Despite only being 21 years old, model/influencer-turned-DJ Charly Jordan has been all over the world and learned her fair share of lessons along the way. Before Jordan amassed over four million followers on Instagram and five million TikTok fans, she was simply doing what she loved best — following her instincts while allowing various modeling opportunities to take her down new roads. Leaving the comfort of a daily routine behind and seeing the world.
“You can’t just take a plane and stay at a resort and drink and eat food that you’ve had a million times,” Jordan tells me over Zoom. “I know that not everyone is looking for those new experiences, people like to be comfortable — I’m just not like that.”
That hunger for new experiences has gotten Jordan into trouble. Like when she took a trip to Rwanda amid the COVID-19 pandemic — something she’s apologized for (on various occasions) without denying that the public backlash was justifiable. Jordan took her lumps and says she’s learned from the experience, while recognizing that life is a journey full of mistakes that challenge us to grow.
With our own feet itchy and collective hopes for the return of travel dialed up to 11, we asked Jordan to her favorite destinations and offer advice for a new generation of young travelers — eagerly awaiting their chance to see the world for the first time.
Let’s start off with a long one. What are three travel destinations you love and why? They don’t have to be your favorites, just what you’re feeling now.
That is a loaded question but I love it! Usually, people just ask me what my favorite spot is, but you gave me three! Each place is so unique and different, trying to pick a favorite is impossible.
Just over an hour north of Vancouver, Whistler is one of the biggest ski and snowboard locations in the entire world. It’s a majestic ski town in the middle of the mountains. There are all these underground clubs and bars, and during the day you get to ski through the most beautiful high altitude perfect powder snow.
There are also these ice caves that have been around for upwards of 3,000 years, just these massive ice caves on top of these glaciers in Whistler, and you have to take a helicopter up there in order to go. When I was up there, and I know this sounds weird, it was the first time I ever heard pure silence in my entire life. My ears were ringing because they were so used to hearing something and it was completely silent on this glacier.
The ice cave is wild, it looks like Ice Age, just beautiful indented ice walls. I’ve never experienced anything like that, it’s probably the most unique experience I’ve had.
When I went to South Africa, we went to work with cheetahs with cleft lips at Cheetah Experience Ashia. They were starting to inbreed with each other, because there weren’t other cheetahs and all of these baby cheetahs were being born with birth defects and couldn’t survive in the wild.
Also while I was there, I saw great white sharks, which was crazy because they are literally dinosaurs. It was the first time seeing them and that really stood out to me.
Kauai is probably the most beautiful, green, majestic, spiritual, and soulful place I’ve ever spent time.
In Kauai, you have this long untouched coastline, called the Nā Pali Coast. It’s very remote and you have to hike in along trails or take a boat or jet ski to the beaches. I was super lucky and I literally cried when I first saw it. I don’t know how you look at something and it makes you cry but I was looking at all this nature, and I literally just started bawling.
I thought, “Wow, this is the epitome of experiencing all of the beauty that the natural world has to offer.”
What advice can you offer young or new travelers from your experience so far?
The whole first year that I traveled I just did road trips. I know that doesn’t sound super luxurious, but you have to start somewhere. There are usually so many incredible things around where you live that you really should start there first.
Here are some tips Jordan offered:
- Get comfortable being able to stay places you aren’t used to on budgets. Airbnb is awesome, but try hitting up people. Instagram was the main facilitator for my early travels. I would DM other people who were where I was going like “Yo,” to other people who take pictures and made videos and liked to travel. I’d meet up with people and do cool projects. It wasn’t just me by myself traveling. I was always meeting up with people.
- Obviously, have money saved up in your account. I had no real income when I was doing road trips all over Utah the first year. I was just taking pictures and meeting up with people. I’d find people and say, “Hey let’s take your car and go to this really cool hike and spend a couple of nights underneath the stars.”
- Remember that your carbon footprint is very important. Flying places and constantly going everywhere definitely has an effect on the environment. We can educate people on smaller things too, like avoiding single-use plastics, having a little less meat, or being more reliant on fruits and vegetables to help offset your personal footprint.
- Don’t get too comfortable. When you’re traveling you have to be ready for anything. You have to be able to take care of yourself. There are so many random things that happen when you travel. Make sure you meet up with good people. It takes a lot of personal judgment and you have to be discerning. You have to have a good head on your shoulders when it comes to the traveling and social media stuff. There are people doing things for the right reason and the wrong reasons.
- Surround yourself with good people. It’s also important to have good people around you when you travel. I went by myself for a long time, which was not a bad thing. But it’s really nice to be able to share those moments when you’re at these places and doing things with people you care about.
Can social media get in the way of “authentic” travel experiences?
I feel like I’ve learned so much and had so many incredible experiences and met so many different people. It has made me less sure of who I am, because I have seen so many incredible things and people. That can be humbling. There are so many amazing incredible individual lives everywhere. That’s why it’s been great to share my travel experiences through social media.
I didn’t come from the best situation. When I started traveling and doing Instagram, I was modeling. So I would fly out to Hawaii to shoot for a company. While I was there, I’d make my own travel content and people would see these beautiful pictures, and then I would go “home,” but literally didn’t have a place to live or didn’t know if I could afford my next meal.
I’ve always been very transparent. It’s not the most flattering thing on a social media platform for thousands of people to see me crying about how beautiful a place is. I share my thoughts and feelings and I think that the cathartic experience of being able to go through something with other people, even if they’re not there physically, is important. It’s better than being completely alone.
I like being alone and spending time with myself, but I don’t like being lonely. But if I didn’t have social media, I’d probably be taking pictures and videos anyway.
Where’s the next place you want to go?
To see the Northern Lights, probably in Iceland. I’ve wanted to go there for so long. Whether it’s Iceland or Lapland, anywhere I can see them, I’m going.