This past summer has been a period of deep introspection about where I want to go in my life and how I plan to get there. It began shortly before my summer vacation started. I was and have been writing in between my job as a teacher and my second job as a graduate student, and a few other things sprinkled in between.
Therefore, I wondered what it would be like if I interviewed myself and discussed my overseas adventures as a solo, female traveler, and how my traveling has affected relationships with friends and family.
People always talk about wanting to travel but not having the time or money. How have you made that work for you?
It’s all about motivation. When I want something, I go for it, it’s that simple. Once I made the decision to live overseas again, I figured out a budget and stuck to it. Money was tight however, as I was going through a divorce and working three jobs, so it was a struggle. I could barely afford to live so I planned a yard sale and sold every-single-thing. I worked my ass off. When I think of how I struggled to make ends meet in Boston, going abroad was the best decision I could have made for myself.
As for making time, that also comes down to motivation. I let my life pass me by in my early to mid-twenties when I could have been traveling, so I promised to never let that happen again.
Where have you lived?
I have lived in an assortment of towns and cities throughout Massachusetts but when it comes to where I have lived abroad, it’s not as many places as people think. I’ve only lived in South Korea, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia, oh, and one very brief stint, in Japan, where I traveled and worked under-the-table as an English-as-a-Second (ESL) tutor.
Why is it that many people believe you have been to more places, then?
I think it’s because I was always talking about going somewhere, even before I had a passport. Then, when I finally started traveling abroad, it felt like I had been doing it all my life. I think those around me just accepted it as normal, as if I had always done this.
Many people have called you “brave” and “courageous” for being a solo female traveler, but how would you describe yourself and do you agree with these comments?
I always laugh when someone calls be ‘brave.’ It sounds heroic. I know so many people who are far more well-traveled than myself and have done such extraordinary things. I have only been to eighteen countries and lived in three, well three and a half.
I guess I disagree. [Laughs] I’m not brave, I just have a constant yen for travel. I have always wanted to experience other cultures and the best way to do that is to live there, so I did.
Moving to another country sounds exciting but also scary. How did you make the transition from one culture into the next?
Moving is a lot of work. Period. Moving to another country involves organization on another whole level. It’s paying off bills, obtaining a visa (if the country requires one), learning the process of obtaining an apartment or house to live in, and then selling or storing stuff.
My first move abroad, I chose to store my stuff. For my second move, I sold everything. It was cathartic. The scary part was making all the plans align and making sure the money balanced out. For the third move, it was a combination of shipping boxes to the U.S., selling stuff, and storing the rest with friends in Thailand. Worrying about communicating in another language never entered my mind. I was so wrapped up in the adventure I didn’t care.
You come across as an outgoing personality with an internal sense of calm. How do you use that sense of peace when you travel?
I don’t. I pack and re-pack and re-pack again, especially when I’m moving abroad. Once I’m at the airport, I calm down because in my mind I know which steps come next. It’s when I settle into my seat on the airplane that I begin to worry. I worry about things I have no control over, like will my luggage get to my destination before me because I’ve missed my flight due to the plane leaving late? Then I remind myself that I have two connections to make, outside the U.S., which means tons of walking and waiting in line at security. Every airport in the world is different and each has its own process. I have yet to let go and just go with the flow of travel.
Many people experience culture shock when they visit another country, let alone move there. What is it like for you?
Well, culture shock begins to affect me when I get frustrated that people aren’t doing things they way I expect them to. For example, when I was flying from Bangkok to Mumbai I tried to check my luggage and was told that my bags were too heavy and would cause the plane to fall from the sky due to the weight. When I inquired about the overage charge, I was quoted $1,500. That was the price. For real.
Another example is when I first ordered a ‘garden salad’ at a restaurant in Bangkok. A giant bowl arrived at the table with a head of lettuce protruding from the top, a couple of long, thin, un-sliced carrots, a tomato, and a whole cucumber. The problem was that I hadn’t specified that I wanted a ‘green salad’ or a ‘tossed salad’, so this is what I got.
Aside from ‘the sense of adventure’ and ‘learning of a new culture’, what specific reasons drive you to visit and/or move to countries where the sense of physical danger is high, and the outcome is unknown?
First, I don’t choose countries based on danger. I choose them based on the history of people and their culture.
Second, I want to change the world as a teacher and be profoundly affected by the people around me.
Third, I’m a truth seeker. I have always been interested in a culture beyond the surface. I want to know what makes people want to wake up in the morning. I want to know how they communicate and solve problems that are different from my own, and I want to see how I, as a solo female teacher and traveler, fit into that equation.
And finally, I thrive on the unknown and not knowing what the next day holds but recognizing that it needs to be lived.
Check out Part II to learn what my family thought of all my traveling and the relationship dynamics between myself and my parents.
Any grammar and mechanical issues are the responsibility of the author, and even though she’s an English teacher and does proofread, there may be some errors.