Twenty-one year old Tess Fraser has spent the last few years ticking things off her bucket list that some of us wouldn’t even imagine doing. Some of her achievements include climbing to base camp on Mt Everest at age nineteen, volunteering as a paramedic in both Zapopan, Mexico and Namibia, Africa, is a qualified open water scuba diver, and has sky dived four times in four separate countries. Phew. With a total of 24 countries visited, Tess is making her mark, living authentically and with gratitude.
We caught up with this local lady to find out more. Get ready to have major travel-envy.
Why do you travel?
I love the uncertainty. You never know what each day will bring, you never know what the next conversation’s going to be about or what language it’s going to be in, or what challenges you’re going to encounter are. Waking up and asking ‘What does today have in store for me?’ and not knowing the answer is pretty exciting. That’s what keeps me going back.
As a young woman, what’s the best part about travelling?
I think it’s the freedom. Because I’m young I can do whatever, there are no age restrictions. It’s not like I’m an old guy who says ‘I’m going skydiving today’ where there are things to consider. The ability to be spontaneous is the best part. And being a female is a massive advantage as a solo traveller – it’s easier to socialise with the locals because they’re normally more willing to help you than a rowdy group of boys.
There’s an idea of young, solo, female travellers being ‘brave’ to face the big, bad world. What do you think of that?
People see guys going around the world by themselves and are like ‘Oh, that’s so cool, good on them’ but then for girls it’s a lot of ‘You should be careful, you might get taken advantage of because you’re too soft’. I don’t think it’s like that at all.
I see myself as brave because I don’t get scared. It's a compliment, really. If I’m in a new country I won’t have second thoughts about going and doing the things I want. I don’t hesitate. Anything could happen to anyone at any time, so why should it stop me? I think the word ‘brave’ means independent when it comes to travelling alone.
What are your tips for travelling alone?
Travelling alone forces you to talk to people because you have no one else, so my advice is to not be scared of conversation. Everyone else is in the same situation. Also, adults are so interesting – even if they’re an old married couple you just met on a bus, they’ll have a wealth of knowledge about different places and they’ll be so interesting to talk to. Travelling alone forces you to be independent and do things by yourself, so don’t let anything stop you.
What made you book your first flight of your first solo trip?
I was doing an essay at 3am during my first ever semester of uni. I saw an ad down the side of a website and it said ‘New Zealand, $400 return’ and I was like ‘That’s so cheap!’ I remembered a girl in class talking about New Zealand a few days before and I realised how trapped I felt. I booked the flights and the next day when I had all the confirmation emails, I had to tell mum I was going. She didn't believe me. I didn’t even have a passport. My sister ended up coming with me, but that’s really when it begun.
People often travel to ‘find themselves’. Have you had any big ‘Aha!’ moments in regards to finding your sense of self? Any Eat Pray Love moments?
So many times. My independence and confidence has grown heaps. I’m so aware I can do anything because of travelling. I think ‘I climbed to Mt Everest base camp when I was nineteen, I can do anything now.’ I have the confidence to be myself, not just do what everyone else is doing.
When I was in Canada, I was sitting on top of a mountain with a family I’d just met, and they’d taken me in for the day. They fed me sandwiches and we were just sitting in silence and I just knew it was a special moment. I was aware of being grateful and appreciating everything you’ve got, or how little you’ve got. We were in the middle of the mountains, so there was no phone reception and we used rubbish bags as ponchos, and it made me so grateful for everything we have.
Those kind of moments slowly change me and most of the time they go by unnoticed. The little things add up to a big thing.
Have you changed or instilled anything into your life in Adelaide due to travel?
My main one is going vegetarian. In the first few days in Africa we’d done safaris during the day and it was incredible – we saw zebras and lions and giraffes and everything. It was so beautiful and everyone was so amazed by them, and then one night we went out to dinner at a steak house and on the menu there was something called the ‘game skewer’. It was a piece of meat from each animal we’d seen that day. I didn’t understand it. We’d just seen those animals and how happy they were in the wild but everyone ordered that skewer. That was the turning point; it solidified why I wanted to be vegetarian.
Where have been your favourite places?
Canada, Nepal, New Zealand and Alaska. I love mountains. But I fall in love with every place for different reasons, like the Burmese people, or watching the sunset in the Namibian Desert, or how the importance of music in Botswana. I love the vibe of San Francisco and how cool everyone is, but then Ho Chi Min City is so crazy. There hasn’t been a place I haven’t loved.
What have been your favourite moments while travelling?
We were all brushing our teeth on Mt Everest one night and someone told us to look up. We could see Mars! We could even see the craters! It was the most insane thing ever. We camped in Botswana and when we woke up, there were lions walking around us, we could hear them roaring all morning. In Hawaii, my sister and I were on these paddleboards in the ocean and we had charged them to a random room in a fancy hotel while we were just paddling around, laughing… In those moments you just think ‘This is the best.’
What’s on your travel to-do list?
I’ve conquered a lot of them! It’s always changing, though. At the moment I really want to do the Pacific Crest Trail, the one from Canada to Mexico. I want to hike that. Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt McKinley, too.
Adelaide. I’m kind of reluctant when I say that, but it is. It’s my base. It’s where my friends that inspire me are and my family that encourage me are. They’re all here. I’m so happy here, though. Everyone supports and encourages me. So home is Adelaide. But it might be somewhere else soon.
You can follow Tess' travels on her Instagram here. She has some serious plans coming up. Stay tuned.
All images via Tess Fraser's Instagram.