At Women’s Travel Fest, we’re always in awe of the inspiring travel leaders who offer their experience, wisdom, and vast knowledge on how to create the life you want. this is why we’re honored to feature an amazing interview series on past and current speakers.
We were excited to speak to Calen Otto of Unruly Travel. They’re a queer, anti-speciesist travel blogger who explores the world on a small budget. After completing a solo trip across the USA at 19 years old with only $300 and a bike, they discovered that there are so many alternative ways to travel that cost less.
Enjoy this installment of 10 Questions with Calen Otto!
Calen experiencing White Sands National Park.
What inspired you to start traveling?
It’s funny to think about, but I started traveling almost by accident. My first real travel experience was when I lived in Chile for a year with a host family (as an exchange student) right after graduating high school. During my senior year, I realized that I had no idea what I wanted to do nor did I want to get in debt going to college for a subject that I wasn’t sure of.
It seemed like too early of a stage in life to know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. So, I took the college fund that my parents had started for me and immersed myself in a whole new world. It just felt like the right thing to do; I went off of a whim and the suggestion of my mom. I had no idea how it would change my whole path in life!
What’s your favorite destination and why?
South America has always been my favorite land to explore. Maybe it is because of the wild, special, and complex memories I hold on to from being an exchange student there, but I see so much beauty in the culture, people, and landscape there.
How has travel impacted your life?
Travel has changed almost every single aspect of my life: the food I eat, the way I carry myself, the friends that I keep close, and the way I view the world. I grew up in a small town in Ohio with limited culture and diversity, so traveling opened my eyes and gave me the space to become the person that I really am.
What motivated you to pursue a career in travel?
After completing my bike trip across the US when I was 19 years old (that was done with just $300 and a bike), people kept asking me how I did it and if I thought that they, too, could travel on a small budget. It made me realize how unique my story was in many ways and that I wanted to try to make travel more accessible and sustainable for others with all that I had learned.
What current project are you excited about sharing with the world right now?
I haven’t told many people about my newest project, but I am currently working on my second book! My first one was the budget travel guide that I wrote after my bike trip, but this new one is a memoir. (Think of the story Wild but the queer, anti-speciesist budget version.)
To help support my work, I finally started a Patreon so that people can get exclusive updates and help shape my writing, podcast, and more! And speaking of that, every month, I put out a new episode on the Unruly Podcast that speaks to travel, activism, sustainability, bravery, alternative living, and more.
They created a budget-friendly online platform for sharing personal experiences.
What advice would you give to others who want to travel the world?
Grab a copy of The Art of Unruly Travel on A Budget! It can serve as incredible inspiration as well as a teacher for those who want to dive into travel but aren’t sure where to start.
What drew you to the Women’s Travel Fest community?
Years ago, I attended my first Women’s Travel Fest on a whim. I only had enough money for a cheap plane ticket, so I ended up volunteering, staying with a friend of a friend, and packing all of my own budget grocery meals.
I made it work because I wanted to be surrounded by a like-minded community and people who would understand and support my deep love for travel. The people who show up to the event and the energy that they bring have kept me coming back for years!
What’s your favorite memory of a past Women’s Travel Fest event?
My best memories from Women’s Travel Fest have been with my friend Dianni from the While She’s Away podcast, whom I met at that first event. We’ve stayed friends throughout the years and meet up every year at the festival. Seeing her is always the highlight of my trip!
What’s your all-time must-have travel essential? Something you can’t travel without?
A pen is my ultimate travel weapon and magic wand. I always need one to journal, jot my contact information down on a napkin to give to a fellow backpacker, or record my thoughts and inspiration that comes up for me during my travels.
And the last question – are you team carry-on or checked luggage?
Team carry-on, always! I am way, way too frugal for luggage.
Want to know more about Women’s Travel Fest? Read About Us here. We look forward to welcoming you to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, February 16-19, 2024! And watch out for news on the 2025 conference destination!