Follow Your Passion: A Traveller Sees the World in Stories

Featured image: Marín Fryling performing goddess stories and a ritual at Aphrodite’s beach, Paphos, Cyprus

How a collector of stories became a travelling storyteller

By Amanda Burgess, Editor, JourneyWoman

Any woman with a full and active life has hobbies and passions that she follows to interesting corners where she is exposed to a diverse array of people who share her interests. If you’re reading this, you’re one such woman, and your top passion is likely travel. Yet if there’s one thing I have learned about JourneyWomen, it’s that they are as multidimensional as they are open, curious, and interested.

When JourneyWomen travel, they pack each journey full of the things they’re most passionate about – some of them building entire trips around those interests, which we are exploring in this new Follow Your Passion series.

Read on to discover how one woman became a travelling storyteller and made wandering her life.

Every traveller loves a good story, and a seasoned traveller has suitcases full. Some make travelling and telling stories their lives and livelihood, following in the footsteps of the Medieval bards or Irish seanchaí. Like Juliana Marín Fryling, a travelling storyteller from Colombia. 

After discovering Vivapalabra, the school for storytelling and oral narration in her home city of Medellín, she understood that becoming a travelling storyteller was her purpose. After graduating from the school in 2015, Marín Fryling attended a storytelling festival in the United States. Storytelling was so completely different there than it is in Colombia, which made her realize that her storytelling education was only now beginning. 

“I took off to travel solo around Europe for a year, going to different storytelling workshops and festivals and meeting other storytellers, and I covered any expenses from my trip by telling stories along the way,” she says. “When I travel, I wear a colourful dress and carry a sign. I generally approach people and with a big smile announce that I have come all the way from Colombia to tell them a story. People are usually curious enough to want to hear it. They then get to pick a five-minute tale from my story bag, coloured by category. If I’m in a place long enough, I can set up an hour-long event at a cozy theatre or artsy café after making friends with the owners, and then I can tell some of my longer stories and pass the hat at the end.” 

A woman opening a white bag filled with stories written on colourful paper

Marín Fryling ‘s story bag

The kinds of stories that draw Marín Fryling’s interest are from folk and fairy tales, literature, history, legend, and mythology. She needs to love the story, or the telling of it simply doesn’t connect. Some stories have followed her at certain periods of her life. She knows hundreds of stories that she never tells. Some she has stopped telling because she no longer agrees with their meaning and message.

“I generally love stories that make me think. To surprise me or move me in some way. People can find themselves crying at a story, and express bewilderment: Why am I crying? This didn’t happen to me. But of course, it happened to you. That’s why you’re crying. That’s the power of story. A story can only break your heart if your heart is already broken,” she says. 

She sometimes travels to a place for the express purpose of visiting an area where a story she tells originated. She feels inspired standing in a spot and thinking: “Oh! So, this is where X happened!” Even if she knows it may never have happened at all. 

“Once, we did a witchy ritual on the beach in Cyprus where Aphrodite first washed up to shore, and I told stories about goddesses around the world. That was extraordinarily magical. 

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Juliana with her backpack and flag

Marín Fryling travels in colourful clothing and carries a sign to draw an audience for her storytelling

Greek myths in general have been fascinating to chase down. As well as all the stories of the Bible,” she says. “Visiting the Cave of Zedekiah in Jerusalem was surreal. Many people have heard of King Solomon. Few people know that, aside from being a wise king of Israel, in folklore—including several stories in the Arabian Nights—Solomon is known for his magical powers. Not only does he have a flying carpet, but essentially, he’s a demon hunter. This is the cave where Solomon is said to have imprisoned the jinn. Yes, like the genie in Aladdin’s lamp. Those jinn. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.”

For Marín Fryling, combining two of her greatest passions is all about connection with people. Sometimes a listener will ask her to perform at birthday parties or company gatherings or invite her to stay with them for a little while. 

“It’s the magic that happens. Hearing, over and over: That story came exactly at the right time. It’s not every day that people encounter a travelling storyteller, and I know I’ve made an impact. People have told me I’ve changed their lives – either from the story they needed to hear, or from being inspired by my journey to go out and start their own,” she says. “It’s so beautiful to feel like I have finally found my Soul’s Purpose, something that fills me with light and joy, and that also contributes to healing the world.”

Three Big Life Lessons from a Travelling Storyteller

1. Not everyone loves stories: “And that’s ok. Some people simply view the world in more abstract ways, and stories don’t quite speak to them. But I’ve found more often than not, the people who tell me they don’t like stories are the ones who aren’t curious about others. I have no interest in hearing what the other side of the world has to say. (Yes, someone actually told me that. Yes, he was American.) In one form or another, stories are what bring us together. And stories will be all that’s left of us when we’re gone.””

2. Storytelling is understood differently around the world: “In the US, people think of storytelling as an older lady with a picture book for kids at a school or a library. In the UK, you find a lot of storytelling as therapy, in hospices, or for people with learning disabilities. Greece is big on reclaiming the old tradition. In Colombia, it’s the young, the angry, and the broken-hearted who flock to storytelling, because it’s about diving deep into those raw emotions, going right to where it hurts, saying the things you cannot say. I can learn a lot about a culture from the stories they tell, and, most importantly, the stories they don’t tell. They show what people are afraid of.”

3. Stories are medicine: When I’m down, I ask myself what story do I need to hear right now? The right story will pop into my head like magic, even if it’s one I haven’t thought about in years. Stories guide me.”

Do you have a hobby, interest, or deep passion that you weave into your travels or build entire trips around? If so, we want to hear your story! Share it with us in the comments.

Follow Your Passions

Amanda Burgess, a Toronto-based writer and creative strategist whose bags are always packed for her next adventure, is our Editor at JourneyWoman. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and a Certified Cancer Journey Coach who creates a safe space for cancer patients and caregivers to design their dream lives – while living with cancer, and on the other side of it.

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