7 months ago I embarked into the unknown to pursue a dream of mine to travel the world solo. After exploring 17 countries and 53 cities, I’ve learned the meaning of true happiness in the form of friendships, acceptance, challenges, and love. I’ve gained a new perspective of how others live every day and how damn fortunate I am to be living in America. I would like to thank everyone who reached out to me to link me up with mutual friends who were living abroad, helped me through the challenging days I had and provided me with endless love and support. I would also like to thank my friends whom I met abroad that have opened their homes to me to show me around their cities and meet their friends. Words simply cannot describe the feeling I have coming back but I know that my heart is full of love. Until the next journey…
Since this journey truly changed my life and perspective for the better, I would like to share some my learnings with all my friends and family.
Appreciation– This is a fully loaded word so to break it down, I’ve learned to appreciate where I am from, what I was given at birth, what my parents have provided for me since day one, the beauty of life, the beauty of other cultures, the beauty of different religions and most of all the wonderful family and friends I had with me every step of the way. I also learned to appreciate the little things in life like a HOT shower, a bed, my own bedroom, daily meals, new clothes, shoes and so much more.
Acceptance – Accepting the good and bad of every country I visited whether it was the smelly streets of Bangkok or the stares from people in India or the religious aspect of the Muslim culture in Dubai and Morocco. I feel like this is a huge learning for me because I tended to turn a blind eye to some different cultures, religions and poverty issues in the US. Now I feel like I have seen first-hand how others live and how HAPPY they are with what they have, which usually isn’t a lot.
Love – From the start of this journey until the end, the outpouring love from new friends, old friends, family members, old coworkers, and strangers was incredible. There were some days that were extremely tough and broke me down to my core but the days filled with new adventures with new friends filled in those voids. I learned to love each country no matter their beliefs or cultural aspects. I learned to love strangers because when you’re desperately in need and think no one will help you, I always found someone at the last turn to turn things around for me. I learned to love my friendships that I formed abroad. The new friends I gained during this journey, whether it was Vivian from Germany, Maikel from Amsterdam or Jon Paul from South Africa, showed me love and opened their doors for me when I visited them and treated me as if I were family. I learned to love my friendships from back home by leaning on people via text message or FaceTime for support when I needed it or helped provide me comfort when I was feeling homesick. I learned to love long trips such as my 24 bus rides through Thailand, Laos and Vietnam that allowed me to reflect on life and this journey so far. I learned to love the curveballs thrown my way which allowed me to grow stronger as a person and strengthen my character. Most importantly I learned to love myself and listen to my body and my natural instincts.
How to communicate without speaking – This was essential because I left the US speaking only one language, English. I must admit I was selfish to leave only knowing that language and expect people in their home countries to know how to communicate with me in English. I learned quickly in Southeast Asia that sometimes you need to act out or sign your questions or answers. There were numerous times in Southeast Asia, South Africa, Morocco and India where I had to use clever ways of communication to talk to the locals and find my way around. I also remember the numerous amount of times where I was kicked off the buses in Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos by some man yelling Thai, Lao or Vietnamese to me and not having a clue why I was getting kicked out. Usually, it was just because we were at a rest stop, had to switch buses or had to cross border control. Luckily for me, my smile went a long way with the locals!
Living in the present – When I was studying at Penn State or working in NYC I was always looking for the next best thing such as my trip to Hawaii or planning for the summer even though it was the start of December. While I was abroad, although I was excited to get to each country and explore, I learned to live in the present day and focus on what was right in front of me rather than the future. I felt like this taught me a powerful lesson that I hope will stick with me. I feel like we are always thinking about the next best thing when in reality we should be living every single day to the fullest and be happy with everything we have in front of us. We can worry about next week when it gets here J
To not plan everything and go with the flow – For the first month in Australia, I planned each flight, hostel and activity out before I arrived. I learned quickly that it was easy to connect with people as you traveled and they would give you recommendations. As an event planner in my bones, this was a tough lesson for me but once I started listening to recommendations and going with the flow, this allowed me to enjoy every day. For the rest of my travels, I only booked my first night’s hostel and then started talking to people as soon as I got into town to see what they enjoyed and recommended. This way I was able to change my plans quickly if I didn’t enjoy the city or go off the beaten path that many tourists follow. This, in particular, was valuable to me when I met Vivian in Northern Thailand and decided to travel with her for 3 weeks from Northern Thailand to Vietnam, this was the best 3 weeks of my entire journey!
To get lost – When I was thinking what to name my blog, I knew I wanted to incorporate the word, wanderlust but didn’t know how to at first. When I reflected on my past travels, one thing always stood out to me. I would always purposefully get lost in each destination so I could take the path less traveled and discover the cities hidden gems. That’s exactly what I did abroad, I constantly got lost and went down alleys that were magical in their own ways, met people I wouldn’t normally meet on the touristy trails and witnessed random acts of kindness. Hence, I loved getting lost in each city and taking a night or a full day out to go by foot and explore each alleyway without the help of google maps. Also, it was easy to get lost when you don’t have a working cell phone for 7 months…only had cell service when I was connected to my hostel’s wifi.
Becoming more worldly educated – Every new country I visited, I met people who knew what was going on in the states with the Trump presidency, who we were at war with and other crucial information. It was shocking to me that someone from Vietnam, Sweden or Kenya knew so much about the news coming out of the United States. I learned that I need to start educating myself on worldly matters outside of just my comfort zone and focus on political matters happening around the globe that shape some of the United States decisions.
How to step out of my comfort zone – This is again a full loaded statement, I think the start of this was approaching this crazy idea with my parents and having them turn me down. Then approaching this crazy idea with my director as I put in my resignation letter and gave a 4-week notice that I was not only leaving the company but also the country. Then stepping on the plane to Australia and throwing up in my bathroom that morning because I was so nervous and thought maybe I was making the biggest mistake of my life. Then when my friend Sarah decided to leave me 24 days into our adventure together and realizing for the next 6 months I would be alone. Every single country I explored whether it was with an old friend, new friend or solo, I stepped way out of my comfort zone to experience emotions and experiences that I would hold close to my heart forever. I am not an emotional person for the most part but some of the sights I saw or the people I who were begging at my feet or the kindness I received from random strangers broke me down to experience the rawest emotions I have ever experienced.
Patience – Patience came into play a lot, especially while waiting for public transportation. I learned to be patient waiting for buses and trains, whether it was an 8-hour train delay in India or a 4-hour bus delay in Thailand. In the past, if the subway is running 5 minutes late in NYC I would start freaking out internally, now I hope when I get back I can appreciate having that extra 5 minutes to myself before getting into the hustle and bustle of that day.
To Love Podcasts – Whether it was listening to my favorite, Lady Lovin’ or catching up on the daily news and politics, podcasts were a great way for me to stay motivated and up to date with current events happening in and around the US. It was also a reminder to me that I want my experiences to influence other young professionals to take that first step and follow their dream.
How it feels to be the minority- Growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania I have never felt like I was a minority. This changed dramatically when I was in SE Asia, India, parts of Africa, parts of UAE and Morocco. Whenever I would hop on a local bus, get lost in the local streets or take the trains to my next destination I was always the minority. I think this taught me a valuable lesson to not look at people differently if they are not your same skin tone or religion. I remember when I was on a bus in Morocco going to a smaller village where everyone was wearing a Hijab except for me and guess what, they accepted me for who I was and even talked to me as if I was a friend of theirs! The hardest country being the minority in was India because it seemed like kids and people around the different cities I was in were not used to seeing a blonde girl walking their streets. Even though sometimes I felt like I was a zoo animal (people would come straight up to my face and snap pictures of me and try and get selfies even though I politely declined) they still accepted me into their country and treated me with the same respect I would treat my friends back at home. It really changes your perspective when you’re constantly on public transportation with the locals who are a different race, religion, and background as you.
Little acts of kindness can go a long way- I figured out quickly that you cannot help everyone, it’s simply impossible and I certainly don’t have the money to do that. So in each country at least once a week I tried to give back to the communities or families that I saw on the streets. This was either buying a couple bananas for the kids in India, giving my change to the old women in the street corner in Morocco, playing with kids on the streets of Laos, sharing my food on the streets of Vietnam, buying local pastries for the kids outside in South Africa or simply smiling to the locals. I also tried to buy groceries or food from the street vendors to help them out instead of large grocery stores. Every time I did a small act of kindness not only did I feel good but the families or kids were thankful no matter how small or big the gesture was. I want to bring this back with me to the states and help out families, elders, and children who are less fortunate. A kind act a week makes the heart happy, we have SO MUCH and we can always give a little bit to others to have them smile that day! That was also the reason when I did my bike ride from Germany to Austria with my friend Caroline that we wanted to link it up to a charity. By raising those funds, we were able to provide bikes to families who were less fortunate in India and South Africa, HOW AMAZING! These bikes allow these families to work in their communities, transport goods from their gardens to sell on the streets and in the end help them feed their children at home and provide some type of shelter to them. We don’t think twice about buying that new shiny bike that we might use once a month in the warmer months. It’s the small things in life, we are so blessed to have.
Here is a list of all the flights, buses and trains I took during this 7-month journey. I also included each country I passed through and each city I visited. I am proud to say I accomplished this entire journey from start to finish with my $18,000 of savings by myself and never asked for any help from my parents (except when my credit card number was stolen in Vietnam and I needed them to send me my new Visa).
Worldwide flights: 21 flights in 2017
NYC –> LAX –> Sydney –> Cairns (Australia)
Cairns –> Gold Coast (Australia)
Gold Coast –> Sydney (Australia)
Sydney –> Gold Coast (Australia)
Brisbane –> Bali (Indonesia)
Bali –> Bangkok (Thailand)
Bangkok –> Krabi (Thailand)
Phuket –> Koh Samui (Thailand)
Bangkok –> Phnom Phem (Cambodia)
Hanoi –> New Delhi (India)
Jaipur –> Mumbai (India)
Mumbai –> Nairobi (Kenya)
Kenya –> Johannesburg (South Africa)
Cape Town –> Dubai (UAE)
Dubai –> Madrid (Spain)
Madrid –> Marrakech (Morocco)
Casablanca –> Lisbon (Portugal)
Lisbon –> Munich (Germany)
Amsterdam –> Athens (Greece)
Athens –> Istanbul (Turkey)
Istanbul –> New York (USA)
Worldwide Buses & Trains: 41 Bus and Train Rides Adding Up to 345 Hours
Chumphon (Thailand) –> Bangkok (Thailand) ~7 hours
Phnom Phem (Cambodia) –> Siem Reap (Cambodia) ~7 hours
Siem Reap (Cambodia) –> Bangkok (Thailand) –> Chang Mai (Thailand) ~30 hours
Chang mai(Thailand) –> Pai (4 hours)
Pai –> Chang Mai (4 hours)
Chang Mai –> Chang Rai (3 hours)
Chang Rai –> Houx Xai (Laos) (4 hours)
hour Xai –> Luang Prabang (15 hours)
Luang Prabang –> Vang Vieng (5 hours)
Vang Vieng –> Vientiane (4 hours)
Vientiane –> Thakae (8 hours)
Thakae –> Vientiane (8 hours)
Vientiane –> Hanoi (24 hours)
New Delhi –> Agra (6 hours)
Agra –> Jaipur (6 hours)
Mumbai –> Goa (10 hours)
Goa –> Mumbai (10 hours)
Johannesburg –> Phalaborwa (8 hours)
Phalaborwa –> Johannesburg (8 hours)
Johannesburg –> Durban (8 hours)
Durban –> Port Elizabeth (15 hours)
Port Elizabeth –> Cape Town (8 hours)
Cape Town to Stellenbosch (1 hour)
Stellenbosch to Cape Town (1 hour)
Dubai to Abu Dhabi (1 and a half hours)
Abu Dhabi to Dubai (1 and a half hours)
Madrid to Toledo (40 minutes)
Toledo to Madrid (40 minutes)
Marrakech to Fes (9 hours)
Fes to Chefchaouen (5 hours)
Chefchaouen to Casablanca (5 hours)
Lisbon to Lagos (5 hours)
Lagos to Lisbon (5 hours)
Munich to Vienna (6 Hours)
Munich to Wiesbaden (4 hours)
Wiesbaden to Cologne (2 hours)
Cologne to Amsterdam (4 hours)
Athens to Santorini (9 hours)
Santorini to Ios (1 hour)
Ios to Mykonos (5 hours)
Mykonos to Athens (4 hours)
Countries visited- 17 countries, 7 months
Cities visited- 53 cities visited
Kruger national park
THANK YOU FOR FOLLOWING MY JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD!
Next stop….South America….just need to save up again!