By MARK KENNEDY
Chattanooga Times Free Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Becca Hisamoto, 28, felt the first pangs of wanderlust almost a decade ago when she was in college at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Hisamoto, who lives in Chattanooga now, took two college classes while studying abroad during a summer spent in London, Paris and Rome. She hopscotched around Europe to fairs and festivals as part of earning a degree in event planning.
“It didn’t feel like school,” she recalled of the 2013 trip abroad. Hisamoto spoke with the Chattanooga Times Free Press by phone. “I’d always loved to travel, but after going abroad I knew: I was hooked and needed to find a career in the travel industry.”
Fast-forward nine years, and Hisamoto has done just that. She is a travel coordinator for a company called Exceptional Vacations, which plans mostly domestic trips for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Meanwhile, she has honed her personal travel-planning skills to the point she is on the precipice of completing a serious bucket list item. She’s about to join the Seven Continents Club before she turns 30.
Hisamoto said she is not a wealthy person but has learned how to travel using work exchanges, arrangements that allow her to earn food and lodging in exchange for work as an English teacher, gardener or child care worker, for example. She has checked off six continents so far and has a trip planned to Antarctica in November.
“As soon as I got my first taste (of travel), I wanted to see everything,” she said. “Over time, I was like, ‘I could hit all seven continents.’ Then, to make it more challenging, I set a goal of visiting all the continents by my 30th birthday.”
Hisamoto said she and a friend will take a flight to the southern tip of Argentina, where she will embark on a 10-day excursion to Antarctica through the Drake Passage, the infamously windy and rough stretch of ocean between South America and the southernmost continent.
“Over those 10 days, we will spend two full days crossing the Drake Passage. We will live aboard the ship and take Zodiacs (inflatable boats used to transport passengers onto land). Hopefully, we will be in Antarctica for four days.
“It’s unbelievably exciting,” Hisamoto said. “It’s been such a dream of mine.”
Hisamoto said she decided early in her 20s that she would pull out all the stops to travel the world while she is still young. World travel is a mindset, a way of finding context in an ever changing world, she said.
“I hope that travel is always part of my life goals,” she said. “I didn’t want to wait until I was older or retired.
“I’m young and healthy, but as I grow older, I think I will still travel, although maybe not to this extent.”
After Antarctica, Hisamoto has trips planned to China and the Middle East next year.
Too, she’s added a goal to her bucket list. Her next challenge is visiting all Seven Wonders of the World.
“I have four already checked off,” she says enthusiastically.