By Tracie Bettenhausen
Do you have a lifelong dream you have never followed? For Tegan Henke, Wishek, North Dakota native and North Dakota State University graduate, it was world travel. So why did she wait until her late 30s to hop a plane and go?
The following is an edited, partial transcript from the podcast “Women Inspired!,” created by April Seifert. April interviewed Tegan about how she made her dream of travel a reality. (The two were roommates at NDSU. Read more about April in the “Look What She Did!” section of this magazine.)
April Seifert: I wanted you on the podcast because you have been on a serious adventure. Can you share what you’ve been up to?
Tegan Henke: In April 2017, I quit my job and started traveling around the world. I needed to pick places that were more affordable, so I started in southeast Asia, and then went to Central and South America, and then most recently to Italy. I am now back to resuming more real world life. So maybe nine or 10 months of pretty consistent travel.
A: People go on vacation, maybe pick a place and take two weeks. But 10 months is a whole other shebang. What made you decide to launch yourself into something this big?
T: It’s two-fold. One, I’ve always been interested in international travel, but my work life never really allowed for it (Tegan was working for a state agency focused on mental health policy). In the United States, we get 10 vacation days a year, or maybe two weeks, and that just didn’t feel long enough for me to be able to see all the places I wanted to see. And two, about five years ago I had some things happen in my life that really shook me up and sent me on this path of figuring out the person I want to be in the world. I got divorced. I’m a counselor, so I did some therapy. I was realizing that I was never really open. Whether in my marriage, or in my friendships, I didn’t need anyone. I was always fine, I was always ok. That makes me very self-sufficient, but it also prevents me from having a really full life. I wasn’t taking risks, personally or at work. Things were happening, and I wasn’t necessarily making them happen.
A: Travel takes you out of the context that you’re comfortable being in. Was it just repeated unexpected situations that just helped you get to a point where you started to break down the barriers that you discovered you had before?
T: I had an airline ticket and then did everything else on the fly. I started in Indonesia, in Bali. When I got to the airport in Dallas, they asked, ‘When are you leaving Bali?’ I told them I didn’t really know. They told me I couldn’t do that; they needed to see a ticket out. So I got on my phone and bought an outgoing ticket from Bali before I even left. Once you’re in these countries, there are so many people who just want to help. If you’re open to the world and things unfolding for you, I think in a lot of ways they can. I mean, you have to be practical and safe, but the travel community is amazing. People want to help and connect.
A: How did you decide how long to stay in a certain place?
T: Some of it was I needed to stay in a certain place to meet a friend who was coming to meet me. I would have 10 days in Cambodia. So how would I divide up my days in Cambodia so I could meet my friend in Thailand on time? But sometimes if I liked a place, I’d stay longer. Or if I heard good things about a place I hadn’t planned to go, I would reroute. I hadn’t even planned on going to Burma (or Myanmar), but something fell through somewhere else, and so I had extra time. Turns out those were some of my favorite places.
A: Do you feel like you have a new outlook on life now?
T: I do, but not as a result of the trip. I think it’s a result of everything that led up to the trip. It changed the way I interact with people, the way I take risks. Even if it’s just saying something that I’m not sure if people will like. Or putting a thought out there that I haven’t fully formed. People don’t think of those as being risks, but they are exercises in vulnerability. I feel okay with taking risks and making mistakes.
Tracie Bettenhausen is a senior staff writer/editor at Basin Electric. She has gener- ously opened her home to two once-foster, now-adopted kitties, Basil and Sweet Pea.