Mount Holyoke Alumna Offers Strategies on How to See the World

Illustration of globe with two faces and many animals

Illustration by Anna + Elena = Balbusso Twins

I believe in the transformative nature of travel, both on a philosophical and a practical level. Exposure to new cultures and ways of life expands our thinking and gives us a new lens through which to consider our own values and lifestyles. When I connect with new friends from other countries, stereotypes are replaced by faces, names, and shared experiences.

This year, my ten-year-old daughter, Elise, and I are traveling the world. I am homeschooling her as we go, using textbooks scanned to my featherweight laptop, and, more importantly, offering her hands-on exposure to currencies, maps, museums, archaeological sites, and ancient monuments. Elise wants to be a veterinarian, so we are seeking out places with wildlife. She has swum with sea lions and giant tortoises in the Galapagos, petted llamas on Machu Picchu, toured an animal sanctuary in the cloud forest of Bolivia, and had dozens of adorable squirrel monkeys clamber all over her trying to get her bananas in the Amazon.

I truly believe that international exchange programs may be the best way to reduce world conflict. Susanne Ollmann ’89

At the very least, the travel Elise and I are doing is enriching our lives. But as comfortable as I am hopping on a plane, I hear from many that travel feels impossible.

The question I am asked most frequently is how are we financing our trip. How can I afford to take a year off from work?

The answer isn’t so complicated. I’ve employed a range of strategies to make our adventure possible. Here are a few that have worked for us:

Eliminate expenses:

Before you embark, pare down your non-traveling expenses as much as possible. Rent out your home or apartment, lease your car, and cancel all subscriptions.

Be flexible in your destinations:

Consider visiting countries where your dollar goes a long way. You can travel for less than $50 a day in many countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Morocco, and Egypt.

Skip the travel agent:

Consult free services such as Google Flights price map to get ideas for inexpensive destinations from any city. To visualize and refine your flight path around the globe, enter your desired destinations into bootsnall.com and then use google.com/flights to find the best prices on flights.

Rely on frequent-flier miles:

Apply for credit cards with frequent-flier-mile bonuses, as well as free health insurance and baggage and trip protection. Check out the latest offerings at cardsfortravel.com. Get the most out of your miles by looking into individual airlines’ super-saver programs.

Save on lodging:

Check out services such as booking.com or hostelworld.com to find accommodations in a specific price range, location, and with specific amenities. Or sign up for couchsurfing.com, which lets you stay for free with locals in every country. Not only will you be stretching your dollar, you might just make new friends across the globe.

Susanne Ollmann headshotSusanne Ollmann ’89 took a year off from her social media design and marketing business, ollmanncreative.com, to travel with Elise. Although she grew up just a few miles from Mount Holyoke, she has also lived in Japan, Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic. She has traveled to more than fifty countries, a total that she expects to grow to more than sixty by the end of this year. Follow her travel adventures and view photos at worldtravelmama.com.

This article appeared as “Seeing the World” in the spring 2018 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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