When I met Camille in a seedy nightclub, I didn’t know she would inspire my decision to travel. I thought she was another rich hippie, a privileged person who chooses a pauper’s life-until the novelty of struggle wears off. I was wrong.
Camille Willemain is much more than her privilege. She is much more than bikini shots and poetic musings about sex. She is an expansive soul swinging far and wide but always tethered to her center. In this interview, she explains why she left the “perfect” life and how to make travel work for you.
[Angel’s note: I post this interview wondering how her answers would differ if I asked today. Camille is always changing into more of who she is.]
This American Girl – an interview with Camille
1. Why do you travel?
Wow, this is tough.
I travel for so many reasons but the best answer I can give is this: traveling makes me feel more connected to my environment, to the people I meet, and to my most authentic self. In yoga we call that being in the present moment. When I am present and aware of what is happening around me and what is happening within me I feel the most alive.
I also travel to challenge and overcome barriers that keep me from actualizing my potential. Inflexibility and perfectionism are qualities I have struggled with in life that for many years kept me from doing things that I loved. Traveling, especially in developing nations, where things rarely happen according to plan has forced me to let go of a lot of this perfectionism and go with the flow. In Costa Rica, we call it Pura Vida.
I’ve received a lot of this feedback in the last year from friends, family, and even my blog readers. I can understand it, but I don’t agree with it.
First of all, I believe that reality is self created. As a culture we create many boundaries and parameters for ourselves. These boundaries only exist if we believe that they do. Traveling beyond vacation or a study abroad program is still a rather new concept in the United States. Consequently many people in our culture don’t believe long term travel is a realistic or responsible life decision. They assume that someone who wants to travel indefinitely must be running from something, they must be trying to escape.
I think people do all sorts of things to escape their own realities. Drinking beyond consciousness, eating boxes of oreos, and spending hours on Pinterest are just a few activities that many people participate in daily to pull themselves out of reality. These activities disconnect us from ourselves and can make us forget who and where we are.
Travel, like anything, can be done in a similar fashion. But it can also be done mindfully and with intention. It can teach you about yourself and about the world. Travel can introduce you to a world of paradigms that contradict what you always believed to be true. It can help you to recognize and understand what boundaries you do and don’t want in your life. In this sense it is the closest thing to actually experiencing reality.
When I’m abroad fitness is not something that I really think about. As far as actual calorie burning I’m constantly walking or biking to get from one place to another and I love exploring on foot. My favorite activities to do when I’m traveling outside of cities are active: hiking, stand up paddleboarding, and beach walking. There is something amazing that happens to your body when you walk for long periods of time barefoot on the earth.
Traveling can be hard on my body which is one of the many reasons why I do yoga at least once a day while I’m on the road. This might seem like a lot to some people, but for me it’s an amazingly yummy act of self care. Like taking a long bath or getting a massage. Who wouldn’t want that every day?
4. What place was the easiest to be physically active?
Nosara in Costa Rica is a fitness lover’s dream. In addition to all of the outdoor activities like surfing, stand up paddleboarding, stand up paddleboard yoga, and hiking, there are world class yoga studios offering classes all day long, kickboxing classes, daily pilates, and all kinds of special fitness events. Everyone there is in amazing shape and is into surfing or yoga or both. If I go back to Costa Rica I could definitely see myself living there for a while.
Oh boy, it is a challenge. In general I try to make the best choices I can with what I’ve got. Overnight bus rides don’t stop at organic cafes for lunch. You have to look past the fried chicken and find the healthiest option there is.
Planning also helps a lot. Buying fruit and nuts at markets and keeping them in my bag helps me to eat healthy during long travel days. Also cooking is key. It’s very challenging to find restaurants that serve salads but most countries have tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados, and eggs. I buy the healthiest things I can find and make meals that way. It helps me save money too.
Getting in touch with the indigenous superfoods is a fun cultural way to stay healthy. For instance in Latin America it’s easy to find young coconuts everywhere, which make great pre and post workout snacks, chia seeds, and superfruits like dragonfruit and mangosteen.
On my next trip I plan to travel with a few things from home like chlorella and spirulina and I’m even packing some water kefir grains so I can keep making my probiotic beverages. This might make me sound crazy but staying healthy on the road is really important to me.
Costa Rica. There are so many American expats who moved to Costa Rica to start yoga studios and open healthy cafes. It’s a huge part of Costa Rican culture. Puerto Viejo even has an organic farm box program where you can order via email all of your organic produce and pick up the box once a week. They have a farmer’s market with all kinds of health foods too.
7. Most scenic (nature) place?
Corcovado National Park on the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica and the San Blas Islands in Panama are two untouched pieces of paradise.
8. What place took you most out of your comfort zone?
Definitely Morocco. The culture is just so different there. You don’t encounter many expats or tourists and I did not meet a single American the entire two weeks I spent there. Traveling alone as a woman in a Muslim country has many challenges. That trip matured me in a lot of ways.
Definitely Costa Rica. The expat scene is so community focused there, access to health food and activities is much easier than the rest of Central America (even Europe in my opinion), and it’s an easy plane ride to the states to visit family. I loved backpacking in more developing nations like Nicaragua, Colombia, and Morocco, but as far as living somewhere it’s really important to me to have access to good yoga and organic food.
10. Where is your next travel adventure?
My next adventure is in October to Southeast Asia. I’m planning to backpack through Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Vietnam and spend at least a few months in Thailand and Bali. This trip is indefinite and I’m hoping to find a place that becomes a home to me in Asia the way that Puerto Viejo did in Latin America.
Traveling in Turkey and Greece next summer or doing a California Coast road trip are also high on my list.
12. Sunrise or Sunset?
Sunset. I watch them every night when I’m traveling. No matter what else is going on I will stop everything until the colors disappear.
13. Text or Call?
Embarrassed to admit this, but text.
14. Water with ice or no ice?
15. Dreamer? Realist?
Making my dreams my reality.
Camille Willemain is a coconut lover, adventure seeker, storyteller, sun worshipper, and life long learner. You can find her on beaches and in jungles blending green smoothies, engrossed in her writing, or dancing her heart out to reggaeton. She writes about her travels and life lessons on her blog This American Girl.
**All photos are the property of Camille.