Katie Bangs: March 2014’s A Lady Away



Katie is fun.

She’s one of those women who’s laugh is infectious, who always sees the bright side and on whom you can count to have your back. I first met Katie sometime in the late 1990’s at Clearwater Camp and, like everyone else at camp, I was taken to her immediately. Her outgoing personality coupled with her social nature made Kate a big presence at Clearwater.

Katie in New Zealand.
Katie in New Zealand.

Thanks to the wonders of social media I’ve been able to keep up with Katie and her many adventures all around the world. A woman after my own heart, Katie has a growing list of places she wants to go and things she wants to do, as well as an impressive list of things she’s managed to tick off. A Northern Wisconsin native, Katie traveled around the US growing up but found her true passion for travel during her semester abroad in London. “In one semester I traveled to about 10 countries (and also to two new continents), and I was hooked!” Around the time that Katie fell in love with travel her mother took a teaching job in England, thus giving her an excuse to spend holidays in Europe. “Suddenly our Thanksgiving reunion was in Munich instead of Madison, Wisconsin and our Christmas was in Rome instead of Minneapolis.” Life for Katie would never again be the same.

Katie and friends in Grand Cayman.

Though it was a bit of a roundabout path to get there, Katie has managed to marry her personal passion for travel with her professional passion for youth and counseling. “I didn’t honestly know what I wanted to do with my life, career wise,” Katie remembers, “I  had completed graduate school to be a Marriage and Family Therapist and had worked for 3 years after grad school [with college freshman] at a University in California.” At 28 Katie decided to take advantage of New Zealand then Australia’s work visa program (work must be started before your 31st birthday.) One day while working a mindless fruit packing job in a Kiwi pack house it hit her: “I remember very clearly the moment that I realized I wanted to be a school counselor—it would provide me with the opportunity to work with kids in a positive way, would provide me with time off to travel, and would provide me with a valid way to get international work permits/visas.” Taking all of this into account, Katie knew that this was the logical next step for her. Being a school counselor, a career she had never considered in her early 20’s, now allows Katie the flexibility to see the world while earning a living in a professional she finds meaningful and fulfilling.

Take advantage of all of the opportunities that come your way and say ‘yes’ to lots of jobs, experiences, friendships, and adventures…and suddenly all of your experiences will add up and you will land where you need to be.  I hadn’t planned this career, but all of my past experiences somehow perfectly prepared me for this life that I now live.

Diving, another passion of Katie’s, is a convenient hobby to have in her new home.

Katie has even managed to take this career one step further by getting a job at an International School. I met up with her briefly on Grand Cayman, where she’s been working since 2012 and plans to stay for another year or so. Sitting across from Katie at the Grand Cayman airport (I was flying out after a week of diving and she’d just flown in from a work conference) I couldn’t help but notice how happy she is in this life where she spends her weekends diving, island hopping and meeting travelers from all over the world. “I love to chat with people, wander, listen, people-watch, and get into the scene,” Katie explains, “I know that some people are intimidated to travel solo (or eat solo, go to movies solo, etc), but I think this makes you so much more approachable and also helps you to be open to different people and experiences. I definitely meet a lot more people when I’m solo versus traveling with friends.”

Katie and Suz on the John Muir trail in California.
Katie and Suz on the John Muir trail in California.

There are so many things I love and can relate to about Katie but probably none more so than her sense of adventure and and love for the great outdoors – we met at summer camp, after all! In summer 2010 Katie and Suz, another Clearwater camper, hiked the John Muir trail in California. A lot of planning needs to go into a trip like this one. Like in the bestseller (and soon to be movie) Wild, Katie and Suz had to carry all of their gear on their backs and send food and other supplies to the small post offices along the trail to retrieve at intervals. “Planning for these trips usually begins by buying a book or two, doing online research, reaching out to friends who are from that area of the world or who have already been on an adventure there or reading blogs,” Katie explains, ” It really depends on what the trip is to determine how much planning is needed.  For the John Muir Hike Suz and I had to do tons of research and preparation, because that is what is needed to complete this hike.” And the hike is no small feat – Katie and Suz completed 240 miles in 20 days, starting in Yosemite Valley and ending it all atop Mount Whitney.

Katie takes in the view.
Katie takes in the view.

As travelers well know, one adventure inspires the next, and Katie is no exception. “Honestly, I have a running list of about 60 adventures that I want to go on immediately!  I have so many adventurous friends, that I am always hearing about interesting places and cool adventures, and so my life is always expanding as is the top trip on my list.” So what’s next for Katie? “I have just decided to spend the summer in Switzerland by doing an apartment exchange with another international school counselor I recently met.” Katie’s busy gearing up for what will sure to be an incredible summer.

Katie is an expert at moving to a new place for an extended stay, a process that can be daunting to those who have never done it before. Below she offers advice on how to make the most out of living abroad.

  • Be a flexible solo traveler: Honestly, I love to move to new places.  Moving to England for my gap year was easy, because I had already studied abroad there.  Moving to NZ was tougher…even though I was super excited, I remember getting hit with an acute feeling of anxiety right before leaving for New Zealand…I went without knowing anyone, anything, or having a job or apartment lined up.  In the end, this was the very best way to have approached that situation!  I was able to arrive to Auckland, suss out the situation and then make my decision about what to do first.  I loved every single day that I was in New Zealand, and my time was full of amazing adventures and wonderful people.  I think a lot of doors were open by my flexibility and openness and also because I was a solo traveler.


  • Let work take care of the nitty gritty: The visa process is complicated, but luckily in my line of work, my school handles all of the paperwork.  I have to provide a ton of documentation, but they deal with paying fees and getting it approved.  I had already used all of my exchange/working holiday visas, so without a secured job, it would be super hard for me to obtain a working visa any other way.
  • Use your international friends as resources:  I actually found a room to rent in through a friend in London who had friends in Cayman.  I moved to Cayman and moved into an apartment with a South African guy and a Trinidadian guy.  I lucked into a great apartment and the opportunity to meet great people.
  • Become a part of your new community: I am very social, and this helps!  I love to chat with people, wander, listen, people-watch, and get into the scene.  I think the willingness to be out and about helps you to meet people.  When I move somewhere I try to get involved in activities and causes that I love, and this is how I can connect with people outside of work or my living situation. 


4 thoughts on “Katie Bangs: March 2014’s A Lady Away

  1. I was one of Kate’s teachers in a small northern Wisconsin town. It is great to see all the wonderful things she has done in her life!


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