Interview Maggie Haselwanter

1. Okay, Miss Maggie, what was the specific incident that got you to this interview?

 I saw Travelita’s post on Facebook.

2. What has earned you the right to be an authority on this topic?

Amongst other things, I traveled solo 17.500 kilometers through South America by public transport. I moved solo to Nicaragua. And right now I am traveling solo by a moped around the world. 

3. What is your brand, your topic exactly about? 4. Why is it important? 5. Now that I know what it is, now that I know why it’s important and relevant, how are you implementing this on your travels? I mean like, is there a process, that you follow when traveling? 

MAGGIE’S MILES – a slow riding journey

I am traveling solo with an 18.3 mph moped around the world. I started in Switzerland crossed 8 countries. Now I am quarantined in Turkey. Waiting to continue to New Zealand. 

First of all, I am a slow rider. Meaning I don’t have to hurry from A to B. Time does not play a major role on my journey. Mainly I am focusing on deceleration, conscious experience, and self-connection. I ride with the flow, spend time at places I feel connected to. Of course, I do have some milestones I want to reach, though the arrival is not the final goal. The journey itself is. My personal aspect of traveling is to feel connected to people and the world. I am meeting so many amazing and inspiring people I would not meet by staying in my hometown. Spending even just a magical moment, for example, I met the cyclist on the top of an Albanian mountain pass with whom I had a deep talk about the meaning of life and traveling for an hour before we said goodbye. These encounters make me feel alive, energetic, and happy as short as they might be. Besides, I am and always was an adventurer curious to explore new cultures, food, and people.

6. What if people took advantage of your tips and steps you are providing? What will happen, how will their travels change? 

Every life is subjective. In my wildest dreams, I cannot predict what is going to happen. I cannot even predict what is going to happen on my own travels. All I want is to share my stories and inspire others to trust in life and follow their heart.

What is the one thing that has made the greatest impact on your life as a result of your travels?⁣

2011, I was studying a semester abroad in Nicaragua. In the first two weeks, I had a culture shock. It is still one of the poorest countries worldwide. Quickly I acclimatized, meeting friendly and inviting people, dancing salsa, and just enjoying life. I remember this one moment, I carried my dirty clothes to the laundry. 37 degrees, midday, the sun was burning a drop of sweat ran down my forehead. A dead beat taxi drove by, all 4 windows wide open Latino music full volume, the driver singing along at the top of his voice. I looked up a house entrance, a very old lady was sitting in the rocking chair amused by the singing taxi driver laughing at me and asking how my day was going. At this very moment I felt a happiness I never felt before. Not when I earned a lot of money or got a promotion at work or anything else related to materialism. Crazy enough I was carrying dirty laundry, overwhelmed by the sensation of absolute happiness, whining. My time in Nicaragua started a shift in beliefs which actually changed my whole life. 

2013, I was traveling from Rio de Janeiro to Cancun by public transport, 17,500 kilometers in 9 months. It was one of my life dreams and the first long term travel I ever did. After 3 months I realized I am living with so little stuff out of my 24-kilogram bag. I imagined my crowded apartment in Austria and by only thinking about it I couldn’t breathe anymore. As long as we are not really living our soul plan we are stuffing our life with unnecessary material things to cover up the emptiness inside us. When I returned I gifted half of my stuff immediately. I just knew material things can never make me as happy as it makes me explore and connect with people and nature. By the way after giving away most of my household appliances the flat was still crowded. 

7. Now we would like to get just some general information about you and your travels: 

(if not answered before) – When did you start traveling solo? – Do you remember how you felt when you traveled alone for the first time?

In my early twenties, I made a lot of travel plans with friends which never were executed, like going to Greece or Spain. Too many people live a life of too many excuses. After taking some time to get bold I started traveling solo knowing if I am waiting for others to join me I probably won’t go at all. I started my solo travels with a two-week vacation to Greece figuring out this is doable I went on more short trips which led to a semester abroad in Nicaragua, Central America, several years later. After living the best time of my life I was inspired to fulfill my dream of traveling through South America with a backpack for 9 months. Missing the freedom I felt studying in Nicaragua I eventually moved there. Step by step I pushed the boundaries of my beliefs further. One day I realized borders are only in my mind. Then I started following my soul plan and living the opportunities life is offering me to the limit. 

– How did you, or do you deal with fears?

Define FEAR first. In 99 % it is fear of the unknown. The more traveling becomes routine the less this kind of fear will define your life. Before I moved from Europe to Nicaragua (Central America) several people have been advising me against it with the worst prognosis. The fact was I knew what was awaiting me: I studied there for 9 months, visited another 3 times for several months. Ergo I knew how everyday life would be and I had enough know-how and money saved to survive 2 years without working. So what would be the worst-case scenario? I am coming back to Europe broke after 2 fantastic years. I thought I could handle that. 

Do you want to know what happened after I moved to Nicaragua? 3 months later I was managing a student house. 6 months later I was hired by a real estate agency to rent houses and supervise a team of 4. I was working 20 hours a week living my dream of work-life balance earning more money I would have by staying in Austria. My critics didn’t want to hear that, of course. Most people’s lives are defined by fear of the unknown. This is the basis of their unhappiness. There is nothing more true than the saying: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of insecurity. Before I started my moped journey around the world I shit my pants. I felt sick and overwhelmed by thinking of what will be if my bike breaks down in the middle of nowhere and I cannot fix it. But I guess my curiosity and my adventure spirit always won so far. 

– Magical stories that happened when traveling solo?

Murphy’s law – your biggest fears come true.

So one day my bike broke down in the middle of nowhere in the Apennines in Italy. The holiday season, nobody was on the street. I was alone on a mountain road starting to fix my moped. Suddenly a guy on his Vespa stopped and offered his help. Emanuele was also on a moped journey. We fixed my moped together. Then we went for a coffee and drove together for another 2 days spending amazing time together philosophizing over life and dreams. We couldn’t believe the coincidences that made our meeting even possible. Besides, we figured out the companies we are working for are actually business partners. What are the chances? The moment you start trusting in life you realize every moment, every incident is a gift. Actually, I am grateful the chain broke. That’s how I met Emanuele. 

Another time my bike broke down in Albania. Immediately a mechanic came up to me who watched the accident. He took me to his shop and took care of my moped. Meanwhile, his family invited me to eat with them. They pursued me to stay for some time. In the end, I stood for 10 days living with an Albanian family, observing their family structures cooking local food together, and just enjoying being in a loving environment. I am still in contact with my now Albanian family members. These encounters are happening all the time all over the world. 

Every time something unforeseen is happening I am getting curious about what life is gifting me next. 

A life full of wonders.

– Is there a place where you have been and you would definitely not recommend it for women on their own and why?

I traveled Europe, South, Central and North America, Canada, Russia, and Turkey so far and I had no major problems. Mostly I felt very protected. As soon as they figured out I am a solo female traveler they took extra care of me. Taxi drivers brought me to bus drivers, bus drivers escorted me to Taxi drivers which took me to the Hostel. To stay safe I followed, of course, important rules.

Respect and follow cultural rules. Use your common sense. 

As soon as you enter a new country you observe different cultural behavior. Make sure – even if you’re not used to it – follow them. You are a guest and you should respect the country’s culture. 

Learn some basic words in their language. If you are planning to visit more countries in Latin America it makes sense to take a quick Spanish course. It makes such a difference when locals realize you are understanding a bit beside a lot of people who do not speak English. 

In Latin America, I never went along with a tour guide on a 3-day hike and I did not go out in big cities like Lima or La Paz to party by myself. Once I went out with a group of locals and travelers in Peru. After some time they just left. So even in a group, I am not taken care of. Lesson learned. 

If you drink alcohol only drink as much as you are able to keep a clear head. 

Never leave your stuff out of sight. Thieves will take advantage of careless behavior. If somebody is robbing you. Just give them what they want. Do not defend material stuff. You can replace them. It would be even better if you don’t give them an opportunity to rob you at all. Means you follow common rules for example after 10 pm take a taxi home. Keep away from certain areas of the city and so on. On my current trip, I will explore East and South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. After that, I will have more insight to share. 

If you have huge doubts for example how your next travel destination treats women DO NOT go there. I experienced countries which are easier to travel and some are more difficult. Mostly it’s an issue of gender and lack of development of equal rights. In some countries, men are just overwhelmed by a woman who is traveling the world with a moped solo. Though the more support and positive reactions I get from women. 

I grew up in Austria. Even though my family’s worldview is limited women are fighting for equal rights. Compared to other countries I am very privileged I grew up with opportunities to become an independent woman. While I was visiting so many different regions of the world I became aware not every woman has the same rights as I do. Since then I feel the duty to be an example for women to set a new standard. We need to pave the road for amazing women who are coming after us. 

– Do you still have this excitement, when you go for a trip?

Hell yeah. Whenever a travel opportunity arises I pause for a moment to let the idea echo within me. If my gut feeling says this will be a great adventure and I feel excitement overtaking my body I am starting to plan the details. 

– Traveling for the bigger good?

I never would have thought, my journey has such an impact on people. I grew up in a family and a social system which made me believe “Nothing is possible and you have to accept the fact and live with it”. It took me many years and a shit load of will power to overcome these limitations. 

The main reason I was able to leave the system and family dogmas was education and financial independence which offered me the opportunity to travel. Experiencing other countries and cultures led to a completely different outlook on the world and life. Soon I realized the impact it had on my life and my happiness. So wherever I meet young people and especially young girls I tell them to learn foreign languages and to find a way to be independent. It gave me the power to make my own choices and to go my own way. No matter what everybody else said.

Recently I was invited to give a guest lecture about my journey and my education at the German School in Athens. The dialogue with the teenager was mind-blowing. It was like I had the opportunity to tell my younger self “It is possible just believe in yourself and stay persistent”. The support I never had as a teenager.

Besides, Emanuele the guy I met in Italy while my bike was broken down just told me he is taking English classes. He wants to travel more and wants to be able to communicate whenever he encounters interesting people. And a 50 something man I met on the ferry from Italy to Croatia told me he quit his job and sold his house to fulfill his life dream of taking some time off to travel the world. 

I realized I am leaving marks and that fulfills me with joy and touches me on a deep level. I feel very blessed to be able to inspire people and uplift them just by being who I am. 

8. Call to action – what do you want people to do? 

If you have still doubts and need support to let me tell you. A new era of courageous women is already on the rise. Look for women who are already living a similar dream you have. Get in touch. Build a network. Help each other. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. 

Life is too short to wait for later. Let’s not limit yourself neither in traveling nor in life. 

Imagine yourself 86 years old. Do you want to tell your grandchildren of all the unused opportunities you had or do you wanna inspire them with stories of realized dreams?

Everything is possible – Follow your heart – Be the role model you are dreaming of.

I am sending all my love to every single one of you – stay wild! 

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