The world out there belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams! We’ve been speaking with inspiring others who have been personifying the spirit of adventure. 

Today we’re speaking with 27 year old Casey Hekker, who has been spending 2016 exploring country to country with Remote Year. You may recognize her from her 30 day South American Alpaca challenge on her blog, “Where the Hekk Am I?” 

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Casey takes us back to her roots, and tells us where her love of travel began…

While I’m lucky enough to call New York City my home, you won’t find me there for too long at a time. I grew up in Connecticut, went to college in North Carolina, studied abroad a few times, lived in Paris for a year and then decided to “settle down” in NYC.  Now, my address changes every month.

When I was growing up, I loved to watch The Travel Channel and wanted to figure out how to become Samantha Brown when I grew up. She was a host for a few travel shows that took viewers around the globe and got me hooked on travel from an early age. Samantha’s shows took me to hotels in Italy, restaurants in Argentina, hikes in Asia, beaches in Australia and just about everywhere else in between.  I went to Europe for the first time to visit my brother in Italy when I was in high school and from that point on, my family made it a point to have us love to travel, and to be good travelers.

I chose to go to Elon University and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made. There is such a strong focus on community involvement and study abroad and I took advantage of everything that was offered to me. I was lucky enough to study abroad three times and had amazing experiences at Elon, both in and out of the US. I studied in Western Australia, Barcelona and South Africa, learning as much as about other cultures as I learned about myself during my four years at Elon.

In the Spring of my senior year, an amazing opportunity was presented to me and it was an offer that was too good to refuse. Two months after I got my diploma, I packed up a suitcase and moved to Paris, France where I worked as an au pair for a wonderful French family. They set me up with my own petit apartment in the center of the city and I spent the year caring for four girls in the heart of Paris. I couldn’t have had a better situation, but after the year was up I had to find a “real job” and moved to NYC. I spent my first two years working for Fox Cable Networks and National Geographic in ad sales, and then switched to my current company, an AdTech startup based in NYC.  My life in NYC was nearly perfect – great job, great coworkers, great apartment, great friends, family nearby, but I still had the travel bug and applied for Remote Year, not really thinking anything about it.

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Traveling opens your eyes to new experiences, allowing you to evolve as a human being. Casey tells us about how her life has changed since her travels… 

I don’t exactly have my own travel show on The Travel Channel (yet), but I feel like I’m living my own reality show.  I’m on Remote Year and I get to keep my full time job while traveling the world.  I just lived in South America for four months, spending one month in a different city with a group of 70 people who started as strangers and are now some of my best friends.  We lived in Cordoba, Argentina, Buenos Aires, Argentina, La Paz, Bolivia and Cusco, Peru and are now on our second continent.  I’m now in London, England and then will be moving to Prague, Czech Republic, Belgrade, Serbia, and Split Croatia.  In November, we’ll be onto continent number three, consisting of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to round out our year of travel.  I’m having the most incredible experiences and feel like the luckiest person on earth to get to do this, keeping a blog to save the memories and pictures.

Casey brings us in (and out!) or her comfort zone… 

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I can be found in my comfort zone when I’m sitting on my porch at home in Ocean Grove, NJ. My family has been going to this little beach town for my whole life, and it’s the type of place that washes your worries away. It’s tucked away by the beach at the Jersey Shore and is the best escape. It’s easy to get “Grove lag” as my Grandma likes to call it. We can sit on the porch drinking wine for hours, watching the world go by and it feels like the safest place on earth. With such an amazing place to be, it’s hard to ever leave. I have my family, lifetime best friends and the ocean right by my side.  Each time I go back, I’m reminded of how truly lucky I am to have such a magical place to return to. When I graduated from college, I left for Paris from OG and as sad as it was to say goodbye to my support system, I knew that my Grandma would be waiting for me on the porch when I got home a year later.

Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. We are so proud of friends like Casey, who have been following their heart, actualizing their potential, and inspiring others along the way. We asked her what she is most proud of… 

I applied for Remote Year after a friend of mine told me that this program was made for me. I applied, not realistically thinking that anything would happen, but what the heck, I had nothing to lose except for the $50 application fee.  I applied, interviewed, and got accepted last fall and was faced with a big challenge of how to convince my company to be on board with me working my full time while traveling the world for a year.  I put together a document that outlined all of the aspects of Remote Year and how I would be committed to make it a complete success for the year.  My job is my number one priority, and by gaining my boss’ approval, I was able to show my dedication to my company.  I have been working there for two years and have made amazing connections with my coworkers and they knew that my work ethic would continue without being in the office.  It showed how much trust they had in me and has made me want to work even harder to keep showing them how much I appreciate their support for me on my year abroad.

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Most travelers can agree that their bucket list is ever-growing! We asked Casey what locations have made their way to her “must see” list… 

My bucket list continues to grow every day, and I still can’t believe that I’ve gotten to check so many of them off at my age.  I’ve traveled to over 25 countries, but the list always continues.  If you had asked me this question a few years ago, the answer would have been Cape Town, South Africa but now that I’ve been there, my answer now is Patagonia, Argentina.  I unfortunately did not have enough time to plan a trip there during my time in South America, but it will be one of the first places I go after my year of travel is over.  A few of my friends went and the pictures were so incredible, I’m sure the pictures didn’t even do the real views any justice.  I’m not typically a camper, but I would love to get out my comfort zone and do a trek there to see all of the mountains and lakes that add to the picture perfect landscapes.  Once I have a bit more time (and money) that will be the trip of a lifetime.  It would be even better if I could make it over to Antartica while I’m there to check off Continent #7 off the bucket list 🙂

Asking a traveler to pick their favorite city is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child! We asked Casey this tough question, and she’s given us insight on destinations we can add to our list, as well as one’s to look out for… 

I would have to say that my favorite city in the world to visit is Cape Town, South Africa.  Cape Town is one of the most beautiful, unique and interesting cities I’ve ever been to.  In college, I spent one month there for a study abroad program, spending two weeks in Cape Town, one week on a safari and the last week in Johannesburg.  There is so much culture and life in that country and the recent history was interesting, as well as heartbreaking to learn about.  You can be in a city, swim in the ocean, and go for a hike all in one day, not to mention eat some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had.  I went back last year for two weeks to visit my little sister who was studying abroad there, and already can’t wait to go back for a third time.  One city, I hate to say “the worst” but a city that I don’t plan on returning to is La Paz, Bolivia.  I spent the month of May there as part of Remote Year and it was a little too far out of my comfort zone.  My group was pre-warned that it would be a different type of city, especially coming from Argentina which feels much more European than South American.  The first week was an adventure there – trying to breath in the highest altitude capital city in the world (~12k feet above sea level) and figuring out what to eat to avoid getting sick.  The views of the city are incredibly beautiful and the city is interesting, however, it’s not a very livable city.  The country of Bolivia outside of La Paz is beautiful and my experiences were great, minus a small hiccup of breaking my collarbone while mountain biking on Death Road.  That was a big challenge for the rest of the month which added to my hardships there.  I would not write it off for future travelers wanting to pass through for a night or two while going to the Salt Flats or Lake Titicaca but it was a tough month for me.

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If you’ve been following Casey’s adventures, you would agree that they’ve been the epitome of #goals. To accomplish such great things, you have to set goals- then be prepared to crush them! We asked Casey what goals she’s been working on… 

I started a (anonymous) dating blog when I was living in NYC and decided to bring it around the world with me. I love dating, talking about dating, best dates, worst dates and everything in between. I started writing down some of my funniest stories and people seem to enjoy reading about them. Now that I’m traveling for the year, I’ve been going on dates in different cities around the world.  I set up my profiles on dating apps and have been going on dates in each of the cities I’ve been to in the past few months.  My recaps never mention the names of my dates, and are written as more of a “woe me” than a mean post about a guy (unless he really deserved it…).  I’m never sure how many people actually read it but it’s become a fun and funny hobby to have, as well as a great way to meet the locals in each spot!  My goal is to create some kind of book by the end of the year to sum up all of my travel and dating around the world experiences.  I think it would be a great memory to have, and in the world of online dating, there’s definitely an audience for it! www.Chekkmeout.com for the stories that will make you happy you’re only just living vicariously through me and not sitting in on the actual dating disasters.

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Casey leaves us with some words of wisdom before jet setting off to a new continent… 

When I was home visiting my family in the US last week, my dad got me a framed picture for my bedroom of a train car in Portugal that included the phrase “I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met” which could not be more spot on for how I live my life.  I’m excited for every adventure and never turn down any opportunity that comes my way.  I’ve been presented with the most incredible experience of a lifetime and have to pinch myself every day making sure it’s still real.

To read more about Casey’s adventures, check out her blog- Where the Hekk Am I? 

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