We're introducing our new Changemakers in Travel series, interviews with inspiring travelers making waves around the world.
We're excited to have Anna Harris start off our series! Anna is an aviator, engineer, travel blogger, and soon-to-be Peace Corps volunteer!
Learn how she got started traveling, flying single engine planes to remote locations, and her plans to combine her passion for engineering, business, and blogging to improve clean drinking water around the world.
Basically, she kicks major booty inspiring and helping others, all while seeing the world. #goals
How did you start out? Tell us about yourself!
When I was in college I made a list of "life goals" and one of them was to see the world. I went on my first solo trip to New Zealand in 2013 and started my blog to journal my travels so my family and friends could see what I was up to. Solo traveling around New Zealand was so exhilarating that I wanted to see more of the world, and I was totally hooked.
Being of mixed heritage, a lot of people ask what my ethnicity is since I look "different." I always joked that I'm a "Filipokie" because I'm half Filipina and half "Okie." Ethnically speaking, even though my dad's side of the family is from Oklahoma, my ancestors actually came to America from Norway. I originally just used "Filipokie" as a handle on social media but it became a nickname that stuck with me.
What drives you?
People always say "the photo doesn't do it justice." My goal with photography has always been to recreate that magical moment to remember the feeling every time I look at the photo. I'm always trying to improve and write blog entries to make the readers want to go to that place for themselves one day.
What are you currently working on?
The past two months I've been working on my Private Pilot License and I'm currently preparing for my final checkride to officially become a pilot at the end of the month! In April I flew a single engine plane from the Pacific Ocean in California all the way to the Bahamas; the thing about flying is that it gives you a completely new perspective on travel and you get to see the world in a different way.
In July I'm departing for the Peace Corps in Panama where I will be serving as an Environmental Engineer & Water Resources Coordinator! For the next two and a half years I'll be living in the jungle designing and building clean drinking water systems for indigenous tribes. After I graduated from college I had a great job in the tech industry in Silicon Valley near San Francisco but I couldn't see myself sitting behind a computer for the rest of my life. I aspired to do something more and to directly make a difference with my engineering skills, and Peace Corps was exactly what I was looking for. After I complete my service, I hope to combine my engineering experiences and everything I've learned through blogging to start my own business designing clean drinking water systems for communities in developing countries all over the world.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to do what you do?
- Create goals for yourself; have a "big picture" idea of where you want to be in 5 years and set small goals to help get yourself there.
- It's all about the mindset! If you're unhappy with something in your life, spend some time thinking about what to do to change it. Follow those dreams no matter how big they may seem!
- No one ever says, "I regret that vacation I took," so book that plane ticket!
When did you start traveling?
I went on my first solo trip to New Zealand when I was 20 but it wasn't until after college that I started exploring more. After I graduated I backpacked through Europe for almost two months before starting at my 9-to-5 job. As much as I enjoyed Europe, I learned that I have an affinity for super remote locations where few tourists travel. These days with the freedom of having a pilot license and flying small planes, I've been fortunate to travel to places that a lot of airliners can't reach, which have been some of my most cherished trips.
We know there is rarely just one answer to this question, so: favorite place in the world (or top three) and why?
It's so hard to pick just one favorite place in the world so I have to go with my top three! I absolutely love the Corn Islands off the coast of Nicaragua and the rugged feel of sleeping in an open air bungalow right on the beach without electricity or running water. Another favorite is Bali - the people are incredibly friendly with a laid-back surf vibe, the food is amazing, and you can't beat those super cheap prices on a tropical island in Southeast Asia! Iceland is another top choice mostly because of its unique and beautiful landscapes. I wouldn't say it's a very budget friendly destination, but if you rent a camper van and explore the country, that's the way to go!
Best airport style or travel tip?
Always be open minded. Say yes to every adventure. Because sometimes when you say "yes" to those twenty-something-year-old New Zealander boys asking if you want to come with them surfing, you'll find yourself having the time of your life and remembering those moments for years to come.
Follow Anna's adventures:
YOUTUBE: @Filipokie // https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmR8E4AL7LcC58kbwzRJ1mQ
Want to be featured in our Changemakers in Travel series, or know someone that is a good fit? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!