Friday, February 26, 2010

Volunteer Spotlight: Emily Johns

World-traveler and world-class travel educator!

Tell us about the types of volunteering positions you've had at the hostel.
I've done a number of things at the hostel since I started volunteering two years ago. I started off as a Chicago guide, which I still do sometimes. I especially like going to concerts in Millennium Park. It's nice to go to something I was planning to see anyway, but taking along a bunch of interesting people and showing them the city. I've also done a few lectures about how to travel and places I've been. The most fun was the Taste and Travel last week--after talking about Brazil for half an hour I got to go and talk with other travellers and volunteers while the chef at Whole Foods made one of my favorite Brazilian meals! My favorite volunteer activity is Cultural Kitchens, though. I love cooking and I love interacting with the funny, bright teenagers who always seem to be in the kitchen!

Do you stay involved in the international community in any other way?
I have a lot of friends in different countries all over the world, so that's my main outlet to international affairs other than the news. I haven't been able to travel as much lately as I'd like, but I have a trip to Uruguay coming up in March!

What is your most memorable traveling experience?
There have been a lot of great travelling experiences, but one of my favorites was in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. After trudging around the beautiful old city all day I went back to the hostel, only to find that I was the only woman staying there that night. No big deal. But I was quite surprised an hour later to find myself sitting on a couch, surrounded by boys, eating warm homemade linzertorte and watching the latest Reese Witherspoon hit (not my selection).

What's your favorite place in Chicago?
My favorite place in Chicago is the Cultural Center. I've always loved it--when I was a kid I would walk through the rooms and plan where my furniture would go when it was my private home. I think it's the most beautiful building in the city (and one of the best I've ever seen in the world) and I love that it's open (and free!) to the public, full of great lectures, concerts, and art galleries, and right across the street from one of my other favorite places in the city!

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