North Iredell High graduate Salem Haire poses for a photo with some of the many friends she has made during her world travels.


Salem Haire turned 22 in a remote tribal village in the South Pacific, on a day spent up to her hips in mud, searching for prawns.

Later that evening, she would be surrounded by the village’s children, who sang “Happy Birthday” and gave her a homemade cake.

For the 2019 North Iredell High School graduate, it was just another day on what would become a three-year adventure that spanned nearly 4,000 nautical miles and over a dozen countries.

“I’ve always been searching for this sense of freedom,” Haire explained.

“I’ve always been searching for this sense of freedom,” she said.

That seize-life mentality was solidified following an accident in 2018. Salem was hit by a van while crossing Broad Street in Downtown Statesville and underwent a lengthy recovery.

“I remember everyone saying, ‘You’re here for a reason, God gave you a second chance.’ It made me feel I have to be impressive in some way because I have been given this chance,” she said. “You understand how fast life can end when it almost does. That experience — when you almost die — sure, it could happen anywhere, but at least you did what you wanted to do and saw what you wanted to see.”

From Hawaii, Salem would travel to Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Venice, Iceland, Poland, Hungary and Austria. In between some trips, she’d return to Statesville, but never for long. Throughout her travels, she remained in school online, completing her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State’s Global Campus.

“I began to have the mindset of making (world travel) a lifestyle,” she said. Work-exchange opportunities allowed Salem to travel widely, while working at hostels in trade for food and housing. And then came the opportunity of a lifetime.

Salem applied to be one of three apprentice crew members for Sailing Ripple Effect, which has a mission to sail around the world. The journey is filmed for episodes on YouTube. To her surprise, she was chosen for the two-month, all-expenses-paid sailing adventure.

She did not know how to sail, and the learning curve was steep. Within 24 hours of stepping on the boat, she was manning a night shift on her own, lashed to the boat so she wouldn’t be knocked overboard by the waves.

“It felt like I was in school again. With a boat that wasn’t ours and you’re really trying not to wreck it. The only option we had was to do it and do it right,” she recalled.

On Salem’s portion of the trip, the crew sailed 3,500 nautical miles and visited remote places in the South Pacific, including the Solomon Islands. Their goal was to provide basic medical care and services for residents, as well as offer education on health, wellness and conservation.

The islands brought their own series of adventures, from drinking Kava with tribal chiefs to stitching palm leaves to make a roof to eating birthday cake with the villagers of Vanuatu. There were games of “Duck, Duck, Goose” with children and days helping at local schools, feasts of tropical fruits and even an original song performed by villagers.

“We would stay for days and help these communities. They just bring you in like you’re their family.”

When the sail came to an end in November 2023, Salem said she was certain of one thing: “I never once thought, ‘I am going to go back home.’ ”

Instead, she found a work-exchange doing social media for a surf club in Bail, Indonesia, for four months. Then it was home to Statesville for two weeks in March before making a six-month return to the coast in Portugal to do social media work for a surf camp.

After that? Well, it’s a wide world, and Salem said she still has plenty to explore.

“Travel just opens your mind up in ways you can’t learn otherwise. You see all walks of life,” she said. “It’s crazy how much you can have in common with someone who lives 10,000 miles away.”

Her mother, Trevla Pulliam, is not surprised that seeing the world has become a way of life for her daughter. “She has this confidence, and she’s just fearlessly jumped into these situations. She’s so excited about new people and new cultural experiences.”

Salem acknowledges her global lifestyle comes with plenty of challenges as well as rewards, but she says that’s part of the appeal.

“As a person, I have entered a new level of confidence and believing in myself. Whenever I get off a plane and I am by myself, I get a runner’s high. You’re in the middle of nowhere, everyone speaks a different language and you have basically no money,” she said with a laugh. “That sounds so fun. I wish I was doing it now.”


Salem’s travels with Sailing Ripple Effects are featured in Season 7 and can be viewed on YouTube on the Sailing Ripple Effect channel.

Haire takes a turn at the controls on her sailing adventure.

Editor’s Note: The article was originally published in the April edition of “IFN Monthly.”

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