Could you go on holiday without making any plans?
I recently came across an interesting lady – Carole Rosenblat. She is an adventurer, travel expert, writer, speaker and philanthropist, who sets off to wherever her readers tell her with no prior planning. Crazy? Or exciting? I caught up with her to ask about her adventures with her interactive travel site Drop Me Anywhere (DMA).
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I’ve worked in various aspects of the travel industry for many years. I began my travel career working as a Purser for Windjammer Barefoot Cruises. From there I went to work on big cruise ships including Costa, Chandris (now Celebrity), Regency and Holland America. I worked mainly in the Entertainment/Activities department. Fifteen years-later I went back to ships as the Manager of youth activities on Disney Cruise Line. In between, I worked freelance as a camping/adventure tour guide, an international tour manager for high-end tours, in hotels and as an on site logistical manager for corporate meetings and events around the world.
How did you come up with the idea of Drop Me Anywhere and how does it work?
The short answer is that I was on a Twitter travel chat and the question was, “If you had your own travel show, what would it be about and what would it be called?” I’d not thought about it in a long time and the answer fell out of my fingers. “Mine is about travel without a plan and it’s called Drop Me Anywhere.” The response was overwhelming, with people telling me I needed to film a pilot and do a Kickstarter. I had no desire to be self-employed again but, after a few weeks, the idea was still stuck in my head. I wrote to Christopher Elliott (Reader Advocate for National Geographic Traveler and USA today columnist) who loved the idea and gave me some advice. It was sort of organic.
Readers of the DMA blog vote on where to send me and I go within two weeks with nothing planned, and then report on the adventure. During each trip I commit to volunteering for a day, with an organization in the area in which I’m traveling. I then share their story on the Rebel With A Cause website.
The philanthropic element to it was something I’ve always been committed to and wanted to be sure to incorporate in DMA.
What do your family think about what you do?
I’m not married nor do I have kids, except all that I’ve worked with through my jobs or volunteering all over the world. My siblings think it’s kind of cool and it seems to be inspiring people, especially women, to do things that they’re afraid of doing.
On your travels, have you ever come across a person you would hope never to meet again and why?
Hmmm, I’m not sure I could narrow it down to a person, but I didn’t like the obvious prejudice towards white people in many of the places I traveled to in Asia. It was an eye-opener for me as, being Jewish, a woman and now, just turned fifty (finding out that all of the experience I’ve gained means nothing if you’re not under forty), I’ve experienced some prejudice in my life. But this is the first time I’ve been judged by the color of my skin. In Asia, being white means you’re wealthy and, if you’re not a twenty-two year-old backpacker, you must be very wealthy. (I rented out my house and sold my car, furniture and clothes to do this. I’m using all of my savings and will need a job or sponsors very soon.) Therefore, you will not get the same price as someone with darker skin and, in many places, you will be cheated by salespeople, taxi drivers and anyone else who feels they can.
As this is all about learning, I try to look at those experiences as great ones as I now know that prejudice is not simply an American thing and I can now empathize with those who have been judged by the color of their skin.
What is your favourite experience or person you’ve met so far?
Just one?! Well, I will say that just being in Gili Air, one of the Gili Islands in Indonesia, was pretty darned nice. No motorized vehicles and you can walk around the island in 90 minutes. It was one of the “in between places” where I went for a week of rest and to catch up and which will be written about in the book.
But one of my top-ten travel experiences was spending the evening with the Tümerin von Münster (the Tower Keeper of Munster), Martje. The German tourism board arranged this for me as it isn’t available to the public. Six nights per week she climbs the 300-steps up the tower of St. Lamberti’s Church. On this night, I got to climb with her. She showed me the bell which she must ring once every six years (to announce the election of the Oberbürgermeister) and the cages in which the bodies of the Anabaptists were kept in after they were tortured and killed hundreds of years ago (they still hang on the outside of the tower). We then walked around the outside of the tower on the top every half-hour where she looked out, said, “No fires, no foes,” and blew her horn in a code which signified the time (you can read about the code in her post, The Art of Tooting).
Finally, the night at the nudist RV resort in Oregon was certainly an experience.
What is the life lesson you have learnt from doing this?
I learn lessons nearly every day. In fact, the memoir I’m writing from this is less travel info and more the experiences and feelings which surrounded this. My plan is that each chapter will include the lessons learned – about travel, about the location, about people, and about myself.
One lesson I continue to learn is letting go of “stuff.” I gave up everything to do this and still have panic attacks about that here and there. Also, as I’m living out of a suitcase, I tend to buy less expensive clothing (sometimes at second-hand stores) as I have to leave it when I have no room as I travel with summer, winter, dressing up and dressing down clothes. I’ve left my favorite sweaters and a winter coat in Budapest (I also donated my shoes to the homeless I was feeding there), my hiking boots are in India, and a pair of pants, a dress and some shoes were left in Vietnam. I’m learning to let go.
Which charity do you think you have achieved the most with and why?
Another tough one. I certainly fell in love with the kids at Hekab be Biblioteca in Akumal, Mexico. I know the homeless people I fed each Saturday in Budapest were very grateful and so interesting to meet (and I made great friends with other volunteers). Just being able to bring attention to the work Volunteer Vietnam is doing is quite special. And the great work with amazing kids who are caught in the middle of thing, yet just want to learn, made my volunteer work with Let’s Tutor a Refugee Kid, in Kuala Lumpur very special.
Many thanks to Carole who seems to be living a life that I’m sure will inspire many of us. If you wish to donate, sponsor or read about the places she’s visited please visit Drop Me Anywhere.
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