Episode #
035

Rooted in Sustainable Tourism, Social Impact and Storytelling with Joanna Haugen | TNN35

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Episode Summary

What is the most effective way to learn a culture (besides immersion)? Storytelling! Storytelling is universal and is as ancient as humankind. Before there was writing, there was storytelling. Stories contain the wisdom of the world, teaching cultural values. Storytelling builds community, celebrates cultural diversity, and preserves cultural identity. Joanna Haugen, the founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling, is an advocate of giving a voice to people who have the richest stories to tell.


In this week’s episode of The New Nomad, Joanna joins our hosts Andrew Jernigan and Allen Koski in talking about the importance of storytelling in our lives as human beings. These three nomads rekindled their experiences in the places they have traveled to and the priceless lessons they have learned along the way. It’s an episode full of gold-nuggets here and there. So don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn and be excited about traveling and sharing your story.


From the episode

What You'll Learn

  • The new flavor of nomad
  • Voluntourism: Yay or Nay?
  • Helping people by listening to their stories

Timestamps

[13:10] Online communities help digital nomads thrive

[15:04] Saying hi to a stranger

[17:00] Voluntourism: Yay or Nay?

[22:15] Slow traveling as a digital nomad

[25:21] Helping people by listening to their stories

[30:35] The power of long walks


Show Transcript

Allen  

Welcome to The New Nomad Podcast. Today your guest is Joanna Haugen, really interesting. A writer, somebody who talks about sustainable tourism, has a platform called Rooted, which I think will be really interesting to talk about. But before we explore there, we'd love to bring in Andrew Jernigan, my co hosts. Andrew and I were having a conversation today coming off of the the weekend about, you know, sustainable health and a lot of the the issues with exercise, nutrition, etc. And we know for many of you in our audience, that's a very important item. We also know that there's a lot of pressures that don't give people the quite the same opportunity to work out or, or eat, or whatever they might need. And we really want to help out with some ideas there. Andrew, how are you and how are you feeling today?

 

Andrew  

Hi there feeling great. I have already had my workout, or at least one of them for the day. And no, I didn't have to leave the house for it. So I see my pitcher of water at my side. And you know, it's that realization that many times when we go from country to country, we get settled in a new environment, sometimes our intentionality with taking care of our health slips by the wayside. So having that glass of water with you getting on the floor and doing some situps or getting out, what are your your thoughts on that? Allen, you've hit dozens of countries you've lived this remote lifestyle for for quite a few years now. When I say those things, what ideas come to mind?

 

Allen  

Well, you know, the thing that I think is very important is when I travel, and I have business travel, particularly when always build some time to get some exercise in even if that exercise is just walking around a city and getting your 70 510,000 steps in, etc. But also about eating, eating good food, typically non processed food. And for instance, when I was in Ukraine, many years back, I went to visit an international school and the gentleman had had Crohn's disease in the United States. And he said when he transferred to the Ukraine, he because of the natural foods, he believes he never had an issue for the two years he had been there. And it really made me start to think about the type of foods you eat. And he also said, you know, you buy a loaf of bread. Two or three days later, there's mould on it. That's actually a good thing. You throw it out, but it means it's fresh. It was a real eye opener to me on processed foods. And for many of us who who have seen a couple of the TV shows that talks about the some of the American foods that was the thing after that the gentleman put the cheeseburger behind the bookcase came back a year later, and it looked exactly like it had. That's not what we want to do. We want to explore, you know, you want to eat good food.

 

Andrew  

Yes. So it it's, I think that our guest today actually will be able to speak into that even though this may catch her by surprise, because there are a few other topics that she is passionate about. But I think that if we bring her in, she will be able to touch on this as well, because this is something that she's done across many different countries. So Allen, I'm encouraged by who you have on the show today.

 

Allen  

But let's bring Joanna in. And first off Joanna, before too much detail. Why don't you provide a little background of I understand you've just moved to Tunisia from from Ukraine, and we would love to ear about your transition first, about yourself first. But the transition is really interesting because so many people who listen this podcast, it's about transitioning from one location to another, and really an interesting story.

 

JoAnna  

Yeah, thanks for having me on today Allen and Andrew. I am what I guess I would consider a long term expat, I am American, and most recently actually just moved from Kiev, Ukraine, where you were just referring to Allen to Carthage, Tunisia, which is where I am calling in from today. I've been here for about a week and a half. And prior to that in Ukraine, I was there for five years. And before that I was living in the United States, but have also lived in Kenya at previous life. But I was a Peace Corps volunteer. And I am as you noted working in the tourism space. I'm a writer, a speaker, a consultant. And one of the things that I think is most important is I am a solutions advocate. Obviously our world faces a lot of challenges right now and I actually am an optimist at heart, I believe I have a lot of hope for our future. I'm a realist. But I also believe that all of these challenges do have great solutions. And I appreciate being a long term expat with this lens to look at the world in a very different way outside of Western media and on the grounds in the places that I have called home which have so far been low and mid income economies, which I feel have given me kind of a different perspective of the the challenges that people in our world face, the privilege that I bring to that perspective, and a greater understanding and appreciation for this world that we live in. So yeah,  I am now calling Tunisia home. I'm very excited to be here. It's very hot, it's like 44 degrees Celsius and 60% humidity today. So for those of you in the United States, we're talking about 115 degrees. But it's a good change and I'm excited to be here and I'm excited to share more of that journey with you today.

 

Allen  

It's interesting, cuz we've had many folks on the podcast, and of course, they talk about the locations they've gone to. So we've had a lot of people Portugal, Costa Rica, Mexico, Estonia. Tell our audience a little bit about what first attracted you to Ukraine, and now to Tunisia, because you know, as people love the conversations on our podcasts of areas that people want to explore, and what drew you to those locations? And your experiences there that would lead people to say, Yeah, I want to be a remote worker, digital nomad location independent person in Ukraine or Tunisia?

 

JoAnna  

That's a great question. So actually, my partner works for the international school system. So he happens to work in those schools where, for example, other expats are sending their kids, folks who are working at the embassies and the NGOs and things like that. I'm very fortunate in that I've owned my own business for over a decade now and I can work from anywhere in the world. And you know,  it is a collective choice to move to Ukraine, and then move to Tunisia. And regard to Ukraine, actually, he received job offers from several places that we had our choice of places to move to. We were very excited about the Ukraine for a couple of reasons. One is that, in the United States, we had been host parents for high school foreign exchange students. And these were students who came and lived with us for anywhere from five to 10 months. And all of them happen to be European. And so we were excited to move to a place where we could be a little bit closer to them as they were finishing their high school years and starting their journey, as young adults in their 20s. And so we did see all of our kids while we're living in Ukraine. 

 

JoAnna  

I was also very excited to move to Ukraine, after the Maidan revolution, which happened right before we moved there. It was a very exciting time to be in the country. And I know, I'm sure a lot of nomads and independent workers hear from their friends and family back home do you want to move there, it's very unsafe, it's an unstable situation. Living in a place that had just gone through this huge revolution, and was shedding its old skin and coming into its own creative, young, independent country, quite frankly, was a really exciting time to be there. We watched the city grow, we watched a huge entrepreneur like spirit take over the capital city, for sure and start to move out to other cities in the country while we are there. And it is a really exciting time for startups and  young, independent workers, the you know, internet connection is great, it's easy to get around. It's inexpensive compared to Western European countries. I like to say it's the best of Western Europe at Eastern European prices. And so it really did prove to be that amazing street art, great café culture, incredible culture,  dance and theatre and things like this at a fraction of the price. It's not Prague yet. It was so exciting to be on the cusp of that and and that definitely played into part of the reason why we wanted to go there. We could see that coming out of the revolution. 

 

JoAnna  

Um, and then moving to Tunisia we have lived there for five years. We lived in a high rise one bedroom apartment throughout COVID, which was very hard, especially with the long winters and things like this. And my partner was ready for a new job. It was a natural time for us to move on. And we did look at a few places to move to for this new position. And we had some options. And we were really excited about Tunisia because everybody we know who has been here has really enjoyed the culture. We were interested to live in an Arabic nation, we haven't done that before. And that's a culture that I'm interested in exploring a little bit. It was a new fresh, kind of cultural environment, geographical environment, and it was just a completely new and fresh start. Here we have a home, we have space, we have air, and we needed all those things coming out of a one bedroom apartment. That's how we ended up in Tunisia. And it just so happens that you may have heard, we're currently going through a bit of a political situation fear right now. Which again Western media has kind of framed as a cool, but quite frankly, there is kind of that new energy. Again, people here are very excited about starting over and trying to do it right. And they held the vaccine campaign yesterday that actually worked and people are very excited about what that might mean for our future. So we're kind of on the cusp of something new again here. It's an exciting time to be living here.

 

Andrew  

Well, political unrest, and in a couple of places in your life, so you know what it's like to live with on the edge. And I think that's part of you now, right, you like that adventure? This the new flavor of nomad, whether it was Silk Road long ago or Sahara. Now it is the expat, the location independence, and those that are going for different long term two, three year job assignments. It's great when you're part of a community, especially like the international school system, to where you  do have that camaraderie there but then there are others that are kind of loosely flowing, trying to find theitr place in the town. And I imagine on some of your assignments there have been those aspects to where you've found those that were trying to get in, they didn't have kids in international school, but they're still trying to find the international citizen. What would you say is your number one recommendation for someone who's doing this lifestyle, but needs to find community?

 

JoAnna  

One of the great things about the internet has been global communities that have been set up with little regional or local hubs. So over the past year and a half in particular, I have explored more of these kinds of communities because we've all been online. And I've really appreciated for example, the she's wonderful community, which is women travelers, and they're all over the world. Impact Travel Alliance has little regional chapters. I really love Creative Mornings, because those are people who work in some sort of creative or innovative space in all kinds of industries and there are chapters like that all over the world. I think we are all very fortunate to have these resources at our fingertips to find global organisations, if you will, that have these little local chapters. And in those spaces, you are meeting local people and other travelers and expats. I'm a big believer in breaking out of whatever mould might have brought you to where you are. So if you're a backpacker, it's very easy to stay in the hostel and just hang out with backpackers or in the international school system it's very easy to just hang out with the other trailing spouses and the teachers if you are with one of the embassies. They plan great events, but you have to make the effort to break out so I try to take advantage of those online communities that have local organisations, go to a yoga class, go to a, a beer festival, a food festival, a music festival.  Don't be afraid to say hi, or ask for help or anything like that. I mean, people, I believe are at their heart good people. They're not out to judge you or make you feel bad or hurt you or anything like that. And I guess sometimes that can be a little naïve, but I have to go to the world believing that. For the most part, we were all just people trying to live our best lives. And so if that means you sit down next to somebody at the festival, and strike up a conversation, chances are it's gonna be a perfectly fine conversation, who knows where that's gonna take you.

 

Allen  

It's something that we've talked about in this podcast, we think it's really important to assume positive intent. There is positive intent out there 98% of the time, it's going to be a great experience, etc. And really putting yourself out there. I mean, so much so that I shared with Andrew and one of the earlier podcasts, how when I travel overseas, and I've gotten haircuts in Kosovo, in Jordan, because I tried to go to a local barber shop and they were amazed to see somebody there. And, and of course, as the years goon, and the hair gets thinner, I have to wait longer and longer between those wonderful episodes. But it's still a wonderful thing to sit down with people locally. But I also thought something that you did that was really amazing. In your background, you've done volunteering, and I noticed that that was really interesting was part of your volunteering was the election observation, and getting involved in groups that volunteer and I think that might be a great way and love your conversation on volunteering in some of the different ways that you've gotten involved there, because election observers sounded really interesting to me when I saw that in your in your background.

 

JoAnna  

Yeah, so I actually do have mixed feelings about voluntourism. I am very hesitant to promote or endorse anything that's like a sign up to do volunteer work in the country. There are a lot of problems with those kinds of things that when it comes to voluntourism kind of things, I actually have a much bigger supporter of, for example, just participating in a trail restoration project that  local communities are already working on. Or if there's a local group that's picking up garbage on the beach, lend a hand participate there, I think with volunteering we need to be really mindful about a white saviour-ism complex. It's not our job as people who do not belong to the community, even if we lived there for a long time to impose our values and belief system and all these things on communities. We want our state not to do harm. 

 

JoAnna  

And all that said, Yes, I am an international election observer. That's actually something that at least Americans, and I don't know how this works for other countries. You can go through the training online and become an election observer through OSCE. That's actually something you can do. And you can apply to be an election observer through OSC, me in a lot of countries. I'm I am certified that way. But I actually have done all my observations through other organisations. I participated in the elections in Ukraine when they happen a few years ago, there were a few rounds and I participated in all of those rounds, I volunteered with, I believe, is called Ukrainian American Association. And there are so many organisations like this that have ties in the countries where people are staying. There are so many organisations like this in all these countries and communities that were saying and, being an election observer was a really fascinating way to get a an up close look at a very specific part of the place that I was in. And so you go through a training you learn what it means to be an election observer how to be an observer, not part of the story. And then I went out with a partner in both occasions there are certain forms you fill out so that everything is official and and essentially it's observing, but it's also talking with the folks that are there just making sure that they felt safe making sure that nothing felt unusual making note of all those things and then being part of the democratic process, which is in a lot of the world. It's a big and major issue what a safe and fair election looks like and not only did it provide me with a different perspective of my home country of Ukraine at that time, but it also got me more interested as the election, the United States, as those results started coming out, and all the things that were going on there. And I was I remember thinking myself, well, it was just a paper ballot, people would know what it said like, that's the way we were doing it Ukraine and and so that was really interesting. My parents observed the election in the United States as American citizens. So we had a lot of conversations about that. And I think this is a great way, for anybody who's along term expat or anybody who's just travelling and able to travel to different countries at a moment's notice to be more involved in the places that they're staying. And to learn more about those back end things that we might not think about so much when we're just passing through a place. It was a great volunteer experience, I am really glad I did. And I look forward to doing more of that.

 

Allen  

This is what gets me excited about this podcast is conversations like this in you as a writer, that you understand the power of his story. And the story you just told there, I think he's going to illustrate for people different ways to get involved. And I'd love it on your podcasts, I mean, on your solutions based Platform podcast, it really talks about storytelling, and tying together as a writer is, is one of the things that are most exciting to you is when you pick up these different stories from other folks, or yourself. And certainly, I think people understand things a lot better. So I would love your you know, we don't have many writers on this show. We have a lot of people that are actively travelling, we'd love your common theory about how people can share with others, also the wonderful stories that they pick up, whether they're writing it, or they're on a podcast like us, because some of us can't write. And other ways of getting that message out. Because what you discussed right there, I thought was a wonderful story that really illustrated point forme.

 

JoAnna  

Yeah, I think one of the things that's most important is this idea of slowing down and slow travel, I do think that's one of the values of being a digital nomad or location independent, you can slow down, so you're not just speeding through, hopping from one flight to the other. And I think that's a really important part of finding those stories, hearing those stories and learning to share those stories with other people. One thing I think is really important to underscore is there is this tendency to say that we should give a voice to the voiceless. And I think it's really important to underscore the fact that nobody is voiceless. Everybody has a voice. But a lot of people have been silenced over the years, they have been marginalised, oppressed and not given the space or time or platform to share stories. And so one thing that is very important to me in the work that I do as a tourism consultant, and a writer, is to ensure that I'm very aware of any power dynamics, when I enter a situation where there might be an opportunity to share a story. I think of myself as a conduit through which a story travels, it is not my story but what I can do is understand and appreciate my position of power, my position of privilege, I speak a language that gives me access, I have a certain amount of personal privilege that allows me to participate in activities that other people might not be able to do. And all of those things I carry with me when I travel, and I respect them.  I'm very grateful for them. So when I do slow down, and I am able to devote the time and attention to a story that deserves to be heard, and there are so many that deserve to be heard, I listen and I check in with whoever the storyteller is. Tell me about what surprised you about this. I want to understand. I want to learn and it's not always about sharing that story with other people, I'm getting something out of that too. I am very appreciative of that if I am able to use my platform in some way to give this person a chance to amplify and elevate that story. That's a bonus. And  I appreciate having the gift to share that with the world. But it is not my story and we need to be really careful again, understand. Adding our position of privilege and power and visitors in the places where we live and go, even if we're there for a long period of time. We don't know the deep, deep stuff. And we need to respect where those stories are coming from. So one piece of advice I would say to anybody who's interested in, in earning about the stories and learning how to tell the stories is first, make the time to listen and give that story the full attention it deserves in the person who is telling it and recognise that that person is that storyteller is not there for you to get clicks, that person is not there for you to take a great video, the person is a person and make a connection, have a relationship and then if it's appropriate, use your platform and your voice to help amplify their story and their voice.

 

Andrew  

Well, that's a good place to share with us the most overlooked person place experience something you feel like people should know about from your experiences around the world. It's question we ask everybody, and I'd love to hear your take on that question. Can you tell us?

 

JoAnna  

Yeah, so something I think that is overlooked is the power of a long distance hike or a long distance walk because when we talk about slowing down, a lot of people think about that staying in one place for a long period of time. And that's part of that but I love taking long distance hikes because what I think that does, is it has a low carbon footprint and it allows you to spread your financial resources over a large period of a large geographical area of a single location. Once you start walking and interacting with people on the trails, people in these mountain huts or wherever you might be start to have those very local, authentic experiences. And so I am a big believer, and I am a big supporter of anybody who's willing to put on their hiking boots, and go for four or five days, four-five weeks, and just start walking and see where it takes you.

 

Allen  

Fantastic. That's interesting, I just was reading a book of people that walk the Appalachian Trail, how that changes their whole outlook on life. So great call out. So JoAnna, people want to learn more about you and Rooted. Please share with us how they can find you and maybe just a quick conversation on what is Rooted for the audience.

 

JoAnna  

Yeah, absolutely. So you can find me at rootedstorytelling.com. Rooted is a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling and in this space, I am essentially a tourism consultant, I lead trainings and I publish a lot of content to help people learn how to decolonize their travel experiences and support sustainable development using storytelling. It's a very active site. I have a newsletter, I publish content every week. I'd love for you to join me at rootedstorytelling.com. You can also find rooted storytelling on Instagram, and I am on LinkedIn. You can find me at Joanna Haugen. I'm also on Twitter at Joanna_Haugen.

 

Allen  

Fantastic. Well, we really appreciate you joining us today from Tunisia and certainly in a period of transition because you haven't been there for very long. And we hope to circle back and see how things go in Tunisia because we've heard great things from folks that have travelled and this was a new spot to add to the to the map. So with that, I'll bring Andrew back in address, we always tie things together. Let's discuss what we learned today. I'll let you go first and then I'll pickup the baton.

 

Andrew  

Well, two things that I heard that really struck me whereas the process of becoming an election observer. I wish I had known about that sooner is I've lived in different countries during the elections. I think that would have really helped me to get more involved and I was really involved with locals everywhere we've lived but still that's the unique thing that I'm going to put a link in the show notes or not me, I'm providing it to the guy who's putting all this together to make it sound good. I won't take the credit all. There's somebody else behind this besides Allen and I and Joanna. So that's one thing. The second was the long distance hikes, I was reminded of the Julian trail through the Julian Alps in Slovenia that I would really like to do that's a circular trail. Hearing her even reminded me, Okay, I've liked a trail along the river here, but I won't even walk it. You know, it would be a long walk compared to biking. But yeah, those are the two things that I want to make actionable and I actually I want to listen to this again, once it goes live, because she dropped some nuggets. So this has been good.

 

Allen  

Back to the power of the long walk or kind of just slowing down and not rushing through a location. It's it's so important. And it's one of the things that really frustrates me is that you, we've gone to places over the years. And let's say a whole group gets brought together in a particular country. We have meetings, maybe a couple unique dinners, and then everybody runs back to the plane. And I was always the one who's like, let's stay a couple more days, even if we just wake up and have coffee, and walk around and take in what's happening in the local community. So fantastic call out there. And like I said, I'm gonna be very excited to check back with Joanna because as I said, I really enjoyed my two weeks in Ukraine back in the day, but Tunisia is a really exciting departure. So we'll pick up on that. We want to remind our audience that The New Nomad's not just a podcast, it's a community of people, ideas and spirit, helping you take advantage of location independent lifestyle. We hope you travel well and we look forward to hearing from you next week. Travel well and stay safe. Thank you.

Rooted in Sustainable Tourism, Social Impact and Storytelling with Joanna Haugen | TNN35

About the Guest

Joanna Haugen

JoAnna Haugen is a writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for more than a decade. She is also the founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling. She has written hundreds of articles for dozens of print and online publications including Popular Science, Mongabay, Fast Company, Backpacker, BBC Travel, Delta Sky, American Way, Sustainable Brands, and Adventure.com. She is a member of the Impact Travel Alliance, Society of Environmental Journalists, the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Wanderful Creator Community, and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She is also a media advisor for the Transformational Travel Council and a volunteer mentor through Women in Travel. Additionally, she is a two-time recipient of the Nevada Arts Council grant. JoAnna is a returned Peace Corps volunteer, long-term expatriate, international election observer, and intrepid traveler.