This time we chat with intrepid traveller and blogger, Alex, from Lost With Purpose! Alex swapped her relatively mundane life in the US for the more exciting and colourful one of a traveller. She has been all over Asia, from India and Pakistan to Afghanistan. Enjoy reading our chat with her!
Where is Alex’s journey headed now, as a single traveller? Does it make a difference to the destinations you had in mind?
My journey’s goal is the same: to visit off the beaten track destinations overlooked by other travelers. Switching to solo traveling initially changed my perception of where I was and was not comfortable going. I skipped out on a visit to southern Pakistan at the start, and I wouldn’t be so bold as to head to Afghanistan by myself… yet.
But after a couple of months on my own, I’m much more comfortable and confident—the world is my oyster once more! I’m currently kicking around Bangladesh, and will probably be in South or Central Asia in the coming months.
What did you like most about India? What are your favourite places and where did you feel the safest?
Asking me what I like most about India is like asking me to choose a favorite star in the night sky.
I’d say I love India’s madness the most. India is like a machine with too many cogs, and many are broken or don’t align properly, yet the machine manages to chug on and produce something beautiful despite the mess.
As for favorite places, Gujarat is probably my favorite state—hello, Gujarati thalis and epic AF architecture—and Northeast India is my favorite region. I would also venture to say that I felt the safest in the northeast, though I’ve never felt very unsafe in any particular region of India.
What are the books that inspired you on the road, to keep going? Is Alex going to turn author anytime?
Ha! People keep asking me about a book, but I’m far too scatterbrained and forgetful to organize my thoughts so well! Proof: I bought a journal to jot down notes of curious or interesting things that happened to me, but I haven’t written in it in over a month. Oops. I’ll stick to blogging for now.
But that doesn’t mean I’m not one for a good book; my backpack is stuffed with three books at this very moment! In terms of travel motivation, The Places in Between by Rory Stewart is incredible. He walked across Afghanistan, suffering all kinds of ailments and trials and tribulations imaginable, yet still he persisted and survived the experience. #Goals
Pictures don’t say it all. Was there any incident or person that made you re-think being on the road and made you want to go back home?
I can’t say I’ve ever had a moment where I wanted to drop everything and go home… but I am starting to miss certain aspects of home culture at times. I’ve had several instances in the past few months where I wanted to spend time with male friends, both local and foreign, but encountered issues because many people in this part of the world don’t approve of unmarried girls and boys hanging out one on one. At home I’d think nothing of it, but here I have to sneak around like a criminal just to chat with a friend. It’s absurd and, in my opinion, medieval.
Travelling is all about making friends. Have you made any notable friends from your travels?
But of course! It can be hard to make long-term friendships on the road—I’m okay with just enjoying people’s company while I have it, then saying goodbye—but I definitely have people I keep in touch with on a semi-regular basis. Thinking about it, most of them are actually locals in the countries I’ve visited; I find it helpful for a relationship to be able to meet up over a long period of time, and it’s easier to do that with locals than with travelers constantly on the move.
What are the three most important things you would recommend to someone who is planning to take off and travel for a year?
- Don’t make concrete plans before you go. Pick a place, buy a ticket, book a hotel for the first few nights, then figure it out from there! You never know who you’ll meet, and you’ll learn about far more interesting places to visit once you’re actually in your destination.
- Overestimate how much money you need. Sure, you might be able to slide by on $500 per month in certain countries, but you should still allocate $750/month just in case. You never know when an emergency might strike.
- Immerse yourself in the local culture. Too many travelers get sucked into the tourist track, only hanging out with other foreigners rather than meeting locals and doing things off the beaten tourist track. Instead of going out for beers with the English lads for the third day in a row, connect with someone on Couchsurfing and go out for a drink with them instead. Rather than hiding out in your guesthouse to read a book, head to a local park to read—you never know what friendly local might approach you!
What did you miss most while being on the road? And something that you didn’t miss?
… salads. Fresh, delicious, green, creative (translation: not Caesar) salads. They’re a very, very rare occurence in the places I’ve been traveling!
Something I don’t miss is how cold and self-absorbed people are at home. It can be really difficult to connect with people when everyone is off in their own individual little worlds. I like the community sentiment and bold inquisitiveness of people in South Asia, even if it can get a bit tiring at times.
What’s your favourite travel quote?
I’m not one for travel quotes—I get irritated every time I hear that quote about the world being a book and non-travelers only reading one page—but there is one quote by Proust that resonates with me:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.
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