It has been a very long time since I’ve featured an amazing traveler, and I’m so pleased to showcase Kenna, who is one of the nicest and down-to-earth people I have ever met. I truly hope you enjoy her feature, as she is honest in all of her answers and truly shows that even when we have extreme trauma, we can still find joy and thrive in our lives.
You seem to travel often, how many trips would you say you take in a year? Now that is a great question! I travel a lot and normally go somewhere at least once or twice a month if not more. Looking at 2017, I would say I have taken perhaps 25-35 trips if not more. I have lost count!
How did you get interested in travel? I have been interested in traveling for a long time. Probably since birth! During my childhood, my parents would pile up my brothers and I into the car and we’d drive to my grandparents house in Mississippi. We’d also ride in my Uncle Joe’s van up and down the highways in the southern states (I’m originally from Memphis). In college, I would fly to New York, DC, California and other states just to get away even if just for the weekend. When I started my professional career, I had the opportunity to travel overseas for work. My first trip was to the Marshall Islands and that sparked life in me. It was always there but I had not had the chance to go overseas although I had a passport.
You work full time. What do you do and how much vacation time do you get? My official job title is Lead Test Manager. I have an Aerospace Engineering degree but I spend most of my days doing more project management type of work. Not like when I started 17 years ago as a Flight Test Engineer. Those were the good days. I have been working at the same company for 17 years so my vacation time is rather nice. I have a little over 5 weeks of vacation a year plus I am off every other Friday. That helps me with having time for vacation as I fly out a lot of Thursdays and fly back Monday morning in time for work!
You never travel without travel insurance, why is that so important to you? Travel insurance is sooooo important me. So important that I actually have an annual policy so I don’t worry about it. A lot of people think travel insurance is what I call trip protection i.e. if you have to cancel, etc. I look at travel insurance for if something happens to me, can I get medical care or even flown back home if I am injured.
As you know, I was involved in a tragic accident almost 3 years ago and of all of the trips I have ever taken, that was the one trip I forgot to buy insurance. Every trip I have had since then, I have had insurance and I am a big proponent of having it. Although many credit cards will give you some coverage, it might not be enough.
How did not having travel insurance affect your ability to get help in Panama? Did you have to pay for your care out of pocket?
Where did you travel in 2017? 2017 Travels…. Let me see if I can remember this and break it down by months.
January- San Diego and Philadelphia
February-Memphis, South Africa, Houston
March-Mexico, Iceland, The Netherlands
April-Costa Rica, Memphis, Anchorage
May-Memphis and Houston
September-Seattle, Canada (Toronto and Vancouver) and Nicaragua
October-Fiji, UAE (Dubai), Egypt and Houston
December-Mexico, Houston (twice) and Memphis
I am glad you didn’t ask me about 2016.. lol!
Earlier this year you did something epic that no one else has ever done. What did you do and how did you get it done? Something epic.. we’ll I did cook a few months ago and that was pretty epic! Just kidding. In October, I conducted my 4th group trip to Dubai called the #DubaiBlackOut which was a massive trip with approximately 500 participants.
I have been going to Dubai every Halloween since 2014 and this trip started in 2014 with a small group of friends. It started with about 25 of us. In 2015 it grew to 80, 2016 we were at 250 and 2017 at 500 people! I am probably a bit crazy for agreeing to take this on but my passion is seeing people travel, experience new cultures and go places they probably thought they could never go.
As far as how I got it done, I really do not know! I have a particular way I approach group trips and most people either like my style or they don’t. I am always on time for everything and don’t operate anything late. I have a reputation for giving people what they paid for and somehow it seems to work. I am so thankful for people who trust me year after year to put this trip on for them to enjoy!
Why is travel so important to you? Travel is really a part of my life. There is no way I could be happy without traveling. My grandmother told me to never let anyone push me around and to keep on traveling. Odd as it is, that is what I have done is to continue to travel no matter what. I’m a Sagittarius so we crave adventure so traveling is essentially in my blood stream!
You have had many traumatic experiences over the past few years, how has travel helped you deal with your grief? These past few years have been a real doozy! Starting in December 2014 with my grandmother passing away followed up with my tragic accident in Panama in January 2015 were my vehicle went over a cliff and two friends died and I was severely injured. That was followed up in February 2015 my mom announcing her cancer had returned. February 2016 my oldest brother who was like my twin passed away at 41 and the following month in March my father passed away.
Looking at this, I have truly been through a lot of experiences but somehow my spirit is not broken. I feel resilient no matter what is put in front of me. My grandmother as I earlier said told me to keep traveling. Right after the deaths of my brother and father, I took off a couple of months and flew all over the world away from everyone. I use that time to write, grieve and just breathe.
I spent the bulk of my time in Asia in several countries plus some time in some African countries. That time I was gone I cried daily but reminded myself there is still joy in this world. I made proclamations and vowed to continue living no matter what happens to me or my closest loved ones.
There are people reading this who are dealing with extreme loss and they can’t even think about traveling. What would you say to them? I would encourage anyone to travel to help aid in the healing process. I am not really a crier… I am more of someone who likes to laugh, dance, be the life of the party, etc. So when I took my 2 month journey, I literally grieved every day.
I cried… I relished in my experiences and the people that I met along my journey. Although some of my destinations were prime locations (hey!! I was in Maldives, Seychelles and other exciting places), I did not care where I was. I used my time to speak to my spirit and heal the pain of the loss.
One thing I did on my trip was I took my brother’s tie with me and I took pictures of it at every destination. On the beaches in Maldives, I held out my brother’s tie and it was flapping in the wind so hard that I just busted out laughing as I took it as a sign that my brother is ok.
For your readers who have suffered relationship loss, job loss or any other loss, I would like them to know that they can regain these particular things and perhaps even better than what they have had before. Manifest it into your life and watch it flourish.
How do you manage to date when you are gone so much? I am in a relationship with a man that lives a 3 hour plane ride away from me so it’s easy for us to date. We are both busy professionals but we make time for each other.
He lives in Texas and I am here in California so we fly back and forth between the states to see each other often. We have “clauses” where we try to be together on special days i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and birthdays and this seems to work. Some of my trips is us meeting up in different cities whether we meet up in Memphis to visit my mother or we hang out in San Diego which is only a 3 hour drive from me.
We also do international travel together from South Africa, Belize and other places. Long distance relationships probably offer more flexibility but a lot of people aren’t really interested in putting in the work that they require.
How has travel impacted your relationship? Probably no real impact to us for the reasons stated above. We’re long distance but fortunately there is whatsapp, Skype, text messaging, etc. so we are always connected. The only impact that I can think of is solo travel. I do a large amount of solo traveling and some of my destinations scare the heck out of him but he’s extremely supportive of my wanderlust!
What would you say to someone who wants to travel but is afraid? Ask yourself what are you afraid of? I am probably more afraid of walking out of my front door than I would be in some other country. Challenge your fear. Is it real or what someone else has told you to be afraid of. I would tell that person to forge ahead and travel. Start somewhere small if you want. Start in Canada which isn’t that far away if you are in the states. Once you taste seeing something other than your own environment, you will become unstoppable and will want to see it all!
What do you think of Kenna’s feature? Let us know in the comments!