Meet Lauren Cirkot – formerly from America but now living in Valencia, Lauren believes in the power of always finding adventure and in the video shares a lovely challenge she used to build up her courage. Whilst Lauren suffers from an illness she has still managed to travel to 26 different countries and, as this year is her 30th, she plans to notch up the final 4!
Hi! I’m Lauren and originally from a small town in Connecticut in the United States. After I graduated college in 2012, I spent 6 years in the corporate world doing digital and product marketing. I’ve always loved to travel, but the travel bug really bit me in 2014, and I’ve been addicted ever since. Travel brought me relaxation and much-needed stress relief. I particularly loved Europe, and I dreamed about moving here one day. That dream became a reality in September when I moved to Valencia, Spain, where I currently live with my best friend. We both are Assistant English Teachers part-time. I also run my own travel, career, and marketing consultancy business.
When was the first time you were inspired to move out of your comfort zone?
I think I always have, but I made a point to challenge myself regularly a few years ago. Each year, I write a list of goals on a piece of paper and hang it somewhere I’ll see every day. One year, I challenged myself to step out of my comfort zone or conquer a different fear every month. To keep myself accountable, I also had another piece of paper with a table to keep track of my accomplishments throughout the year. After that year, I decided to keep moving out of my comfort zone on my yearly goals, and now it has become a lifestyle.
What’s your favourite ‘experience’ and what difference has travel made to your life?
Every trip and experience has contributed to my growth, but my absolute favorite experience was my first solo trip to Australia. I kept getting signs that I should go there, like finding a roundtrip flight for only $750 from Connecticut to Sydney. Just booking the flight was exhilarating because not only was it one of my dreams to travel to Australia, but I would be traveling alone for the first time. Taking that long flight and being in a new and unfamiliar country by myself taught me many lessons and enabled me to really grow and thrive. Traveling solo was a true test of character for me. I realized I could truly rely on myself, and I grew confident in my newfound sense of independence. I learned that facing the world isn’t so scary.
Travel has helped me become more patient and more open. But most of all, it gives me this magical feeling, one that I hadn’t felt since childhood. You can read about or see pictures of a new place, but you can’t experience the magic of a new destination until you get there. Everyone knows what the Eiffel Tower looks like, but seeing it in person, knowing you are in the middle of Paris, is a whole other thing. Travel has brought me out of some dark times, and it centers me when I’m stressed.
What is Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EOE) and what effect has it had on your life? Did it worry you travelling with an illness?
I was diagnosed with EOE in 2014. EOE is a chronic, allergic, inflammatory disease of the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach). It occurs when a type of white blood cell, the eosinophil, accumulates in the esophagus. Whenever I have a reaction, it’s like getting a chip stuck in your throat, but the pain could last for hours. The reaction causes food to remain stuck, so I have to either wait for it to go down, or I have to force it back up. I believe that I have a less severe case than most, and fortunately I don’t have to take any medication for this. Some children diagnosed with EOE have feeding tubes, or are limited to only drinking a nutrient-based drink day in and day out. I am able to eat most of the foods that I like, and through trial and error, I figured out which foods and environmental stimuli trigger reactions. I also pay attention pretty closely when I eat things to make sure that I’m not having a reaction. If I have a reaction, I stop eating.
When I’m traveling and trying new foods, I have to be extra careful. I will take small bites of new foods and then wait to see if I react to it. I always take precautions before going to a restaurant, like looking up the menu beforehand to make sure it has something I can order. I translate the foods I’m allergic to and keep them in a list alongside phrases such as “I am allergic to,” or “I cannot have,” or “Does this dish have…?” so that I’m prepared to tell the server.
Give us three tips for any women who think they want to travel but are not sure whether to pack their bags.
- You deserve it. Do not feel guilty for taking vacation time. Do not feel guilty for taking time for yourself. Travel is necessary for your heart, mind, body, and soul.
- There’s a well-known quote that goes something like, “You can always make more money, but you won’t always be able to go on the adventure.”
- If you’re scared to travel, start small. Don’t feel like you have to fly across the country or the world. Perhaps try going 1 hour away from where you live for a day or a weekend. Small increments will desensitize you and make you feel more comfortable to one day take that long flight to your dream destination.
Any advice for women travelling solo?
Traveling solo isn’t as scary as some people think. It’s an experience I think every woman should have at least once in her life. It’ll change you for the better, and you’ll come out knowing more about yourself.
Firstly, research the destination prior to going. Learn about the city or cities you will visit, including which areas are safe and which ones to avoid. Secondly, if you’re unfamiliar with the language, learn some key phrases (and download the Google Translate app!).
Lastly, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. What I mean by this is, don’t be afraid to go to a nice restaurant by yourself or join a group tour as a solo traveler. There are no drawbacks to enjoying a nice meal by yourself or having a friendly conversation with a stranger!
And Valencia – why should we move there?
It’s funny because I never visited Valencia before moving here. I originally wanted to move to Barcelona, but I was assigned to teach here through the program I’m in. Now, I’m totally in love with Valencia and am glad I was assigned here instead!
The first thing I love about Valencia is that it’s big enough to feel like you’re in a big city, but small enough that I feel part of a community. I know my produce guy and see the same people on the metro everyday. I run into people I’ve met on the street all the time.
Another thing I love about Valencia is that you have it all: it has all the benefits of a small city, it’s on the beach, and it also has mountains in the distance. Nature surrounds this place so you can escape when you need to.
Lastly, Valencia has tons of bike paths on the streets and throughout the famous Turia Gardens. I could spend all day in the Turia Gardens bike riding, picnicking, or simply walking through the City of Arts and Sciences.
‘Toujours trouver l’aventure’ – what does that mean to you?
A few years ago, I got the French words “toujours trouver l’aventure” tattooed on my back. It means “always find adventure” and carries deep meaning for me.
To me, French is the most beautiful language, and I’ve been studying it on and off since high school. My grandmother was fluent, and my ancestors can be traced back hundreds of years ago to Paris. It’s one of my bucket list items to speak French fluently.
The phrase “always find adventure” is applicable to many situations in life. I’ve struggled with mental health issues for many years, including having a negative body image, depression, anxiety, and stress. The words “always find adventure” remind me that in good times and in bad, I’m on a journey, and this journey is an adventure. If I find myself having a difficult time, just reminding myself that “this is an adventure” helps to alleviate the stress a little bit. At the same time, the tattoo reminds me to always challenge myself and always step out of my comfort zone by embarking on a new adventure.
I am waving my ‘make it happen’ wand – what dream can we make a reality?
I have many dreams that I’m trying to fulfill right now! My biggest dream was to quit my job and move to Europe and start my own business, and I’ve done just that. Now that I’m in hustle mode, my dream is to have my very own apartment in Spain, speak Spanish fluently, and also become a well-known thought leader that has changes thousands of people’s lives.
What’s the best way to follow your adventures? (social media, blog etc.)
The best place to get to know me is through my Instagram: https://instagram.com/laurencirkot
The best place to get my tips on travel is my travel blog: https://alwaysfindadventure.com
The best place to get in contact with me is through my website: https://laurencirkot.com
or LinkedIN: https://linkedin.com/in/laurencirkot
You can always message me on Costa Women too!
And if you want to, download my 25 Experiences to Add To Your Bucket List