“I didn't change myself, I just found myself.”
It was brought to my attention that would maybe be a good idea to share a little more information about myself. And yeah, I guess I realized that I haven't done a whole lot of that. My first entry was about identity, but it ended up just kind of being more about identity in general and as a traveler.
So I thought I would take this time to introduce myself a little bit more and so you can get to know a little bit more about me and my story and where I come from and why I'm doing what I'm doing.
So my name is Katie. More commonly known as Katie Katie J. My full name is Katie Johnson. Which means I'm never the only Katie and I'm never the only Johnson. Katie Katie J is a nickname that I got in college and I ended up just changing my Facebook name so people could find me more easily. And from there it just kind of stuck.
So if you listen to the first episode of the podcast, then you know that I am trying to, not separate myself from the traveler, but to explore who I am beyond that. I've been using me as a traveler as a kind of crutch and I don't want to do that anymore.
There's a lot more to me than just being a traveler.
So, in addition to being a traveler, here is a list of other things that I am.
I am a traveler and a digital nomad and an entrepreneur. I am a US citizen. I'm Korean. I'm a woman.
I love napoletana Pizza and burrata and Italy. I hate olives and cucumbers and fennel.
I think it's silly when people hold hands wearing mittens, not gloves, just mittens.
I hate seat warmers in cars. I love reading historical fiction, specifically World War II historical fiction.
I cry in every movie and TV show and commercial that I see but I don't cry very often in real life.
I don't really understand art. I like math, but I'm only really mediocre at it.
I have a very bad sense of direction.
I have a problem with portion control when I eat. I can eat so much food at once.
I have killer legs, but I'm really self-conscious about not having a flat tummy.
I hate showering. I don't drink coffee. I'm a dog person. A Ravenclaw and an Enneagram 7.
I have one tattoo and it's written in Elfish. Yes, Elfish.
I wish that I was brave enough to wear bright lipstick or any lipstick. I wish that stuck with ballet when I was five because I really would love to have been a ballerina.
My favorite animal is a penguin, not my favorite animal to eat - if you've heard the story of how I messed that up and French class.
I am a vegetarian. Really into sustainability and responsible travel. I'm a feminist. I'm a liberal.
I am fairly certain I'll never live in the United States again.
I love Christmas. But more than loving Christmas, I love the Christmas season.
I love puzzle and I don't share food.
What I Learned From My First International Trips
As far as who I am and my history as a traveler, I was born in Korea, was adopted and came over to the States when I was four months old so my first international trip was actually to the US.
I am a Midwestern gal. I grew up right outside Chicago and am very grateful to have been able to travel a lot.
Growing up, we had an amazing annual family trip with our cousins up to a cabin in Lake Michigan, which has left me some really fun memories. we went, we also went on a ski and snowboard trip each year and got to visit some national parks.
And in high school I was able to take an international trip each year
My freshman year I went back to Korea for the first time. It was there, amongst the millions of people and the confusion of not speaking the language or being able to read everything or anything, that I first flexed my travel muscle.
I taught myself how to use the subway and intuitively just kind of started picking up on international travel skills and realizing that I was really good at it.
My sophomore year I did an exchange program where my partner and I wrote back and forth for a year, and then I went and stayed with her family and she came and stayed with ours.
That was really special because it was my first time in Europe, but more importantly, I was actually living there. We took the tram without any adult supervision and hung out with friends around the city, and I was really able to picture my life in Europe.
My junior year, I went to the Galapagos and fulfilled a lifelong dream. All right. It was a dream that I had since I did a report in third grade, but, you know, whatever. Um, I experienced the thrill of realizing a dream, and I mean, obviously along with all the amazing stuff that the Galapagos has.
It's obviously more than just checking a box, but that feeling that I got being able to accomplish something that I had been wanting to for so long was really thrilling.
It still is.
Senior year I went to France and Spain with a good friend and our moms, and that trip was just the, the pure joy of traveling around with amazing travel companions. Filled with lots of laughs and just what traveling is supposed to be.
A Life-Changing Move
I went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, go Badger. Uh, where I majored in marketing. I had just survived the college admissions process only to be thrown right back in because then I had to apply to get into business school.
As a pre-req to even apply, you needed to take two semesters of a language.
I had taken three years of Spanish in high school, but as you can imagine, it wasn't the best environment to foster any sort of passion for it.
There was something in me, I do not know what it was. It was just like a gut feeling that I knew that I wanted to study abroad in Italy. And so I decided to give Italian classes a whirl.
And it was that decision right there is really where it all began.
Through those classes, I started to develop a relationship with Italy and I fell in love with it, even just through the books and the learning materials.
When I went to study abroad, it just solidified everything that I already knew to be true.
Italy is my place and Italians are my people and Italy is- it is me.
I made some really close friends who I'm still friends with today and that I think really made all the difference in getting to see it through the eyes of Italians.
I still remember the look of horror on one of their faces when I was caught about to break linguini in half before putting it into the water. That is a mistake I never made again.
I also did a lot of traveling around Europe during that time and saw how easy it was to get around. I fell in love with seeing such different places and always learning something new without even trying. When it was time to leave, I was not ready and I made it my mission to go back and live there.
And it's actually not very easy to do that. Well, it's not really easy to get a work visa if you don't have special skills, which I do not have.
Since I wasn't able to get sponsored I had to get creative. I got a student visa and went to a local school to take intensive Italian classes, and then I lived with a family and nannied for them.
That year was like absolutely magical. I became a part of their family and learned how to make homemade Italian food and what it was really like to live in an Italian household. I still consider them an extended family to this day, and love going back to visit and watch the kiddos grow up.
Time To Move On
But when the year was up, I was ready to move back home. I loved being abroad, but that post-graduation city life that all my friends were already living was back there waiting for me.
So I moved to Chicago in search of my version of kind of that Sex in the City life with your friends and brunches and all that fun stuff.
Turns out I had a slightly different experience.
My job was outside the city, so I would wake up at 4:00 AM to go to the gym, and then I commuted two hours each way every day. By the end of the day I was exhausted and I did not have the energy to do anything else.
And everyone was so busy! It seemed like I was planning months in advance just to schedule time with people.
And new friends? You can forget about that. Where the hell was I supposed to meet anybody? I wasn't in town when the various groups were like meeting up because I was busy commuting on the train. I had a friend at work, but she didn't live in the city.
It just wasn't really panning out to be the vision in my head that I had, so I eventually moved out and closer to work. I spent a year out there living in a small town and I'd go into the city for I'd go into the city or back home or up to Madison on the weekends for my social life.
It was my first time really living alone and I frigging loved it. But I did know that it wasn't sustainable to be living in that small town forever. I wasn't meeting anybody there either, and was leaving every weekend. It was great for that point in my life but I knew that it wasn't sustainable.
So after that, I decided to make a slightly more drastic change
I quit my job and I went to Asia. I took my first solo trip to China for a month and then headed down to Thailand to teach English. and that's when I realized that I needed to make this permanent.
I needed travel to be my life.
That was back in 2015 and I haven't really looked back!
I've backpacked with friends. I've backpacked solo. I moved to Australia for a bit and to South America. I frequent Europe as often as I can, and have made a life on the road in a way that really works for me.
I've taken odd jobs, volunteered, and had a remote office job. Now, I own a travel agency and am also a travel consultant for digital nomads, promoting responsible travel and helping as many people as possible live their best lives through travel.
It's a lot of ups and downs.
It's really hard to miss life events of friends and family. I miss a lot of random things from home like going to the apple orchard, watching football, eating Chipotle, water skiing, Thanksgiving, Baskin Robins mint chocolate chip, recognizing brands, knowing exactly how to find something and where to go to get it when I need something, and just generally having any idea of what is happening around me to name a few.
It's hard not having a routine, especially like a workout and a work routine. It's hard changing time zones because then your previous work schedule sometimes has to shift as well. It's exhausting getting to know the lay of the land in new places and meeting new people. It's tough never really getting to have things that are mine and wearing the same clothes over and over again.
But I also wouldn't have it any other way. I am in love with the life that I've built, and I'm so proud of the choices that I've made to get here.
There's a lot of privilege involved in that too, and I know that. I hope to use that to do some good.
So, that's me in a nutshell. Thanks for sticking around this long. If you're still here.
If you've got more questions about digital no netting, then you're in luck because I've answered some of the top questions I get about digital no netting. So make sure to check the show notes for more information, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or shoot me a message on Instagram at Roman Roots Collective and I'll send it over to you.
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