I have amazing friends. They are fearless, beautiful, unique, and priceless. I am blessed to surround myself with the best. Sara is no exception. We met while she was living and working in South Korea. Our paths crossed through an expat group and our friendship began. In true wanderlust form, one isn’t sedentary for long so we parted on the notion that it’s not goodbye, just see you later. That couldn’t have been more true.
|Reunited (again) at Annecy, France|
Sara set off on a whirlwind adventure spanning a total of over 10 months, and 14 countries. Our paths unexpectedly crossed not once, but twice during her adventures! I thought it’d be fun to share a bit of her story.
What was your travel itinerary?
I began traveling February 28, 2015. Without going into major details of exact locations, I spent about 4 months through southeast Asia before resupplying in Singapore and heading up to the European tour via Turkey. I will continue traveling Europe until October.
|Sunset in Santorini|
Why do you say “resupplying”?
Life in southeast Asia is so different from Europe. You can’t get away with swimwear and flip flops as your main fashion pieces. I had to repack my bag with more suitable attire, makeup, etc. and toss a lot of what had been worn out along the way.
|Beach in El Nido, Philippines|
How has traveling these last 6 months changed you?
I am definitely more assertive and confident in life. I am also much more adaptable to my surroundings, am able to go with the flow and have a more open mind about the world around me.
|Teaching rock-paper-scissors to children on top of a temple in Bagan, Myanmar|
What was the hardest part of the trip you encountered?
The most difficult aspect was traveling certain parts with people who had a different mindset and travel goals. We’ve all heard that traveling and being a tourist are totally different, and it is so true. When you are traveling or backpacking you are on a budget, you prefer hostels over hotels, and are open and flexible along the way. Tourists don’t always travel with that open mind.
|Old temple ruins at Angkor National Park, Cambodia|
Did you travel with people a lot or were you often alone?
I chose to meet people as I went and 95% of the time I was with people I met along the way. I would often introduce myself to fellow travelers on trains, planes, and buses going to the same destination, and we would wind up traveling together. I ended up working at a dive shop for a couple weeks in Malaysia with a gal from the Netherlands after we met on an island, and then we traveled the rest of the country together for a month. Now we’re planning a European road trip! Life is so random!
|Cameron Highlands with Sabrina, my Dutch friend I met along the way.|
Did you ever feel scared traveling alone?
No, not really. I can’t recall a time feeling threatened or afraid. If you are safe about what you do, are aware, and know your surroundings, you don’t need to feel scared. I was always very safe with what I did and where I was. I exercise common sense and understand the risks.
|Cameron Highlands green tea fields/hills in Malaysia|
What advice do you have for women who want to travel alone?
Don’t be scared! I think women are often afraid of the unknown and that keeps them from doing something like this, and they allow others’ fears to sway them. Don’t be afraid, but travel with common sense and an open mind. Don’t go crazy and forget where you are, so if you drink, do it with people you have known for some time and feel comfortable with in a group. Also, never go out super late at night in new cities by yourself (common sense!)
|Sunrise at Bagan, Myanmar|
I regret sticking to such a tight budget in southeast Asia. You can splurge on the $5 meal instead of the $3 and stay in a nicer hostel for just a few extra bucks every now and then. I’d also travel slower and allow extra room to stay in countries I really enjoyed (such as Myanmar). I sometimes felt I rushed my own schedule. I’d also pack more swimsuits as they weren’t as easy to buy along the beach as I expected. My wardrobe also would be more dresses!
|Chiang Mai rock quarry, where Sara faced her fears and went cliff jumping with awesome new friends.|
What was your favorite clothing article you packed?
I loved my black dress because it was comfortable and went with everything (though not good in the heat as it leaves salt marks!) I also live in my baggy Thai style pants I purchased in Vietnam. And scarves as accessories! I love my light scarves.
|At Kaputas Beach, Turkey|
How about favorite makeup?
Mascara. Chapstick. Keep it simple. Also a couple solid perfume sticks I bought on Etsy, Aroamas. They really up your game when you feel sweaty and gross on the road!
|Sunset at Koh Tao, Thailand|
For those traveling, what would you leave behind if you did this again?
Medications for random sicknesses. You can easily pop into a pharmacy in any country and get what you need. I also have a large multi-plug usb/power strip that would be helpful, but it’s a US plug and still required an adaptor, so that’s been an expensive weight in my bag. If you spend a lot of time in southeast Asia, skip the makeup. It’s too hot!
|Who needs a guard dog when you have a rooster? Cham Island, Vietnam|
You are also an avid photographer and have been documenting your journey. What do you want to show people through your photography?
I hope people will see the world is not what they expect. There is so much more out there than we could ever imagine. My family was never able to visit me when I lived in South Korea, but when they saw my photos they realized Korea wasn’t what they expected it to be. My mom said she had never had any desire to visit Asia, but she recently told me that my photos made her realize just how beautiful Asia is! That’s what I want people to take away: the unexpected.
|Hot air balloons in Cappadocia, Turkey at sunrise (besides diving, taking a hot air balloon ride was her huge splurge).|
You can follow Sara’s journey through her photos on Instagram @storyofwanderlust. She has a website in the making with more photos to come, so I’ll definitely everyone know when it launches.
|Reunited in style in Positano, Italy.|