Kasey Altman Shares Final Highlights on Her Global Travels

This is the final installment in an ongoing series from Kasey Altman, a Penn State World Campus student who embarked on an impressive — and challenging — adventure. She spent most of the recent school year traveling the globe, trying to experience as many sights, cultures, and traditions as possible. Along the way, she relied on technology and creative strategies to keep up with course work and complete her assignments.

Hello again! I recently returned stateside to my hometown of San Diego, and I’ve already begun to reminisce about my experiences from this past year. From Portugal to Bolivia and all the beautiful places in between, I have taken home lessons that range from trivial to deeply profound.

Throughout this year, travel has exposed the truth that humans are so much more alike than different. Regardless of our native tongue, the culture in which we were brought up, or the way we view the world, there are three things we all have in common: our personal pursuit of happiness, the value of kindness, and the blood we bleed. It’s been amazing to engage with and connect to people from all walks of life. When someone asks me to describe trip highlights, I first think of moments spent with the people I encountered along the way. The location(s) aren’t even the first things that pop into my mind! Though I do admit, Machu Picchu — and particularly the four-day trek to get there — sure lived up to the hype.

Pass on the Salkantay Trek
Pass on the Salkantay Trek
Laguna on Salkantay Trek
Laguna on Salkantay Trek
Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

Second to encountering beautiful souls was the food I consumed throughout this year. My favorite in the world? It’s a dead tie between Peruvian ceviche and a bowl of fresh Vietnamese pho. French cuisine also deserves an honorable mention.

Bowl of local pho in Hoi An, Vietnam
Bowl of local pho in Hoi An, Vietnam

In terms of my favorite location, as mentioned, it’s been much more about the people than the places. But if I had to choose one country as an absolute favorite, it would probably be Colombia. Aside from the geographic aspects of Colombia boasting everything from the Caribbean coast to the Andes, the hills of the coffee region to the Amazon, Colombian locals are so welcoming that you’re tempted to call their bluff. People are constantly dancing and singing, and there’s an air of magic at every corner. It is impossible to describe the atmosphere of Colombia in words. It’s a place you simply have to visit!

Sunrise at Parque Nacional Tayrona in Northern Colombia
Sunrise at Parque Nacional Tayrona in Northern Colombia

I’ve gotten many questions about my year of traveling solo: How did I plan things, how did I juggle being a full-time student, and did I ever feel unsafe?

Just as many backpackers do, I planned things as I went. I never entered a country with an exit ticket purchased, which is one simple word of advice for anyone traveling long-term. One-way tickets are daunting but so crucial for the flexibility and adventure you’re seeking!

Being a full-time Penn State World Campus student while traveling was the same as it would have been if I were at home. I dedicated several hours each day to complete my course work and stay up to date with assignments. In certain countries where Wi-Fi was less reliable than others, I’d have to spend one full day finishing my work before (more or less) disconnecting. As a former procrastinator, this served as useful practice in time management.

I can honestly say that in one year of solo travel, I never once felt unsafe. I typically see looks of surprise when I share this with people, specifically about the perception of South America in the United States. People told me I was insane for adding South America to my itinerary. They warned me about getting abducted, drugged, murdered — the whole lot. Just as in the United States, yes, these things happen. However, if you make good decisions, do not walk around alone at night (which you probably should not do in any setting foreign to you), and keep your phone in your pocket, you will likely have the same experience as I did.

Jardin backpackers
One of my favorite backpacker families in Jardin, Colombia

This past year has been the greatest gift I never knew I needed. Provided by Penn State World Campus location independence, I’ve been able to create homes across the globe without sacrificing a year of academics. In December, I will graduate from Penn State, and I am looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead — in local and foreign places alike.

I appreciate your following and supporting my journey!

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