Bartender Turned World Traveler

Eli Juren, 23, spent more than two years serving up drinks as a bartender at Saltine Oyster Bar in Fondren. But over the last few months, the Austin, Texas, native has turned world explorer, doing everything from sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru, to visiting the Taj Mahal.

Juren says the wanderlust started last year when he took a trip to India. He says one of the most remarkable memories from his month touring the country was listening to Hindu monks chant prayers and watching them perform their funeral ceremonies on the river with the rest of the city’s residents. He says it was a beautiful and spiritual experience.

“I knew I wanted to keep traveling,” Juren says.

Soon after, he moved to Peru for three months to volunteer with the Mother Teresa House, helping the disabled. While in South America, he did things such as take a boat ride through the Amazon rainforest, fish for piranhas and swim in the Amazon River in the middle of a tropical rainstorm.

At the end of 2016, Juren also traveled to Southeast Asia. He visited Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, and explored temples and waterfalls, and tasted exotic cuisine.

Juren has spent the past several months serving refugees in Greece. He has plans to go to Kathmandu, Nepal, and stay in a Buddhist monastery. He says he eventually wants to travel to North Africa, Turkey, Croatia and eventually French Polynesia.

Juren says he enjoys reading, hammocking and being out in nature. He also loves meeting people from all over the world and learning about their cultures. He says the focus of his travels has shifted more toward aiding others.

“It just feels good to help people,” he says. “We’re really lucky in the U.S., and I want to give back.”

Juren says that he hopes his journey will inspire other people to chase their dreams and venture out into the world.

“Life’s short,” he says. “I just want to spend my time helping people and living life to the fullest.”

Though he plans to live the life of a nomad these next several years, Juren says that he still considers Mississippi’s capital city, especially the Fondren area, to be his home base—a place that he knows he can come back to between his travels.

“I like the Fondren area,” Juren says. “It’s progressive. There’s always something going on. … I’m really grateful for Fondren and the community there.”

-Abigail Walker

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A freelance writer from the Deep South with a love of reading, writing, dramatic storytelling, indie music, and her corgi pup.

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