Maureen Fox - Author InterviewLearn more the author
Maureen studied abroad in the UK, but she has spent time in more than 20 different countries. Her travel experiences have taught her not only new cultures, but what she wants to do in life. She enjoys learning more herself and her own culture through her experience of other ways of life. Maureen is a freelance writer and dreams of the day when she can make a career out of travel writing. However, she continues to let her dreams for the future evolve with each passing day.
In the end, I’m grateful for those challenges because they made me more confident and taught me a great deal myself and others.
You have received a great number of honors and awards. You graduated with flying colors as Summa Cum Laude in California State University, Fullerton in 2010. Recently, you also received the International Understanding Award at CSUF. What inspires you to achieve your goals?
My main source of inspiration is my passion for learning. I love learning new things and challenging myself, so my quest for self-discovery motivates me to achieve my goals. And my goals are constantly evolving, because each experience and accomplishment inevitably leads me to add new ones to my list.
You have bachelor’s degrees in English and Journalism, as well as, master’s degree in English. How have your degrees influenced your traveling experiences?
My degrees actually played a big role in motivating me to start traveling. I decided to study in England in order to get a different perspective on my majors, and I wanted to see the places I had read in books and newspapers. My studies also helped me meet new people and get involved in campus organizations while studying at the University of Hull, for example I contributed articles to the student magazine. Once I realized how important travel was and would continue to be in my life, I decided to use what I learned in the classroom to document my travels, so I started blogging and doing photography. My academic work in English and communications continue to help me as a freelance travel writer and often provides me with inspiration on where to travel next.
When you studied at the University of Hull in England, did you experience culture shock and homesickness? How did you adapt to the English study environment?
Culture shock and homesickness are necessary evils of living in a new place; they’re proof that you are stepping outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself, which are important experiences to have, even though they aren’t fun at the time. I used my moments of culture shock and homesickness as motivation to adapt to my new environment. Culture shock taught me to not only learn more England but also to learn more my own culture, and bouts of homesickness encouraged me to go out, meet new people, and explore the city and university.
In regards to the English study environment, I discovered that undergraduate literature courses are more specialized in England than in the United States, but I ended up loving their structure because I learned so much specific topics in my classes; I greatly appreciated the camaraderie I had with my professors. In the end, I’m grateful for those challenges because they made me more confident and taught me a great deal myself and others.
How old were you when you started travelling? What do you think the ideal age for people travel the first time?
I’ve been traveling for as long as I can remember, but I really caught the travel bug during my first trip to Europe when I was 18. My sister and I visited Scotland to trace our family roots and we ended learning our family clan and seeing where our ancestors came from. It was an incredible experience, and I knew then that it was the first of many!
There are benefits to traveling at any age, but I think 18, or when you are college-age, is the best time to start traveling. You appreciate people and cultures so much more as you get older and learn more the world. Traveling gives you a lot of independence and confidence, which are important characteristics to have especially when you’re transitioning into adulthood.
What has been your most embarrassing cultural mishap abroad? How do you suggest others avoid the same mishap?
Most of my cultural mishaps have been communication errors. I’ve had some fairly interesting conversations with people while trying to speak different languages. There were plenty of head-scratching moments when I struggled to pick up Yorkshire slang while living in England! As you navigate new places and new languages miscommunication is guaranteed, so the best advice I can give is to keep trying! Practicing and studying languages before you travel certainly helps, but even when you make tons of mistakes people always appreciate you making an effort to speak their language. Having a sense of humor is also key, as miscommunication usually leads to laughter and new friends.
What do you think are the most important considerations in picking a program destination?
There will always be important logistical aspects to consider when choosing a program and/or destination, such as tuition, the cost of living, available majors and courses, cultural differences, etc. However, all of those things come second to actually being passionate a place or program. If you eat, sleep, and breathe a specific country or culture, if you can’t wait to get up every day and take certain courses, if you can already picture yourself strolling down the streets of a particular city, then that’s the program for you. As long as you are excited your choice, you can’t go wrong.
Does freelance writing sustain you financially while traveling?
That’s the dream! I hope one day to be fortunate enough to make a living as a travel writer, but I ultimately do freelance travel writing because I enjoy it. I love documenting my adventures and sharing them with others. Even if I never make another cent, travel writing will always be an important part of my life.
If you were not a freelance writer and working in University administration in California, where in the world would you like to be?
The world is full of so many wonderful places, but if I had to choose I would go anywhere in Italy. I visited some of Italy’s major cities and had a chance to explore the Amalfi Coast a few years ago, and I found everything Italy to be absolutely breathtaking. I also studied Italian and focused on the Renaissance in college, so I would love to go back and put my new language skills to use as well as take in more of the country’s incredible history and culture.
Which do you prefer, traveling alone or with someone/group? Why?
I prefer to travel with others. I do enjoy traveling on my own because it gives me the flexibility to change plans and the freedom to let my adventure evolve, but it’s always a blast to discover places with others. It’s wonderful to share the experience with someone else, and the memories you bring home together are priceless.
You have traveled to over 20 countries, what country are you planning to go next?
For my next trip, I’m off to Spain and Portugal! After that, who knows? Susan Sontag put it best when she said, “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” But South America is pretty high on my list at the moment…