When I first ‘discovered’ Jen Morilla, aka The Social Girl Traveler, on Instagram I had never heard of the concept of ‘social travel‘. I mean, it’s obvious that the idea of travelling cannot be taken away from its social component as our adventures always have an impact on the people and places we connect with, irrespective of being aware of it or not. But I’m digressing. Today we’re speaking about Jen.
This Cuban-American beauty born in NY has been to over 35 countries – I know, easier said than done! She is our kind of traveler, in her own words…
When I’m traveling the world I’m on a mission to discover humanity, understand a culture and connect emotionally with people… and as I do that, I am tirelessly driven to leave a little something behind that can change a life
When I started Marbaii Collective, one of my commitments was to discover the stories behind people I admired, in the hope they brought life-changing inspiration to our lives. And I also knew from the beginning that I wanted to get to know more about Jen’s life, stories and tips.
So here it goes.
I only hope that Jen’s words put a smile on your face like they did on mine. Last warning? Once you get to the bottom, as it happens when you connect with someone with such energy, authenticity, realness and a life lived to the fullest, you won’t be the same.
#1 We could describe you as a full-time social travel blogger – is that right?
I’m a travel blogger whose purpose is to travel to create impact. I believe in changing the world and playing my part. I try and encourage others to do the same little by little.
I work a lot, but it doesn’t feel like ‘work’. When we say ‘work’ it has such a negative connotation, but it doesn’t have to. We need to seriously start changing that. We should all ‘work’ to do what we love. Working is essentially how we survive. It should be part of our lives, not take over them.
#2 You’ve impacted an estimated 2,700 people in 5 countries – what does that mean? How did it all started?
I didn’t want to just travel. I wanted to do something different. I love helping others. I’ve always volunteered and attended fundraisers, but I wanted to do something that meant REAL change. I looked into carrying water filters by Waves for Water. It’s not for all travelers, it’s for the ones that stay in a country for an extensive amount of time and immerse themselves in a culture. It’s for the travelers who create long-lasting friendships.
I consider myself that type of traveler.
So I started carrying the clean water filters by Waves for Water. I became what they call a ‘clean water courier’. I took them with me to countries that needed them, such as Indonesia, India, Nicaragua, Mexico and Guatemala. Each filter provides clean water for 100 people for up to 5 years – which is HUGE! I’ve been to 5 countries (twice in Mexico) and I’ve implemented about 27 filters now, which means that I’ve impacted an estimate of 2,700 lives! My goal is to reach 50,000 people in two years.
#3 How do you think people can travel more consciously? Share your best social travel tips with us!
People take vacations because they deserve them – they work hard all year and spending two weeks away from ‘normality’ is much needed. I encourage it! But I also think that times have changed and we shouldn’t look at social travel as a chore anymore, but rather as something we as humans should just do. I go on many trips and not all of them are impact-driven. Most are, but I usually ‘help’ for 2 or 3 days and the rest is a proper vacation or, in my case, work, which usually means it’s time for me to explore!
I believe that a good way people can start is by trying to help communities when they travel. Buying from LOCAL markets. Not getting your coffee at Starbucks when you’re visiting Guatemala – going to the local coffee shop instead. Supporting local businesses. Start thinking outside of the box. Keep in mind that everything helps economies grow. Also, when you put yourself in situations outside the common ‘touristic spots’, things start to happen. You’ll never know who you’re going to meet!
Don’t get your coffee at Starbucks when you’re in Guatemala. Go to the local coffee shop. Start thinking outside the box.
#4 When travelling and working is the same thing, as it’s your case, how do you find work/life balance?
This is a great question and a challenge for anyone starting a business or doing something they love. I can honestly say that after 2 years of travel blogging, I am NOW starting to get a hold on my balance. I’ve been looking into efficient and effective ways of working and creating content, as well as listening to my body. For example, when I don’t feel creative or feel like working, what do I do to help me.
#5 Do you have any rituals when travelling?
I love that you’re asking this. It might seem weird, but I actually grew up very family-oriented – my family always comes first. I had a younger brother who passed away few years ago. It was a tragedy and something that truly changed my life and the way I look at it. I carry a photo of him everywhere I go. It’s in my wallet – in any wallet I travel with in any country! It’s a must-have. I actually had my wallet stolen and I found it again with everything inside (even his photo). It’s like having an angel looking over me.
When travelling, I keep healthy by being active: surfing, hiking or going for long walks. I also have a yoga and meditation routine. Anything to keep my body, mind and soul happy.
#6 How do you keep healthy when travelling? Is that a priority for you?
Absolutely! The more I travel and the older I get, the more keeping healthy is a priority for me. I try to stay as active as possible: surfing, hiking, taking long walks, etc. Whatever keeps me active. I also have a short 20-30 minute yoga routine I usually do in the mornings before meditation. I think having your body, mind and soul happy is extremely important.
#7 You get really personal in many of your Instagram posts. We’ve read some messages about love and self-love. What is for you the secret for finding self-love? Do you think travel can have something to do with it?
This is SO important. I feel like there are so many people that go through life doing the same things. And when they realize it, they are unhappy or don’t love what they turned into or who they are. It happens to everyone at some point.
I do believe that traveling is of enormous help. It changes your routine and forces you to step out of your comfort zone. It also gives you a different perspective on life, especially when you travel for a cause. When you start being aware that some people are forever hungry or homeless, it wakes you up, you know?
I always say that you can’t love someone until you love yourself FIRST. A long time ago, I didn’t love myself or who I really was. I also didn’t care for myself as I do now. But your body, mind and soul is who you essentially are and all you have. It’s your temple and it’s the place to start to make changes.
Food For Thought: . Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘love’. Not love for what I do. Because we all know I love it. But love for who I am and who I want to be with. Why do we make love so complicated sometimes? It’s suppose to be simple. If we love who we are. It should be easy! . I am absolutely in love with myself! Haha I said it! Have you said it to yourself? And it isn’t in a vain or conceited way, but a humble, genuine matter. . How can you not love who you are and then try and love someone else? Right?- just wanted to share those thoughts. (I will also add that I love Greece too.) • • • • • • • • • • • •
💭Doing what you love is hard. It’s even harder figuring out to make a career out of it. There is something to be said about ‘the struggle’. ➵ When people ask me what I do. I usually reply with a simple: “a travel writer”. But when they ask for details. It’s a whole different story. With more depth. Filled with how, what, when, and why. ➵ I could have never imagined that is where my life would lead me. When I left my corporate job two years. I am so grateful so all my opportunities. And I can’t wait to see where life will take me.🙏🏼✨ ➵ That is the best part! Not knowing how you’ll get to your final destination and trusting in the universe. ➵ It’s scary. But the reward is worth those few moments of fear. I promise. It will pass and you will realize you will be okay.😉🙏🏼 ➵ Tag someone who needs to read this.💕
#8 Where is home for you? How does your ‘homely space’ look like when you travel?
Home is NYC, where I was born and raised.
But I’ve lived in Spain, London, Brazil, Australia and Costa Rica. My favorites were Spain and Australia. I would say Australia was amazing and I would go back and live there in a heartbeat. EXCEPT it’s far as hell! Especially from the people I love. Which makes moving halfway across the world difficult.
For me, home is just coziness. A place where I can feel like I belong. Where I have friends who I would almost consider family. My current apartment is my space. A certain décor, a certain smell. All those things make a place feel like ‘home’.
#9 Adventures have highs but also can have lows. What have been the best and the worst experiences in your travels?
I try to focus on the highs. Dwelling on the lows just makes it worse. There is only much you can do when things don’t go your way, you know?
I have a rule when something unwanted happens, for example, a delayed or missed flight, or loosing something: I give myself 5 minutes to be angry. I can cry, complain, get mad, whatever. But I only get 5 minutes. After that, end of the story – time to move on.
#10 Money and time are two of the main reasons or “excuses” to not travel. What would you say to people who affirm they ‘can’t afford it’?
That means they just don’t want it bad enough… It might not be a priority for them. It may sound mean, but it’s true. It’s human nature, and it goes for anything in life: if you want a new car, you’ll make or find the money to buy it.
When someone tells me ‘I don’t have time’, it’s because they don’t want to make time. When they say, I don’t have money, it’s because they don’t want to prioritize. Personally, I find ways to make money and make things happen. Period.
In a challenging situation, such as a cancelled flight, I have a 5-minute rule. I give myself 5 minutes to be angry, cry, get mad. After that, I move on.
#11 From your own experience, what tips would you give to people considering quitting their jobs and following their dreams?
If you literally wake up every morning and go to bed every night thinking of it, no matter how it looks, just do it. And keep an open mind. Everyone has different experiences for different opportunities. My only advice is if it’s something that will affect you deeply and you can’t stop thinking about it, just f**** do it. No one will do it for you. And I promise you’ll feel great after you’ve taken the step.
#12 What one advice would you give to someone never finding the moment, the money or the people to travel with in order to embark on their dreamt adventure?
Don’t ever wait for people. Go alone.
#13 In 10 years time… how do you picture yourself?
10 years is a long time – but I hope in 5 years to be an author, a TV personality and a public speaker. Hopefully I will have or be starting a family, have several businesses – mostly social enterprises – and really be making a positive change in the world.
A ‘QUICKIE’ WITH JEN//
I’ve been deeply inspired by several human beings: first and foremost, my mother, but also by author Melissa Ambrosini, Arianna Huffington, Oprah, Lili Gil (former boss), Mike Sherbakof (dear friend), and many other people
My motto is Live Your Life For You
I’m currently obsessed about food, always. Also, Melissa Ambrosini’s podcasts. And essential oils
When travelling, 10% planned and 90% going with the flow
My last adventure was in Mexico and it was soul healing
My next adventure will be in North Carolina and my goal is to create an amazing video to show my community. And to disconnect for few days
#1 in my travel bucket list… there are so many! New Zealand, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Goa, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Iceland and Amsterdam
A place to travel solo: South East Asia
A place to travel with your friend(s): South America
A place to travel with your partner: the world!
Follow Jen on:
All images sourced from Jen’s platforms (above),
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