Writer Wednesday – Meet Katrina Baumann
Katrina Baumann has been around the world, lived in Australia and even taught English in South Korea. She has a passion for travel and adventure and blogs about it all at The Two Week Traveler.
Writer Wednesday would like to introduce you to Katrina Baumann
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born and raised in Florida and grew up in the water-I was always swimming at the pool, on the swim team, or splashing around at the beach. I’ve always had a love of writing and a love of travel. After college I decided I was not happy living in my hometown and working in an office, so I took a huge leap of faith and moved to South Korea to teach English. After a year in Korea, 6 months in Australia, and two round-the-world trips, I came back to Florida and settled down. Now I live here with my husband and my sweet little black cat DC, traveling as often as possible with our limited vacation time.
What did you enjoy most from teaching English in South Korea?
I loved watching my students progress with their English speaking skills throughout the year. I taught 3rd-6th grade, and on my first day with Grade 3 they literally could only say ‘hello’. By the end of the year they could count to ten, they knew their colors, and could say short sentences. It was such an amazing transformation and I felt really proud of my students for coming so far with their English in just a few months. I also saw some of my 5th and 6th graders get selected for English Bees and special English summer camps, and I was so happy for them and spent some time coaching them before their events.
If you could recommend 3 must have experiences in South Korea, what would they be?
Definitely the DMZ tour! You get to visit one of the tunnels that North Korea dug trying to sneak spies into South Korea, and at the end you get to go to the actual border of the two countries. You can see North Korean soldiers watching you with binoculars. The Joint Security Area (JSA) is where North and South Korean officials still meet to discuss things, and you are able to go into the conference room and technically step foot on North Korean soil. It was such a rush!
The Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival is also a must-see event. The whole city is bursting with cherry blossoms and it’s so beautiful!
I’d also recommend visiting the small town of Gyeongju. You can rent bicycles and ride around the whole town in a day. There are burial mounds and beautiful temples everywhere you look. It’s a lovely day trip!
How many countries have you visited?
As of right now I’ve visited 44 countries. I hope to make it to 50 by the end of the year!
What is your favourite place and why?
This is hard because there are so many places to choose from for different reasons, but I guess I’ll say Barbados simply because it was the first ‘romantic’ trip I took with my husband. It came at a very good time in my life and the time we spent there really deepened our love for one another. Honestly, it’s hard not to fall in love when you’re in such a gorgeous location!
If you could describe your method of travel in one word, what would it be?
Flashpacker. I love backpacking but I don’t mind spending the extra money for nicer accommodations and flights or trains instead of 12+ hour bus rides.
What is your must have travel accessory?
A good sleep mask is a must, along with earplugs. Perfect for long flights and essential if you’re staying in a shared room in a hostel.
What is your most memorable travel moment?
Cage diving with great white sharks in the Southern Ocean off of Australia. No other experience can ever compare to looking a great white shark in the eye as it swims past you.
What is your dream destination?
My life dream destination is South Africa, which is about to be checked off the bucket list. So I suppose my new dream destination is Antarctica since it’s the only continent I haven’t visited.
Do you have any upcoming trips? If so, to where?
My husband and I are going to southern Africa in May for our honeymoon. We’ll be spending a week in South Africa visiting Cape Town and going on safari in Kruger National Park. Then we’re going to Zimbabwe and Zambia to see Victoria Falls for a few days, then onto Botswana for a safari at Chobe National Park. I still can’t believe we’re going. This has been my dream trip since I was a kid and now it’s just around the corner!
How has travel changed you?
Travel has changed me in every way possible. Once you have left your comfortable, insulated life and go abroad, your entire perspective changes. You realize that, while every culture is so different, people are all fundamentally the same. You realize that the world is very small. You learn that you don’t need to speak someone’s language to communicate with a smile. You appreciate the beauty of nature and feel very strongly about conservation and treating Earth with kindness.
How long did it take for your first book to come to fruition?
That’s a good question. In 2009 I was looking for books about what to expect from teaching in South Korea but there wasn’t really anything. Then, in 2013, I looked again and found a couple of books, but they were either older or dealt more with actually teaching or how to get a job in Korea. So I decided, why not write the book that I wished I had been able to read before I moved over? So I began writing the book in July and it was published in early December. So, depending how you look at it, either 4 years or 5 months!
Do you have any new books on the horizon?
I don’t have any books currently in the works, although I have two ideas that I’ll probably start developing this year. One is a book similar to The ESL Teacher’s Guide to South Korea, but for people on working holiday visas in Australia. The other would be a collection of some of my favorite (or least favorite) experiences I’ve had while traveling.
What is your favourite travel book?
I have so many! I’d have to say that my favorite is probably The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost. Troost’s girlfriend gets a job in the South Pacific island nation of Kiribati and he goes along for the ride. The book is about the years he spent there and it is one of the funniest books I have EVER read! I could not put it down! I’ve given it to several other people and they’ve all gone on to read his other books as well. He’s fantastic.
What is your favourite travel quote?