Smiling while trying to cover up a yawn, Kelsey Haeger sips on her coffee in a navy blue jacket, apologizing for being tired. “I’m very busy right now! Working full time is kicking my butt,” she explains. Working as a project manager at Creative Circle in Dallas is only one item on a plate full of things Kelsey is balancing right now. This Plano gal is constantly searching for her next adventure through travel. And you can play a role in deciding where she’ll go next.
Although Kelsey already has a degree in International Business from Missouri State University, she’s ready for another kind of degree — her Global Degree. Coined by Michael Graziano, Global Degree started through a social media post where Michael asked his followers to join him in traveling the world. Videographer Alex Hennessy joined and they raised money through Kickstarter and started a YouTube series called Global Degree to document their trip.
The idea is that to get your Global Degree, you have to travel to every U.N. nation. Fast forward a couple years, and Global Degree is now sponsored by Hostelworld and Flight Center, which allows the Global Degree team to travel to every country in the world and share their experiences with their online audience.
Last year, the Global Degree team held a contest for a third travel host to join them, and Kelsey applied while she was still in college but did not get accepted. Instead, photographer Natalia Anja won and traveled with the team to Asia. Now, they are about to start filming season three, and they’ve opened the contest again for a fourth host. This time, Kelsey is more excited to join the team than ever before.Watch Kelsey's Video & Vote >
The St. Louis native moved to Plano when she was about four-years-old, but she began traveling even earlier. At six months old, Kelsey had already left the country for the first time. “What’s interesting, what most people wouldn’t know from looking at me, is that my mom is from Brazil, so I’m, like, super Brazilian. I have a whole life in Brazil too.” Kelsey says. You’d never guess that this blonde with blue eyes grew up speaking Portuguese as her first language, and she also knows Spanish, a little Italian and, obviously, English.
For Kelsey, traveling has a special meaning. “I can literally pinpoint it to the day that I became interested in traveling,” Kelsey recalls. “I was seven years old and sitting in the living room with my mom. She was showing me pictures of her and my grandmother’s travels from the ‘70s. They just went on this world adventure and it was amazing. That was the moment I was just hit with the travel bug, you know?”
Like many people who grew up in Texas, the first place Kelsey remembers traveling to (outside of Brazil) is Mexico, where she went at age 10. From there, Kelsey spent a lot of time in Latin America, and did not leave the Americas until she was 18 and did a classic European vacation with her mom and grandma.
“We went everywhere,” she laughs, when attempting to describe all the places she saw on that month-long trip. They explored all of Western and Central Europe except for Scandinavia, visiting around 23 countries in total. It was a blur of beautiful scenery and experiencing local cultures in an intimate way.
If she were giving out awards for countries that she has visited, Kelsey has narrowed it down to four:
The Most Beautiful Country award would go to Switzerland, because it is “absolutely breathtaking.” She describes driving on the highway, marveling at all the trees and mountains and “twelve waterfalls just falling off the mountain — twelve waterfalls!”
For her Favorite City award, Kelsey would choose Prague, because “it was the perfect blend of new city but old historic castle.”
For her Favorite Country award, she would choose Italy because she loves “the culture, Italians, the language. Even whiny little kids sound so beautiful there.”
Her Most Impactful Country award would go to Morocco because it was the first time she had ever experienced Arabic culture and it was “the most eye-opening and stunning experience of my life. Just indescribable.”
If Kelsey wins the Global Degree contest, she will go on an eight-month trip to Europe from April through November of this year, where she will visit a total of 50 countries. In addition, Kelsey would be the newest travel host on the Global Degree team, and would stay on for as many more seasons as they make the show. She says, “I think this would be a career choice, a lifestyle. I think my whole life would change if I won it now. It would be just so amazing.”
The winner will be chosen by both the number of votes that their video receives and by a panel of judges. As of publication date, Kelsey has 262 votes and is in the 25th spot. For American contestants, voting ends February 29 and the winner is announced March 25.
That means if Kelsey wins, she will only have a couple weeks between finding out and packing her bags to go! She’s ready for the challenge, because she has her parents’ full support. “They are praying about it and they are my biggest fans in this. I’m lucky because I know that for a lot of the applicants, family hasn’t been as supportive.”
Instead of a bucket list, Kelsey has a list of places she’s been, and she is not ready to stop yet. With a little help from our fellow Planoites, this hometown girl could be an travel the world, taking us along through her videos, representing the great city of Plano wherever she goes. Good luck, Kelsey, and happy travels!Watch Kelsey's Video & Vote >
Want to know Kelsey better? Here are a few fun facts about her:
Favorite restaurant in Plano: “Tony’s Café! We always go after church, and they know my family. My favorite meal from there is probably their specialty omelets, a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice.”
First job: “I worked as a server at Red Hot and Blue on Preston in Plano. A lot of people don’t like working as a server, but I loved it and worked with the best group. I still go back and visit them to get some great BBQ.”
College organizations: “I made it into the co-ed acapella group, “Pitch Perfect” style, and we got third place in regionals last year. It was so cool! I was also on the Handball team, and we won national titles all the time. I was a part of the International Students Club, which was kind of cheating since I was born in America, and then I was involved with the Opal Agency where I learned that copywriting is super cool.”
Favorite place in the world to watch the sunset: “The city where I studied abroad, Málaga Spain. It’s right on the Mediterranean Ocean, and there’s just nothing like a sunset over the water as far as the eye can see.”
Next on your must-visit list: “Greece and Africa. I had a friend in grade school at Faith Lutheran in Plano, who was from Ghana. I’ve always wanted to experience Ghana because it always seemed like a cool culture to me, just based on knowing her family.”
Travel collection: “I always try to get an accessory or an article of clothing when I travel somewhere. It’s just a fun little reminder for me. Anytime someone compliments that item, it takes me back to when I bought it in that place.”