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Hello, hola everyone!
It is with great pleasure to present to you Laura Vaisman, author, world traveler and fellow blogger also known as @TravelJerzGirl
Welcome Laura, thank you so much for being our guest!
We are happy to have this opportunity to learn more about you and discuss about your recently published memoir titled Spiritual Nomad: A Journey Within and Abroad.
Before we dive into the book, could you please introduce yourself and tell us some fun facts?
My name is Laura Vaisman,
I grew up in New Jersey all of my life but the travel bug was instilled in me at a very young age. I love nature, photography, cooking, being with friends and family and something some people may not know about me is that I love frogs. I think they are absolutely adorable. I even have a Northern leopard frog tattooed on my foot. I grew up catching them and playing with them when I used to go to Canada.
How was it growing up in an Argentinean and Italian household?
Well, my parents divorced when I was 8 years old so I lived with my mother until I was in 3rd grade I think and then later moved in with my dad until I moved out. Despite having divorced parents, my parents were always civil with each other and we saw each other all the time. Food was vital in our family, especially when it came to cooking. My family takes it seriously. You gotta know how to cook if you’re going to be in my family. One year, we all were getting so competitive, we would take turns hosting holidays and trying to one up each other, it was like an iron chef competition. We had to stop because it was starting to become too over the top.
At what age did you first start traveling and where did you go?
At only a year old, I was traveling to Lyndhurst, Ontario every summer until I was 19. We would stay on a lake in a crappy cabin and go fishing for a week. When my parents were still married, my mom would join. But a majority of the years were just me, my dad and my brother. We were in the middle of nowhere, no wifi, no tv, no phones and it was absolute bliss. At a young age, I began to know how important being around nature and disconnecting is. It is one of my fondest memories.
Have you always loved writing? If so when did you know you would become a writer?
Yes, I don’t know necessarily I had an “ah-ha” moment of “I think I’ll be a writer”. I was always writing as young as elementary school. I kept countless journals and I loved writing stories when I was in school, that was my strong suit. After traveling for some time, people would love the stories I’d tell when I came back home and I figured I should share them with the world. And that’s when my blog was created, Traveling Jersey Girl back in 2012. It was only 4.5 years ago did I decide I finally wanted to write my book, I wanted to share an even more detailed story of my travels other than what I shared on my blog.
Now let’s talk about Spiritual Nomad: A Journey Within and Abroad!
To be honest, I read the book in about 2 days over a weekend (Yes, I’m a voracious book reader and if something is really good, it’s hard for me to put it down).
I honestly did not expect to be hooked from the get go but it happened!
Laura, have you always had that itch to go and explore the world or was it finding that notebook in the attic at a real estate sale that was the kick you needed?
Yes, I’ve always been obsessed with Europe as long as I could remember. I was especially in love with everything London. I loved the accent, their way of doing things and especially how much they loved tea. I had such a curiosity for other cultures even as a young kid, I would get that nervous butterfly feeling anytime I’d meet someone who wasn’t from the states. I don’t know what it was, they were just different and I wanted to know everything about them.
Finding that book was just a sign that solidified my burning desire to travel the world. It was a sign that I was on the right path and what I truly wanted was going to come true.
You seemed to be quite invested and even did a lot of research prior to leaving for your first trip to Europe, do you recommend this to fellow travelers or it’s a personal choice?
I think I do more research now than I did back then. When I was younger traveling, I did a little bit of research but a lot of it was winging it too. But I do recommend researching where you’re traveling, I find that to be responsible travel honestly. You’re not in your home country and customs/laws are different, it’s good to be aware as you can. I usually now research where I’m going, come up with an itinerary but it’s not set in stone so I can still wing it if I want too.
On this first trip, you were on an organized tour and we all know that it takes a lot of patience and expect the unexpected right? What countries did you visit and were there some in particular that captured your heart?
Yes, it was kind of nerve-wracking to be traveling “alone” with a bunch of strangers for 20 days. I never was away from home that long ever. But once the nerves settled and I became friends with the people I was traveling with, the more at ease I was. I visited, Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and England. Switzerland was a pleasant surprise for me. I remember not caring about going there but once I arrived, my heart instantly fell in love. It was like being in a postcard. I’ve never seen so much beauty like that in my life.
But of course, I was so excited to visit England and see London. I couldn’t wait to have tea and scones and was devastated when the group leaders said we didn’t have time to do that. I thought how can we come to London and not have tea? Another time I guess.
Now there are always people that cross your path that teach you something that you needed to learn, you sure met one in particular during the first trip. What important lessons did you learn?
I learned that you’re always going to meet someone who just has it out for you and or just straight up mean. And there’s nothing you can do about it to some degree. You can’t change that person and most likely they are projecting their own shit onto you. But you can remove yourself from the situation and try your best to not take it personally. When you see their actions towards you as how they actually feel about themselves, it won’t bother you as much.
But it doesn’t come easy. It takes practice.
You went back to Europe with a family member, how was the experience?
It was fun and then not fun. I just needed someone to go with me so my parents would feel more at ease because initially I wanted to go alone. It was nice to have someone there who you could lean on in a foreign country and bounce ideas off of. But traveling with a family member, friend or loved one for long periods of time can cause friction, which it did during our trip. And that’s totally normal and bound to happen at some point. But luckily, we didn’t let it ruin our trip too much. We started doing things on our own to give each other space and it made things a lot more smooth.
You had one objective in mind and that was to see someone again that you met during your first trip to the Old Continent (Europe), was it worth it?
Yes, when I first met him, I was enamored by the whole experience of being in Europe and my dream of living there one day. I always thought I would have fallen in love with someone overseas and live abroad. When I saw him again, it wasn’t what I expected. I felt like I was maybe more excited to see him than he was with me. But of course it was worth it, at least I got the chance to go back and see if there was something there. No regrets.
You fell madly in love with Switzerland and it sure was a place that played an important role in your life. What was it about it that made you promise to yourself to return and live there?
Plain and simple. I am a woman of my word. When I say something, I do it. I knew it would be challenging to go back there being that I wasn’t making a lot of money but I did have the luxury of living at home, while I was waitressing so I was able to save up. I wanted the chance to live in another country and see if this was something I could do for long term. I planned on living there permanently and use Switzerland as my home base. That too, didn’t turn out like I had planned but again, I don’t regret a second of it.
Since you have Italian roots, you went on an incredible journey in order to obtain your Italian passport to be able to travel and work anywhere in the European Union! Tell us all about it.
When girls were fantasizing about their future wedding, I was fantasizing about living in another country. I contemplated doing a business deal to swap citizenships but I didn’t want the hassle. I thought, “There has to be a way”. And I knew my great grandfather was born in Palermo, Sicily. I remember telling my family, I’m going to find a way for us to become Italian citizens. I think they played it off like “yeah right.” but if you do let us know. I found a loophole so to speak that we were eligible to get it through bloodline, which more or less means tracking myself back to my great-grandfather in Sicily. It took us 6 years of blood, sweat and lots of tears tracking down information and long waiting times in between getting documents and whenever Italy decided they wanted to answer. It was rough and we dealt with a lot of road blocks but I did it. And I was so happy to have that passport in my hand. Again, when I set my mind to something, I get it done especially when there’s a lot of passion behind it.
Was coming back home to the States a reverse culture shock and how did Europe change you?
Yeah, it was. I came home on a bad note of things not working out in Switzerland and getting sexually assaulted in Italy which I didn’t even process until I got back home. I felt defeated. I felt like I had failed for not trying to stick it out. And sometimes I still feel that sting. But hindsight is always 20/20. I was relieved to not live out of a bag anymore too, that was getting quite old. Europe changed me tremendously, it showed me that I can do anything that I set my mind to and to accept when things may not go as planned. Traveling throughout Europe taught me to stop and smell the roses and enjoy life. We don’t have that kind of culture here in the states, it’s always about working hard and being on the go, go, go. And I don’t believe life should be lived that way. It taught me it’s okay to slow down and take care of yourself and not to take yourself too seriously.
Since you also have Jewish roots, you applied and went on a Birthright Trip to Israel. Did you have any idea it would be grueling, exhausting yet incredibly moving and life-changing? Any advice to those who want to visit the country?
No, I had ZERO clue. I went into that trip blind. I wish I had did more research on the group and program I chose. I heard the complete opposite from other people who loved their trip. I was in the middle of moving in with my boyfriend that same weekend I was leaving for Israel, so things were a bit hectic.
I was pleasantly surprised by how moved I was but that is one thing I can take back with me that I loved about the trip. It was refreshing to hear people’s stories about their life and even their struggles in Israel. It humbled me because we Americans take a lot of things for granted and unless you travel and see the world you won’t understand that.
I advise going during their winter, which is still pleasant weather.
In your spiritual growth, you went through quite a few events and the people that showed up in your life would change it forever. Now that you look back at it, what do you think about it?
Yeah, you never the light of the tunnel when you’re in the midst of it. You feel like it’ll never end or even sometimes that you can bare another minute. But over the years with my own personal growth and traveling around the world, I’ve come to know that no matter what you go through, it’s only temporary. You have to learn how to have a relationship with yourself and get to know who you are. Once you become more grounded in who you are, you become more confident and undenying trust that everything will be okay. And when you come out on the other side, you’ll look back and see that you were right.
Another thing I learned is that we must be ourselves, no matter what. Anyone you meet who gets to see the real you and loves you for it is someone I’d keep around.
They say that the after the storm, the sun always shines. Now you are in a happy place with the love of your life. How did that happen?
It took many years of doing inner work on myself and meeting a lot of the wrong ones before I met the right one for me. I was going about meeting and sleeping with men who had no business of having that privilege. I learned the hard way, but I don’t regret it. I also had a bad habit of self-sabotaging when guys were nice to me or treating me the way I deep down wanted.
I hate to be so cliche but Erik was different. He was so honest about who he was and I never questioned his feelings for me. His actions always showed me. Which now that I think back to it, men I’ve met prior wooed me with their words.
He came at a perfect time in my life, I had just come home from Europe and now I was trying to figure out what to do next. I was open to all possibilities and whatever came my way. And I can’t believe it’s almost 5 years of us being together and now being newly engaged. I wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s “perfect” for me. And so all the shit I’ve been through was worth it.
When did you start writing and what motivated you to write your book?
I started writing back in 2015, I had my blog which I enjoyed doing but I was slowly getting bored of it. I wanted to do something different and I thought of compiling all my travel journals into one big “journal”, that was my original idea. To have my book be like you guys were reading my travel journal. But I decided to go with telling it like a story. Writing a book was another dream of mine and I always wanted to do it. Now I can proudly say, I am an author.
Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
“When you’re passionate about something, your happiness radiates to others, so make sure to share it.”
Share with us some photos and tell us the story behind them please 🙂
This was me in Bern, Switzerland when I first traveled there with People to People. I was obsessed with Smart Cars and had to take a picture with them. I thought they were so adorable and told myself that I’d buy one. (Never happened) ha ha.
This was my view every morning outside my bedroom window when I lived in Interlaken, Switzerland. How gorgeous is that?!
This is one of my favorite pictures of me and Adam. We had a blast that day ziplining. He was an awesome guy and so full of life.
This was during my backpacking trip back in 2008 when I went with my cousin and we decided to go hang gliding. This was the moment where the instructor did that vertical nose dive. I told you my face was priceless.
What would you like to share with the readers of Traveller Soul which are in over 185 countries around the world?
To be your authentic self, always. And that whatever you desire can come true, you have to work hard and try. If it doesn’t work out, well at least now you know. This kind of goes along with being authentic but please know there’s no rules to life or love.
Get in touch with your inner compass and let that be your guide 🙂
There’s no easy way to get what you want, it takes a lot of hard work, perseverance and most importantly, practice.
Before we go, please tell us where we can find you online (Amazon link, social media profiles, email)
Yes, of course, here are all the links below!
Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Vn4X8v (And it’s available in both Kindle & Paperback)
If anyone would like a signed copy of my book you can purchase via my website.
Side Note: if you read my book, please leave me a review on Amazon, it helps me get my book out there! 🙂
Instagram: www.instagram.com/spiritualnomadshop (where they can get some Spiritual Nomad Apparel)
Author page on FB: www.facebook.com/itslauravaisman
Thank you so much for your time and for answering all of our questions Laura!
We wish you lots of success with Spiritual Nomad: A Journey Within and Abroad and your next books, which we are sure will help inspire lots of people worldwide.
All the best, Tashi Delek