.  It gets me thinking, This is what I came for, this is why I chase the unknown.

My adult life is largely inspired by my travels—cooking, music, minimalism, nature.

sea turtle rescue

You grew up in Ohio, but currently live and work in Long Island, Bahamas as a zoologist. What was the biggest challenge you faced during your transition to “island life?” How did you cope with that?

Sometimes I have to take deep breaths with the unreliability of the island lifestyle.  The atmosphere is so laid back and people are so friendly that they’ll make false promises or just not worry about following through with them. Or a part will be out on the water truck and it will be another week until it can arrive on the mail boat so it’s going to take longer than expected to get a delivery.

But it’s definitely better to be surrounded by smiling faces than grumpy give-me-my-coffee-or-I’ll-kill-you faces.  And I’ve learned to value the stress-free living.  I’ve dealt with anxiety for a number of years and travel, along with island life, has helped me manage that.

You lead a dedicated vegan lifestyle, which as I understand it, would be quite a commitment, particularly when traveling. Why did you decide to become a vegan? Did your work as a zoologist influence that decision?

I was a vegetarian for eight years first, and that decision was entirely because of my love for animals.

Switching over to a vegan diet was influenced by my four-year battle with Lyme disease.  Cutting dairy (and largely gluten and refined sugar) out of my meals has made my body feel not so much like a train wreck in the morning.  My boyfriend is vegan as is one of my dear zoologist friends, and they have offered incredible guidance throughout my transition.  My joint pain is minimal now—and I’m extra creative in the kitchen!

Check out some of Stacey’s innovative and yummy recipes here!

Who inspires you?

Jeanine Christiansen: She is on the board for Business of Professional Women, a mentor for regional youth (FL Keys), Executive Assistant for the Chamber of Commerce and was recently selected for a leadership award in the region.  She is the most beautiful, positive, caring, selfless, trustworthy person I’ve ever met making changes for me personally and for the community.  Her life has seen a lot of hardships but she’s come out in one inspiration piece.

Pooja Dutt: She works for non-profit fundraising efforts currently in Australia. She is also a solo female traveler, known to quit her job when she realizes she can make more of a difference elsewhere, even when she has nothing else lined up. She speaks her mind, takes risks, is incredibly well-informed. Pooja has been a great inspiration for my animal and vegan endeavors.  She was born & raised in India, went to college in the states and moved to Australia after.

Kit McCann: She and her husband took off on a 6-month trek from start to finish on the Appalachian trail.  When they finished, they were so used to living in a tent they realized how little space is really needed to be happy.  They renovated a small home on wheels to become their permanent, self-serving, sustainable “tiny house” which Kit currently blogs about and has been featured in magazines and radio for. She works as a therapist of some sorts I believe.

Jeanne Selander: She works long, labor-intense hours for little pay running the Monroe County Sheriff’s Animal Farm.  The animals are rescued from the pet trade, abused/neglectful or re-homing situations or non-releasable wildlife. Jeanne not only works with the animals but also supervises the inmates undergoing community service.  They have to be on best behavior to get to work on the farm, and since it’s a coveted option versus say garbage pick-up, it’s a wonderful retribution program. Jeanne educates the public on the species at the farm, too.

+ FOLLOW ALONG WITH STACEY ON INSTAGRAM, PINTEREST, + OF COURSE HER AWESOME BLOG!

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One Comment Add yours

  1. smvenzel says:

    Reblogged this on Stacey Venzel and commented:
    I am honored to have been featured on a women’s inspirational website today as one of their “muses.” If you’re not following Be Your Own Muse, you should be! This organization is doing great things for women. Thanks for featuring me, BYOM!

    Like

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