Have you ever wanted to travel the world? Does your bucket list include picnics under the Eiffel Tower, climbing volcanoes, volunteering in orphanages, or sleeping in handmade hammocks? Mine did, and I’ve accomplished them all before the age of 25. . . . A world of breath-taking beauty and heart-breaking corruption exists just beyond our daily schedules–we simply have to open our hearts and explore.
— Feeding Elephants, Friends and Parasites: The Journey of a Nomad
Liberty Wickman ’12 challenges readers of her book Feeding Elephants, Friends and Parasites: The Journey of a Nomad to step outside the comfort zone as she did in her first post-Central year, traveling around the globe, working and volunteering along the way.
“Central opened doors for me. I never could have imagined in high school that I could do all of this,” Wickman tells. “I had the choice of having a big graduation party or a trip. And I chose the trip to Paris because I had always dreamed of it.”
Since she was bitten by the travel bug in high school, Wickman has traveled to at least three international countries per year. While at Central, she visited Ethiopia with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; Mexico twice; France, England, Guatemala and Wales each once; and Haiti with Pella’s Second Reformed Church following the earthquake. She has become fluent in Spanish and can understand fluent Italian, and knowledgeable in French and Amharic from her time in Ethiopia.
“I thought I needed to explore the world first before starting a career, so I sold everything I owned and saved $5,000 to begin traveling,” Wickman recalls.
Italy was her first stop where she taught English in language immersion camps last summer. “I bought a one-way ticket, knowing I wanted to master the language. While in Italy, I met Australian teachers so my next stop was Australia where I was an au pair,” Wickman says.
“Great friends can be made anywhere and everywhere in the world. All you need is an open mind and an open heart.”
Next she lived on a remote island off the coast of Brisbane, Australia, where she was lighthouse keeper and wrote Feeding as entertainment from September to November. The book was written on Wickman’s pocket laptop with intermittent satellite WIFI access. The book, filled with life lessons, took three months to write “where there were no distractions.”
“The freeing sense of being a complete stranger and all alone in an unfamiliar environment is a gift of life that only true travelers seek.”
Wickman sent the book online to student editors at Central’s Tutoring and Writing Center by Thanksgiving. “All online worked well for me. I never touched a book before I sold one,” she says of the self-published paperback available from amazon.com.
Next stop: Asia, where she met a Canadian woman in a hostel who was also traveling solo. The two “country hopped with cheap plane tickets to Sri Lanka, Singapore and Vietnam.” She also volunteered in Bali at a home for children with Down’s Syndrome and taught them life skills.
Wickman says her dream job would be “to travel with a volunteer organization from country to country and teach.” She has completed a Peace Corps application and is considering graduate school for an education degree to teach abroad.
“I’m not sure life can get much more perfect than this.”
Wickman acknowledges that, however ideal or idealistic her travels may be, they haven’t been without adversity. She had planned two more months in Asia last spring but became ill and diverted to India, where doctors determined she needed gall bladder surgery. After much research and calls home, she abandoned plans to visit Nepal and flew home. The diagnosed gall bladder malady turned out to be a bad reaction to anti-malaria pills.
After recuperating in her hometown of Atlantic, Iowa, this summer, Wickman plans to leave for Peru in November where she will work in a Catholic Worker House for children with disabilities. Proceeds from her book will fund her travels to South America, where she also plans to teach in Chile and possibly Brazil.
“The thrill of travel is inspirational,” Wickman says “Probably most inspiring to me was my first volunteer trip to Ethiopia and meeting an eight-year-old prostitute with HIV. She knew she was going to die but she was a ball of energy and so joyful. Having people to love has always been important to me. I very much appreciate service trips and would recommend to anyone considering the experience.”
“Each adventure leaves me craving the excitement of the unknown, prohibiting me from fully quenching my thirst for more or itching the travel bug-bite.”