New York Times writer launches epic journey with a visit to New Orleans

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NEW ORLEANS - She's 39, going on 52. Fifty-two journeys that is, globetrotting for The New York Times. Our Travel Girl, Stephanie Oswald, caught up with New Mexico native Jada Yuan as she was leaving New Orleans for  the next leg of her adventure.

"I left my apartment, packed everything up in one day and put it all in storage," says Jada, who will be on the road for almost the entire year; tweeting, posting and writing her way around the planet, from New Orleans to Australia.

"I've never made it to that continent and that is sort of a big goal and that's at the very end of the trip, so I'm excited about that," she says, an hour before boarding a plane at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.

She turns 40 in April and will head back to New York City for that milestone celebration, but in the meantime, she cheerfully joined the tricentennial birthday fun happening in New Orleans.

She witnessed Krewe du Vieux for the first time (and got a behind-the-scenes look at the Krewe den the day after), spent time in New Orleans East at the Dong Phuong Bakery, met up with a marching band at ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, and learned how to twerk at Dancing Grounds dance studio.

The fact is, Jada was a fan of The Big Easy well before this recent adventure.

She recalls one fond memory, "I bought shoes when I was here once. I bought sneakers, and they were brand new when I started and by the end of the trip they had holes in them from dancing in the streets."

While in Nola, she caught some backlash for one of her tweets, which read in part: "No one walks on the street after dark."

"Basically I said that people were telling me to to be safe, which is true. I made a generalization about how no one walks on the streets at night and what I really meant to say was it seems like people were warning me as a woman walking alone, with a lot of stuff, looking like a tourist, maybe 'watch your back a little bit.' That was what was going on. I worded it badly and I'm sorry for that," she says.

In true New Orleans style, she was quickly forgiven. She says many of the folks who remarked against her original post went on to welcome her and offer advice, such as where to watch Krewe du Vieux.

"It sort of went from being a little mad at me to, 'Have a great time; I hope you're enjoying yourself," she says.

Jada says New Orleans taught her to chill; to make time for good meals, good drinks and good times.

"Don't take everything so seriously," she smiles.

We watched her head for the TSA line wearing no beads, but hiding a bit of New Orleans-to-go in her day pack: she bought some beignets to eat on the plane.

"Clouds of powdered sugar all over me, I'm getting ready for that!" she laughs.

Be safe Jada, we'll see you next time.

Want to follow Jada's journey? She's @alphajada on Instagram, and @jadabird on Twitter.

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