He's conquered the slopes of Vermont and explored 23 countries across the globe. He's got the amazing ability to befriend anyone and has committed the next three years of his life to working for others. Let's check him out.
Garrett Russell is one of my favorite travel buddies and my partner on the Nakavika Project. Once again, this series of Interview a Traveler is not just an outlet for me to gab about my best friends; these people are my favorite and worth mentioning because of their amazing character and ambition that spans continents for the purpose of learning and doing something they can stand behind.
His Bio: Garrett Russell hadn't left the country until he boarded the MV Explorer and embarked for a 100-day, 11 country journey with Semester at Sea. Since then he has had the opportunity to visit Europe twice and can now reminisce about his adventures in 23 countries on 4 continents.
Currently residing in Vermont, Garrett is an avid skiier and hiker with a passion for outdoor adventure. With the upcoming winter season biting at his heels, a call to service has changed his mindset and brought his attention toward Fiji.
In the very near future, Mr. Russell will be joining the Peace Corps to teach Secondary Science Education. But before this big leap, he's leaving December 1st to coordinate the Nakavika Project and immerse himself in a Fijian village for 2.5 months.
Why on Earth do you travel?
When I step onto a plane or hop in my car for a long distance trip, I feel a sense of independence and courage. A lot of trips I take are low budget, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, flip a coin to find the next location type trips. Traveling like this gives me a thrill and scares the crap out of my mom.
When you click the "submit" button for that next flight to wherever, how do you justify spending your hard-earned money to see the world?
I work in an environment where people are stuck in one mindset. The monotony of everyday life can suck you in and but also give you the comfort of stability. I want to stimulate my mind and mix things up. My entire senior year of college I saved for my trip to Europe, and everyday I think back to the crazy things I did and the knowledge that I gathered and feel proud. Being young and having a flexible (and seasonal) job is a plus. So spending my money on travel is why it's there.
What are some of your travel goals or "bucket list" entries (if you make such lists or goals)?
I have started making a bucket list, but as the years pass, things change. There are a lot of things I want to do and my mind flies a mile a minute. Most of my bucket list contains things like having a cabin in the mountains, owning a dog...more permanent things.
What was your initial motivation to study science, and what are you reasons now for pursuing this area of study?
I was exposed to the sciences my whole life and proved to be a natural. My junior year of college was a huge turning point where I had no idea what my goals were or why I was a Biology major. I really had to find out who I was first, and travel helped me to do so. Life has a way of choosing your path for you. I never thought I would be a teacher, but in the upcoming fall I will be a science teacher in East Africa. Ask me this question again in 3 years.
Tell us a little bit about the process of applying to the Peace Corps. How did you make the final decision to join, and what did you have to do in order to complete this process?
The Peace Corp was a huge defining decision for me that started out as an excuse to not continue on to grad school and for a lack of knowing what I wanted to do. It took me a year to complete the application, not because its long but because I wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. I feel that I made the decision because I wanted an experience to work independently and make a difference. I finished my application in February 2009 and was accepted in April. After you are accepted you are put on a list for available positions. I had to wait until July 30th to be nominated, which happened to be my birthday. I have finished my medical evaluation and am waiting to hear back. The Peace Corps involves a lot of patience and time. It will be a year and a half or more from the date I sent in my application to the day I leave for training. I hope it's worth the wait.
Where did this Nakavika Project come from? And why do you stand behind it?
This project was thrown into my lap, and within 24 hours I had bought a ticket. Whoa! I know now that I have [an affinity] for traveling and an education, so I have to be productive. This project will give me the chance to work toward a goal, to help people and to learn more about myself and my future. Am I capable of giving up my current life for others in a far off place? The Nakavika project will test me, and I believe in it 100%. It is something that anyone with an idea, a place and the means to accomplish can create for themselves. I hope that people are inspired by our trip and have the courage to travel themselves.
When you consider your future life in the Fijian village, what are you most excited about?
I'm really excited to get to know the people of the village. To play games with the kids, learn to cook and do things their way. When I have traveled before, I have not been able to immerse myself into another culture. I'm pumped!
You're going to miss being home for the holidays for the first time. Why did you allow yourself to miss out, and how do you hope to spend this time abroad?
This is an opportunity of a lifetime, and missing Christmas is not a problem. My family is super supportive and as long as I make intelligent decisions, I have their support...except for last Easter when I ditched the family to climb and ski down Mt Washington in New Hampshire, my brother was quite upset.
I thank my family, roomates and especially Lindsay for supporting me and introducing this opportunity to me.
Do you have any questions for Garrett about the Peace Corps, the Nakavika Project, or skiing? Leave a comment, and I'll have him respond!