Amanda Oliver is one of the most talented young writers that I’ve read in a long time. Her voice is authentic and rings true. You can (and definitely should) read her writing here: http://amandaoliver.com/. I think one of the things that is the most special about Amanda is that she allows herself to really feel her life – the good, the bad, the ugly – to me, that takes the most courage. She is a wanderer, and proof that “not all who wander are lost.”
Q: Tell me the biggest lesson learned from your traveling.
AO: Before I left my friend said, “It’s so weird to me that you won’t know or see anyone you know for two months.” That was equal parts terrifying and exciting to me. What I learned, though, is that I am incredibly capable and that kindness translates everywhere. That sounds very “me-centric”, but traveling alone seems to encourage a special and beautiful type of self-reliance and introspection. When I ended up alone for several days at a time, usually by choice, I was fine. Sometimes bright-eyed and busy-tailed, sometimes spending most of the day in the bed because I was damn tired. (I learned to listen to my body and needs and to not get too wrapped up in “YOU WILL NEVER BE HERE AGAIN” because being the energizer bunny for two months was just not happening!) When I decided to seek out others or participate in work exchanges, my life was full of laughter, broken English, and exposure to new ways of thinking and life. In both scenarios, I was constantly learning about myself–my abilities, my faults, my strengths, my weaknesses. Being kind saved me from any real loneliness, lostness, trouble, or embarrassment. (Although no one could save me from the screaming of a Bulgarian train conductor who reamed me out in German and then again in English for putting my feet up on his seats…)
Q: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
AO: How funny, I was asked this recently by a close friend. I don’t think my eighteen-year-old self would listen, she was far too stubborn for that, but if I could plant a seed or a belief in that sweet girl’s head, I would tell her that she is worthy of love. That she should stop exhausting her own chest full of it on men who are not good. She should turn some of that around on herself and fall in love with the capable human she is. Also, no credit cards!!
Q: What inspires you?
AO: Seeing other people feel capable and good. Also, getting knocked on my butt every once in a while. I fall hard, but I usually bounce back up in a gymnast stance of “Take that, life!”
Q: What is something you treasure dearly?
AO: My Uncle Bobby bought me a Russian nesting doll when I was seven or eight that I filled with coins from countries that him and my other uncles had visited. When I got back from my summer in Europe, one of the first things I did was get her tattooed on my ankle. She has always sat on my desk as a reminder of the world out there and how I want to see all of it. Now she goes everywhere I go, too.
Q: What’s one thing everyone should know?
AO: They have value, self-worth. People don’t realize their worth, what they bring to the table. Everybody has something unique and special that they bring. That’s part of the point of people-who-matter. Yes, YOU have purpose and value.