It’s quickly approaching the two year mark of my travels, and when I mention this to people, I get a lot of wide-eyed stares and wows. After the wows come the questions. So in this blog post I’m going to answer the most frequently asked questions I get, in a similar format as my very first blog post.
Where have you been?
My summary answer is: Four months road tripping in the USA, ten months in Central and South America, two months in the USA and now five months in Asia. For the specific countries and timeline, check my “stats” page.
How much longer are you going to travel?
I really don’t know yet. It really depends on money, if I get a job and if I get tired of traveling. I’m pretty sure I have at least another year in me.
Do you love it?
This is an easy one. Yes, I do love it. Full time travel is not perfect and there are days that I’m depressed or lonely or sick, but those days come and go so quickly.
Aren’t you tired of it?
No, I’m not yet tired of traveling. I do get tired, but usually it’s when I’m moving too quickly from place to place. If I start to get tired of traveling, I just stop somewhere for a week or two or four and unpack my bag and rest.
You’re so brave. Aren’t you ever scared?
I always laugh a little when I get this question. I don’t feel like a particularly brave person. I am just living my dream. It feels natural and easy for me to do exactly what I want to be doing. To me that’s not brave, it’s just common sense. If you always wanted to get married and have children, and then you do that, people don’t say “you’re brave”. They say, cool. I think the difference is that my goal of full time travel is not as common as the goal of a house with the white picket fence. And I’m very rarely ever scared of anything. Travel has helped me to conquer most of my fears.
Have you fallen in love?
Yes, I have fallen in love hundreds of times, with cities, with trees and flowers, with sunsets, with people, with cultures, and with myself. It sounds kooky, but this whole experience has opened my eyes to so much. The world is so much broader and interesting than my old life. I call my mom on FaceTime and tell her, “Oh mom, this country is beautiful. I love it here!” And she replies, “Laurie, you say that about all the places.” And she’s right! Every place I have been has been an amazing learning experience for me, and I love them all in a different way.
No, I meant have you found a boyfriend/husband?
Yeah, I know what you meant. I was just avoiding the question. I have met so many interesting and kind people from all over the world. I would be lucky to call any number of them my boyfriend, but I’m just not in a place emotionally or geographically to settle down. I’m still on my journey, and it’s a solo journey for now. I’ve broken a few hearts and have had my heart broken as well. What I do know now, is that I’m not worried of being alone or dying alone. I now see that there are so many great single people out there, who are ready and willing to share their lives. All of the good ones are not yet taken. I know that when the time is right for me, I will be ready. Until then, I’m having fun learning about myself and about others and what’s important to me and what qualities I want in a partner and what qualities I want to improve in myself.
Why aren’t you blogging more? Can’t you make a lot of money on the blog to keep the travels going?
The truth is I really don’t like blogging, and I don’t think I would be good enough at it to make money. I know some travel bloggers, and I know they work their asses off. You need to be in constant contact with your fan base, and you are often critiqued for your travel choices, your opinions, your spending habits, and your grammar and spelling. I just don’t need or want the constant feedback on my life from strangers who are not walking in my shoes. I also don’t feel like I have a unique enough niche in the travel world to be successful. I’m not the foodie traveler or the fashion traveler or the adventure traveler or the budget traveler. I’m just doing me, and I don’t have the ego to think that people would pay to read about me, except my mom and my aunts who are my biggest online fans and supporters.
In the past few months I have been loving Instagram. I do believe a picture is worth a thousand words, so a picture with a couple hashtags must be worth at least three thousand. #iloveinstagram. I’ve been having an on-going, internal debate about my Instagram though, about whether I want it to be ‘private’ for only my friends and family to see or ‘public’ to share my amazing photographic skills with the world. I actually opened my Instagram for public viewing, and I was oddly saddened by it. Now my likes and comments were from strangers and people I never met. It was different than when I got a “like” on my cat photo from my friend Katie because we met through our shared love of cats or a “like” on my bug picture from Glenn because he was with me in Nicaragua when my bug obsession started. These “likes” mean something to me, and in a small way keep me connected to those I love. The “likes” from strangers were just hollow and meaningless. My account is back to private, but who knows. Maybe someday that will change.
Are you going to write a book?
Maybe? I feel the same about writing a book as I do about writing a blog. Is there really something so special to write about? What’s the plot? What’s the lesson? What’s the ending? I could write a book that says something like “I went here and saw this and then I went there and saw that”. But that’s more just a journal, and I consider my Instagram my photo journal. I could write about my opinions on places I’ve been, but they are just that…my opinions, not facts. Does anyone really care what I think? I’ve read many travel books, and the ones that I loved have had some deeper purpose or some interesting challenge or some meaningful revelation at the end. If I have any of these, I will write a book, but I’ve read enough travel books to know that not all experiences are book-worthy. Granted, I still have more time. Maybe if I am kidnapped by North Korean dissidents and held captive for 76 days or if I meet a sexy billionaire who sweeps me off my feet and convinces me to sign a sex slave contract…then I’ll have a book idea worth sharing. But for now, I’m just having experiences and learning to enjoy the moments for myself instead of worrying about how to describe them in words for other people to read.
What do you do every day?
In my last blog posts, I described how I travel and what I do when I first arrive. After that, I just try to live places. After seeing the major sites, I really like to settle into a city and just try to have a regular life. For me this includes reading (I’ve probably read more books in the past two years than I have in the past 20. If you like reading, hook up with me on Good Reads and let me know your favorite books), finding a yoga studio, meeting people, finding the best coffee shop and restaurants in town, and just walking around. Some days I quite literally do almost nothing. It took me some time to adjust from the hectic San Francisco lifestyle, where there were never enough hours in the day to do everything to a life of free time and relaxation. When I was in Nicaragua and I stopped going to Spanish school and first started doing nothing, I was so uncomfortable, I needed to make a list to make sure the hours of the days were full. My list included: walk on the beach, go to yoga, go to weekly poker game, do laundry, read a book, update blog (which was so rarely done I soon realized it wasn’t something I enjoyed). At first, I felt bad about doing nothing. I was “idle” and not contributing to the world. But eventually, I stopped worrying so much about doing “things” and contributing to the greater good, and started focusing on making myself a better person, through learning and reading and breathing and relaxing and yoga and eating healthier and drinking less beer and more green juices. I no longer consider these activities a waste of time or selfish endeavors. I think self-love and taking care of yourself are some of the most important things in life. Someday, I will go back to work, and when I do, I hope I keep with me some of my new-found lifestyle of relaxing and taking it easy and not stressing so much.
What do you miss most from your old life or the US?
My friends and family, of course, but today’s digitally connected world allows me to keep in contact from afar. I miss the endless food and restaurant options that were available in San Francisco. I love Thai food, but right now I kill for some real Mexican or sushi. And when I leave Thailand, I’ll be craving Pad Thai like I was all last year in South America. I miss walking into a store like Target or Walgreens and being able to buy exactly what I want. Many of the skin care products across Asia have “whitening” agents in them to make your skin lighter. It’s so ironic because in the US, we like the tanned look, and have so many “self-tanning/darkening” lotions. I just want some regular SPF 30 sunscreen that’s not greasy and won’t whiten me, and it’s been impossible to find.
Do you miss working?
No. Even on my worst day of travel, there was not one moment that I thought, “I wish I was working right now”.
What will your next job be? Could you go back to your old business?
I wish I knew. I seriously doubt I could ever return to a regular 9 to 5 job in a cubicle, after 12 years of being my own boss, but who knows. I might be broke and desperate. I think a lot about what my “second career” will be, and I have some ideas, but nothing solid has materialized. I love animals so much, that I would like to have a career that has something to do with animals. I have also been enjoying yoga during my travels. I’ve done yoga on and off for over 15 years, but I really want to learn and understand more about it, so I am signed up to do a 200 hour yoga teacher training in Bali in April. I don’t know if I will ever actually become a yoga teacher, but I want to explore that. Also, through my travels I taken tons of tours, and I often find myself thinking, oh I could’ve given a better tour than that, so maybe a tour guide or speaker of some sort will be my next gig? Who knows? I have some time to figure it out, so I’m using this time to learn more about myself and what gets me excited. I bartended in Nicaragua, but quit in the middle of my second night, so that job is off the list. I chopped corn at the Elephant Nature Park in Thailand, and quickly realized it wasn’t for me, so farmer is also off the list. Although I don’t think I am particularly bad writer, I really don’t enjoy it, so blogger is out too.
What have been your favorite countries so far?
Many people respond to this question by saying “Oh they are all so different. It’s so hard to decide.” Not me. But I do give the caveat that what countries I liked is completely influenced by where I went, how long I was there, how the weather was, who I met, what I did, if I got sick or tired, etc. So far my favorite countries have been Colombia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Cambodia, New Zealand and Nepal. Some runners up are Peru, South Korea, Thailand, and Italy.
Switzerland, Laos and Belize. (Sorry Swiss friends, but full disclosure I was only in Zurich and only there for a day, so I do need to give it another chance. Why was everything so dang expensive?!)
What have you learned?
I have learned most how to be open to learning more, and to not let my prejudices and preconceived ideas about the world lead me. I’ve learned more about history and culture and people than I ever did in school or university. I’ve learned that I know very little and have so much more to learn.
How have you changed?
I am not sure about this one. I ask my friends and family if I am different because it’s hard to see changes in yourself. Like losing or gaining weight or going grey or getting wrinkles. You don’t just wake up one morning completely different. It’s a process over time. I had some friends say that I haven’t changed at all. I don’t know if that makes me feel more sad or relieved. I had one friend ask me why I wanted to change. Did I not like myself? I thought about it, and I do like who I am, but I do want to change. I want to be a better version of myself. Doesn’t everyone want that? My mom says that I am more patient. This is something that I am working on. I have learned to let things bother me less and less, and to accept the journey for what it is and to not rush. Everything will happen in the right time. Wow. Maybe I’m becoming a hippie/yoga/Buddhist. Maybe that’s not a bad thing…
Where are you going next?
I’m planning to visit Burma/Myanmar in the next month and then to Bali. After that, I’m wide open. At some point this summer I hope to return to New York to spend time with my mom and recharge the batteries. After that I’m thinking about Eastern Europe or maybe Africa? Or maybe back to Asia? I have no idea, but I’m open to suggestions. I am estimating I have another year or so travel left in me, but who knows what the future will bring? I’m excited to find out myself!
If there are questions you have that I haven’t answered, please comment below and I will do my best to respond.