She’s a Wanderer
The Quest to Seven Continents
Shipley Foltz has logged enough miles to circumvent the Earth twice—with a few thousand to spare. Like others bewitched by wanderlust, Foltz’s predilection for travel was sparked by the exuberance of globetrotters she admired. “I was really close to my godmother,” Foltz says. “She was a huge traveller. She and my grandmother, who also loved to travel, left me money when they passed away. That, along with money I received as Christmas gifts, allowed me to fund my travels.”
Foltz embarked on her first solo overseas trip at the age of 11, when a Middlebrook teacher nominated her for the People to People Student Ambassador Program. She joined the Australia program that summer, the first of three excursions she would take with the organization. “I really can’t remember why I chose Australia. At the time it sounded exciting; going to the Great Barrier Reef and the Sydney Opera House, and it was a place where they spoke English,” she says. “I was away from my family, which was a big deal and kind of tough, but it was really fun.”
During the months preceding the trip, Foltz and her fellow ambassadors met weekly to get acquainted and learn about the country they were going to visit. Once there, the group spent time with students at an Australian school, stayed on a farm in the Outback, snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef, engaged with aboriginals, studied the environment and culture, and contributed humanitarian aid. ”We were rarely in the same place for more than a couple of days,” Foltz recalls.
The following summer, she and another group ventured to Europe, the next continent Foltz would explore, where they immersed themselves in the cuisine, culture, and daily lifestyles of the people of England, Ireland, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
Christmas day 2007 found her en route to Antarctica’s frozen tundra. “This was completely different than other People to People trips I’d taken,” Foltz explains. “There were 64 students from around the world who had never met—some from places that had serious conflicts with each other. You really got to know people and their cultures.”
The trip began in Argentina with daily lectures and excursions to Patagonia, Mendoza, Chile, and Peru’s renowned Machu Picchu and Cuzco. The students then traveled by ship from the tip of Argentina to Antarctica, accompanied by four chaperones and 21 scientists and researchers. Traversing the Drake Passage—reputed to be the world’s roughest seas—proved challenging as students attended their daily lectures in the vessel’s lower deck, clutching motion-sickness bags.
Assisting polar researchers, the students collected ice and water samples, visited research camps, observed penguins, watched whales, and studied sustainability and wildlife. “This was before people started paying attention to the melting polar ice caps, and to global warming and its impact on animals,” Foltz said. “I’ve never seen anything so pure and untouched as Antartica at that time.”
While attending high school at Lawrenceville, Foltz journeyed to South America. “I used to want to be an anthropologist, and so I was excited to visit the ruins in Belize and Guatemala. We even did some hands-on archeological work, excavating in the Mayan Ruins,” she says.
Foltz’s Lawrenceville travels also took her to Thailand when she and some friends, who were working on a communications application, were invited by the app’s founder to visit Bangkok. “The developers we were collaborating with were there,” says Foltz. “It was a great experience.”
She later ventured back to her mother’s hometown in the Philippines with her family, stopping in Hong Kong before heading home. “The Philippines is the most meaningful place I’ve travelled,” Foltz says. “I really feel that it’s a part of me.”
Following her graduation from Lehigh University, Foltz seized the opportunity to travel one last time before commencing her job search, spending two months in Africa—her seventh and final continent—with a friend who had family in Kenya. “We travelled to South Africa, Zambia, and Rwanda for a month on our own, before heading to Kenya. The first thing we did was visit the genocide museum,” Foltz says. “Seeing that and then seeing how they’ve recovered is amazing. Obviously, they have issues, but it’s incredible to see what they’ve gone through and where they are now.”
Her advice to aspiring young travelers? “Don’t be afraid to go somewhere unfamiliar and see how other people live their lives. We’re all the same; we just have different worldviews. There are good people everywhere.”