Sherry Ott quit her corporate IT job in 2006 and said goodbye to her cubicle, meetings, and New York City. Her original intention was simply to take a career break and come back after a year. She traveled to 23 countries, finding a new exciting world outside of her office walls. Her eyes were opened to possibilities and the beauty of simplicity; she didn't want to go back to her old corporate existence. Instead, she sold her possessions and relocated to Vietnam for one year in order to keep traveling. To make money, she taught ESL, sold photography, and started really working at building a blogging and writing presence.
Since leaving Vietnam in 2009, Sherry has stayed on the road and developed the Ottsworld travel blog, built a freelance writing/photography career, done public speaking, and consulted/participated in social media marketing campaigns. She spent 11 years nomadically living out of a suitcase and experiencing the world through housesitting, volunteering, and writing assignments. In 2017, she finally settled into a home again in Denver -- but she still travels 50% of the time blogging and doing photography!
Sherry was kind enough to answer some of our travel questions below.
TA: How many years have you been traveling and what got you hooked?
Sherry: 12 years of full-time traveling. I got hooked on experiencing something new every day. I couldn't imagine living without that again.
TA: Do you specialize in a particular type of travel?
Sherry: I suppose I specialize in solo female travel as well as adventure travel for women.
TA: What is the best vacation you've ever taken?
Sherry: Antarctica's Ross Sea. It was an epic trip and my second trip to Antarctica. I left from New Zealand on a 28-day small expedition cruise going the way of the historic explorers like Scott. The seas were extremely rough, but we crossed the Antarctic Circle (something very few people get to do), and I was hooked. The Ross sea was incredible and there was no one there but penguins and wildlife. 40,000 people go to the Antarctic peninsula a year, but only about 500 go to the Ross Sea. It was magical.
TA: What's one thing you ALWAYS pack when you travel?
Sherry: My little tiny pillow. It was mine when I was a kid!
TA: If you could only give a traveler one piece of advice, what would it be?
Sherry: Say yes! It's amazing what new experiences you open yourself up to when you simply say yes to things. It has led me in some of the most amazing directions!
TA: What are some of your favorite travel blogs and communities?
The Insatiable Traveler, Travel Past 50, Clever Dever Wherever, Hecktic Travels -- I love all of these because they are people my age (middle age) traveling, blogging, and embracing the idea of we don't have to wait until we retire to travel. Each of them has a great voice, are super photographers, and all left their corporate lives in the middle of their careers and started traveling.
TA: Where was the most unusual place you've ever stayed?
Sherry: In a dentist office. Yes -- you read that right! I got an Airbnb room in Istanbul about 5 years ago and found out after I got there that it was a dentist office that rented out a room for Airbnb! I used the lobby as my living room and it had a little kitchen. Patients would come and wait in the lobby as I worked and talked to them, and I even decided that I might as well get my teeth cleaned myself one day! The dentist was a lovely man that spoke very little English though, so I had his daughter translate for me! I even wrote an article about it!
TA: What's the strangest thing you've ever eaten overseas?
Sherry: In Vietnam while traveling with my niece we ate Hot Vit Lon -- a baby duck fetus that's been in the egg about 15 to 17 days. I don't seek out eating weird stuff, however, my rule when traveling is you eat anything that is offered to you by a local. They offered it, and I had to try it. I had a lot of trouble with this one; mentally I was eating a half formed duck, and it was far enough along to have feathers and a beak. But -- like most things we think are unfathomable to eat in other countries -- it ended up being delicious!
TA: Do you have any good airport or flight hacks for people traveling by plane?
Sherry: I won't call this a hack... just a tip that will save your life. Get up and walk every 2 hours on a flight. Walk, walk, walk. I say this because this year after a long flight to India I nearly died due to blood clots from inactivity on a long flight. I had three pulmonary emboli in my lungs by the time it was diagnosed and realized that I had luckily escaped death or a stroke. So make sure you walk -- DVT (deep vein thrombosis) can happen to ANYONE. You can read the entire story here as well as get tips on how to avoid it.
TA: Is there something you think most travelers worry too much about?
Sherry: I still talk to many people who worry about crowd share services like Airbnb and Uber. I think these are two of the best things that have happened to travel! Uber is great for solo travel safety. I used to have to take taxis in foreign countries and was always on edge as I felt rather helpless and no one knew where I was or where I was going. But with Uber, there is a complete record of where you are going, who took you, etc. Plus, I know something about the driver when I get in thanks to reviews! I knew nothing about my random taxi drivers! I think the thing to remember though is that crowd sharing apps only work if you are willing to honestly review someone.
TA: What are the best places to travel solo and why?
Sherry: The Camino de Santigao hike is a great place for solo travelers because you only have to be alone when you want to. You can hike across Spain solo but you'll always meet people on the trail -- and because it's so well traveled, it's safe too. Read my article about it here.
I also love Ireland and New Zealand as solo travel destinations. For Americans, it's easy to get around because there is no language barrier and people there are very nice and are eager to help you if you have questions. New Zealand in particular has a big bus culture where you can travel by bus throughout both islands with other travelers and make a ton of friends along the way!
TA: Which underrated destination deserves to be more famous?
Sherry: I have many answers to this -- but I'll limit myself to two! The Camino Ronda is a hike in Northern Spain along the Mediterranean coast -- it's gorgeous as you hike up and down the coastal cliffs stopping at quaint seaside villages along the way. It's similar to Italy's cinque terre hike -- but there are no crowds!
I also think people should consider Alaska in the winter! I went to Fairbanks last winter and was amazed at all of the incredible culture and activities you could do -- plus it's an incredible place to see the aurora. However, most people are enticed to Scandinavia or Iceland to do dogsledding and watch the northern lights. But Alaska has all of that too and the flights are much cheaper and there are fewer people. Alaska may be a hotspot in the summer, but it still feels rather undiscovered in the winter!