Runaway Bridesmaids Q&ALG Press & Media — By Maggie Young on November 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm
Holly Corbett, co-author of the book The Lost Girls, recently traded her travel gear for a bridesmaid dress and running shoes. Read more to find out why.
NF: What was your first international travel experience?
HOLLY:My first international travel experience was Semester at Sea. I was a senior in college and I had always wanted to study abroad. I found out about Semester at Sea through one of my roommates who said that it was a ship that travels around the world. While you take classes on the ship, you also stop at all these different countries. That was my idea of heaven. And once I was on the ship, literally circling the globe and going to places like India, Morocco and Japan, that’s how I got the travel bug. After that, I was hooked.
NF: In the book The Lost Girls, Jennifer Baggett says that you “prioritized adventure and discovery over stability and structure.” But as someone who was climbing the career ladder in New York City and who had a steady boyfriend, describe what it was like to leave that life behind.
HOLLY: I think what I was thinking is that I have this amazing opportunity to travel the world with two friends and if I wanted to — I’m lucky enough to have been born a woman in America — I can save for two years (like we did) and actually do this. If I don’t go with them, I may always look back with regrets. And the idea of ever regretting this opportunity to have a year, this gift of a year, to explore the world, just really pushed me forward. I couldn’t say no.
NF: It probably helped to have that support from friends and an obligation to not let them down.
HOLLY: That was a huge thing for me. I don’t think I could’ve done that on my own or that I would’ve done it on my own. But I knew that I had them there and that they were relying on me. That made me braver than I think I would’ve been by myself.
NF: Was there a specific turning point during your travels when you realized that you didn’t want to return to the lifestyle that you previously had?
HOLLY: I think when you’re traveling — I know I did — that you think you’re going to go off and have all of these amazing insights and, while we did have amazing insights on the road, I think that the real changes came once we were back in our normal, everyday lives. I think that it was something that happened gradually over time and made us re-prioritize. One thing for me was really asking myself, “What makes life meaningful? What really matters?” Coming back home it was a weird dichotomy to be living in a hut in Kenya without running water and cooking food over a fire to then go back to NewYork City and sit outside a restaurant having a glass of wine. It just made me appreciate a lot more the opportunities I’d been given being born a woman in America and it made me realize I can do little things in my everyday life that make me feel like life is more meaningful and that I’m giving back.
NF: It sounds like your lifestyles in NewYork were stressful and very fast paced.
HOLLY: We chose to be there. We chose to be in those industries. We could step back and we didn’t have to work so hard. It sounds silly, but it took stepping outside of that lifestyle by traveling to really understand that our self worth wasn’t based on how much we accomplished.
NF: Once you came back to New York, what did you decide to do and what are you doing now?
HOLLY: We thought we had committed career suicide by quitting our jobs and taking off to travel the world, but we actually had more job offers than even before we left. I decided to stay freelance because I wanted to be in charge of my own schedule, and travel made me realize that. So I stayed freelance and I’m still freelance now, although I work remotely. I got mar- ried and I moved back upstate and I work for Redbook.com, MensFitness.com and then we’re regular contributors to TravelChannel.com. Those are my three jobs.
NF: So that must give you more flexibility to have that dream lifestyle by working remotely.
HOLLY: Yes, for me this is my dream lifestyle. When I can’t do something, I know I can say “no” now. Saying no still isn’t easy, and I have to be diligent to make sure I’m spending my time in line with my priorities, but I’m doing exactly what I love. I don’t even feel like my work is work because I’m always learning. I feel really lucky.
NF: Have you gone on trips by yourself since your around-the-world trip?
HOLLY: I went to China for the first time and was there for a couple weeks. I went to Israel, which I just loved. I’m still traveling on my own and checking off those dream places that I want to see when I can.
NF: Tell me a little about this charity run you are organizing: Runaway Bridesmaids.
HOLLY: Runaway Bridesmaids is something that has been in the works for a very long time. Ever since we took our trip and were with Village Volunteers while we were volunteering with the girls in Africa, I always wanted to find a way to help those volunteers. I also wanted to find a way to help other women and girls have the opportunities that I’ve been so lucky to have. One day I was sitting around with Jen and Amanda and we were talking about how we have all of these bridesmaid dresses and we were thinking,“We’re never going to wear that tangerine orange dress to a cocktail party.” So I said why don’t we run in dresses and we could call it Runaway Bridesmaids. It would give women a chance to put their bridesmaid dresses back to use for a good cause. So, we are going to run in dresses on Sept. 22 for the 5th Avenue Mile in NewYork City. We’re trying to get a team of women and men — we’re recruiting guys to run in dresses, too. We’re raising money for VillageVolunteers under New Light, which runs a series of shelters for the kids of sex trafficking and the children of sex workers who have nowhere to go when their moms are working. They need another shelter built in India’s biggest red-light district in Calcutta. It actually turned out to be something bigger. I called Crowdrise, which is this amazing crowdsourcing, fundraising site, and they agreed to make us a future fundraising project. They also offered to give us five charity spots in the New York City Marathon. So now we’re running the marathon in dresses on Nov. 4. If you join our team on Crowdrise, whoever raises the most money wins a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. That was one of the first stops, coincidentally, on the Lost Girls trip.
NF: For people hesitant to leave the security of their lifestyle to go and travel for a while, what advice would you give them?
HOLLY: I would say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. You have everything to gain — even though you may think you’ll lose things: relationships, jobs — I think in the end taking a chance to go after a dream will only work out in your favor. It won’t be easy but I think that you will benefit from it. Also, not everyone has to do what we did and take a year off. You can get the same benefits by taking a volunteer vacation or going away to build a school or whatever it is that’s your passion. If travel is a priority to you, make time and then just do it. Anytime you step off of your automatic pilot and get out of your comfort zone to experience something new, you’re going to learn and grow. And I think that’s the point of life, to learn and grow.