As It Happens

She travelled to 52 places in 52 weeks and experienced 'amazing amounts of wonder'

Jada Yuan says her life will never be the same after she travelled to 52 places in one year for the New York Times.

Jada Yuan reflects on her year-long adventure as the inaugural New York Times 52 places correspondent

Jada Yuan landed her dream job at the New York Times — the coveted 52 places correspondent. (Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

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Jada Yuan says her life will never be the same after she travelled to 52 places in one year for the New York Times. 

The inaugural "52 places correspondent" saw the reporter visit a new city every week for 52 weeks, documenting her experiences along the way. 

In January 2018, Yuan told As It Happens host Carol Off how excited she was to embark on her "dream job." A year later, Off caught up with Yuan to find out how it went.

Here is part of their conversation. 

When we spoke with you, Jada, you called it your dream job. How dreamy was this past year?

It was a very hard year, I would say, mixed with amazing amounts of wonder. I can't believe how many places I've seen this year, and the kinds of places that I never would have visited on my own. 

I didn't even know that São Tomé and Príncipe was a country before I went there and I would say it's one of my top spots that I've ever been.

It's a little dual island nation off the coast of Africa on the west side, and yeah, I dream about that place.

You've been to so many places in this past year. Why do you dream of that place?

I went there on the recommendation of some UN habitat workers who I met in the airport line.

That whole experience for me was not only about being in this really beautiful place, but also about learning about this work that the UN habitat was doing to help a community that had been living in former slave quarters on a cocoa plantation, which I know you've written about before, moving them to better housing.

It just sort of opened up my eyes to sort of, I guess, what I could maybe do afterwards — things I could be reporting on once this project is over.

One of the things we talked about, and you write about in your wrap-up article, is the whole experience of being ... a woman alone traveling. What did you learn about that?

As a woman traveling alone, you're just vulnerable. People notice it. Women often notice it and they want to help you. But it's possible to go about it not being paranoid, but just watchful and cautious and still allow yourself to have a real experience. 

And you have advice for women traveling, solo-traveling, and I'll refer people to your article, but ... you asked me for advice before you left. I said good shoes, and don't check any bags. Did you listen to any of my advice?

I had good shoes and I definitely checked bags, but I didn't have any problem checking bags. ... I really only had two baggage mishaps. 

You only made one Canadian stop — Saskatoon. Why Saskatoon?

We picked Saskatoon because of the Remai ... art museum, and also just because the First Nations culture there is so strong.

I had a great experience doing an overnight teepee sleepover in Wanuskewin Heritage Park and we had First Nations guides who told us all about their culture. 

Being on that land, which is just sort of honey coloured and ... really full of spirits. So there's something about it where you just feel something very profound, or at least I did.

It was one of the more memorable experiences of the trip. There were a lot of them, but I think about that teepee a lot.

How are you going to have a normal life after this. I mean, how are you going to come home?

I feel like the life that I was living before I left for this trip doesn't exist anymore.

I don't feel like I'm a totally different person, but I'm changed. And the way that I look at the world has changed. And I feel calmer. I feel like I'm more trusting, and I want to have more adventures. I'm not so afraid.

So I can't go back to a normal life, whatever a normal life is supposed to be.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Ashley Mak. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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