Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in Taiwan, where my mother’s family was. At 4 months old, my mother flew us to Singapore, where my father was, and we stayed for nearly a decade before my mother and I left for the United States.
Q: How did your journey start?
A: When I was 20, living in a dorm at my university in San Diego. There was no option to continue housing there during Summer break, so I quickly realized that I would soon be homeless if I did not find a place to live for 2.5 months. Instead of finding a room in Los Angeles and getting a Summer job, I opted to store my belongings in storage, and spontaneously booked my flight to Europe. Not having a real itinerary, my plan was to wing it as I went. As I traveled, the list of cities I had to visit along the way grew. I would wake up, decide where I wanted to go, and went. It was so liberating.
Q: How do you meet people in your travels?
A: When I first started traveling by myself, I joined the Couchsurfing community, and that was where I met my hosts in each city. If you have the opportunity to, I would recommend this method of traveling, because not only do you get to know the ins and outs of their city, you will also possibly end up with a life long friend from across the globe. I feel more deeply immersed in their culture when I share a conversation and meal with a local. I try to see the world through their eyes, and many times, I’ve learned that they see things through a different scope than I do.
Q: How do you budget on your travels?
A: I opted to walk everywhere I went, even if there was public transportation to make my life easier. If it was humanly walkable, and I could save that money, I would walk my feet off if I could. As for food, I opted for street food, or food from grocery stores, and stayed away from restaurants. Every morning in Europe, I would walk to a grocery store, buy a liter of milk, a couple of fresh nectarines, and that would keep me hydrated for the first half of the day. Tap water is delicious in Europe, so I took a filtered water bottle with me, filled that, and drank that for the rest of the day. In Asia, huge bottles of waters are extremely affordable, so that wasn’t a problem. As for accommodations, I couchsurfed when I first started traveling, so I didn’t spend anything on that. If not, hostels or tour packages should give you the most for your money.
Q: How do you find affordable plane tickets?
A: I try to book as far in advance as possible, and I’ll scour the web comparing flights, and different dates. I like picking off-peak months where everyone is at work or school, and simply being flexible with dates and duration. Like stocks, ticket prices fluctuate, but if you don’t have prior knowledge of what they usually go for, you won’t know what a good deal looks like. I also research the websites I’m purchasing my flights on, reading reviews to make sure they aren’t scam websites, and cross-reference with the website of the actual airlines. I’ve found flights up to $50 cheaper purchasing on the website of the actual airline, with the same flight, simply by doing my research and due diligence.
Q: How do you pack?
A: I try to travel with as little as possible. Every single item had to serve multiple purposes, and if it didn’t, I would try to eliminate it. When I was traveling around Europe, I brought a small carry-on suitcase, brought only a couple things, and would hand wash my clothes every day.
Q: How do you keep your belongings safe?
A: I keep my belongings with me at all times – always a carry-on, and no check-in luggage, if possible. I have a habit of needing to touch my things, even in plain sight, so nobody could just snatch it away without me reacting. Even on long train rides, I would keep my suitcase directly under where my legs should be, so my legs would be right above the suitcase, no matter how uncomfortable. It didn’t affect anyone else, and it ensured that nobody else had a chance to get to it. If I felt comfortable using a tote bag, I would always double-bag, and have the essentials in the inner-bag.
Q: Do you always travel alone?
A: The majority of my trips are done alone, but rarely spent entirely alone. I prefer the spontaneity and freedom of traveling by myself, but along my trip, I tend to meet and befriend other travelers along the way, even just for a little while. Traveling alone, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and increased my ability to think on my feet. Most importantly, I’ve learned to embrace the unknown.
Q: Are there moments where I’ve felt threatened or afraid in a foreign place?
A: To put simply, yes. There have been times where things would have gone completely wrong had I not gotten out. As a woman, I have to be cautious of the company I am around, but simply being intuitive and knowing when to walk away is key. Even when having fun, I try not to put myself in a position where I’m completely vulnerable. I trust my gut instincts, and I also carry a small knife on me. Being cautious is a no-brainer, but there are people in certain cities that tend to be more aggressive than others. In some cities, when I feel like I’m being harassed more frequently than usual, I will casually hold out my knife while I walk around, and people tend to leave me alone.
Q: Who takes your photographs?
A: I take nearly all the photographs, unless I appear in them. I use my tripod or human tripods by framing the shot and asking strangers to take my photographs. It doesn’t always work out how I want it, but I lightly edit them later on to frame it how I want it to look. If I have a friend or someone traveling with me, they would help me with that.