When I graduated from college in the winter of 2019, all I wanted to do was see the world. I planned to backpack abroad, and really, that was all I had planned. Nothing was set in stone, and first, I had to fund my trip. I got my first serving job at this quaint Italian restaurant in Tucson and saved my money to travel.
Then 2020 happened, the pandemic hit, the world shut down. I moved back home from Tucson, had a grad school stint that lasted one semester, did a lot of yoga and meditation and soul-searching. I started serving when restaurants opened again to pay off school loans and replenish travel funds.
The plan never changed; I would travel the world. Two years after graduation, 2021 lays the foundation for backpacking (both personally and financially). I have the space to create and cultivate ZonaRoots. And now it's time to get a bit more serious about travel planning.
This thread will be ongoing, and I'll add to it as I navigate through planning a long-term, multi-continent solo backpacking trip for 2022. Stay tuned!
Entry No. 1 - October 4th, 2021
I've been playing around with my take-off date, toggling between early May and late June. There's certain dates during the summer that I'd be sad to miss but a springtime take-off sounds lovely.
Lately I've been keeping myself inspired by exploring other backpackers' itineraries, drawing imaginary routes on maps, researching volunteer, work-exchange, and yoga-teacher-training programs.
So many cities call to me as a starting point, and right now it's Barcelona. I didn't get to visit when I was abroad in 2018 and it is an iconic place. From what I hear, it's an artsy, cultural, international hub that many travelers flock to and even root down in. I'm drawn to it because there's a sense of familiarity and security of being in Western Europe, and it's a great jumping off point to explore parts of southern Spain and then into Morocco and North Africa - areas that feel less familiar and less certain, especially being a solo female backpacker.
From there, I'd love to flow into Southern Italy, again seeking familiarity, up through the Italian hillsides to Rome, Orvieto, Florence, Venice. Hopefully hitting Hungary because I long to be in Budapest again, then south, through the Balkans. Maybe then to Greece, because Turkey, definitely, and then the Caucasus, maybe, with many more maybes after that. India, indispensable. That's where I want to get my yoga teacher certification, and I hear the best time to do that is in the spring or fall.
So the timing of it all is important too. I have to remember that daydreaming about a month in Morocco is much different than living a month in Morocco. If my family plans on traveling to the Philippines in the summer of 2023, how cool could it be to complete my travels there, with them, and travel home, with them. A year of travel - is it possible?
Entry No. 2 - January 20th, 2022
The year is here, 2022. Plans have been all over the place. In my world right now, no, a year of travel does not seem possible. I just started up ZonaRoots Collection, an online thrift store; COVID seems to mutate faster that society can recover; I'm recently unemployed, deeply in love, and at 23 years old, at a health crossroads. Fortunately, I'm adaptable by nature.
As we headed into the new year, I settled on exploring just for a month or two, and decided on a mid-April departure, right after my 24th birthday. I wanted to spend a week in Barcelona, since I had missed that must-see place my first time around. From there, I would dip into Morocco. The ease of exploring a whole new continent from Spain would've been to perfect to pass up. Then, I would plant myself in Budapest for a few weeks because my weekend there before was too short, too blurry but deeply impressionistic. Also because Budapest has a great rep for being compatible with English-only speakers like myself, and on the cheaper side of Europe as it uses Hungarian forints instead of Euros. From Budapest, the plan started to melt because the options from there were endless. I could choose to backpack the Balkan Peninsula area, hitting infamous Croatia and Greece and the lesser traveled and tourist-ed countries of Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania. This could lead me to my north-star city of Istanbul, a place that has called to me since I began daydreaming of a traveling adventure. Maybe I'll skip the tour all together and ticket myself to Turkey, sticking around for a number of weeks. And who knows, maybe by then I'll be ready to come home, see my family, my friends, my boyfriend, re-root my business, replenish the bank account. Maybe pop back into the world in the fall, to take on the backpacking beast that is the continent of Asia, finally get that YTT in India. This was the plan. Or the plan-ish.
But plans change as easily as they're created, and it seems my trip will live in my daydreams for another six months, at least. I started a functional medicine health program because, surprise, my constant headaches and body-aches and stomachaches actually mean I have some deep-rooted, non-functional biological systems. As a half-year commitment, this exploration of my health will be an adventure on its own, but feels much more daunting than solo world travel. Part of me mourns the health I never had and the trip that has yet to be, but there is good in all of this as well.
Now knowing that I'm rooted in Phoenix for at least the first half of 2022, I have the opportunity to really commit to the growth of the ZonaRoots Collection. Blog post on all of that coming soon. I get to travel locally, visit friends and family, create a home-office of my dreams, transform my health in an unimaginable way, learn how to relax more, solidify my yoga and meditation practice, start Krav Maga, and really understand that I am deserving and capable of optimal health and living a life beyond my wildest dreams. Here, now. So stay tuned. Travel is coming soon. But for now, here's to strengthening, deepening, sustaining, and unconditionally loving my roots.
Entry No. 3: May 25th, 2022
Last night I dreamt that I was wandering a large indoor market somewhere in Southeast Asia, presumably Kuala Lumpur, probably because I had been researching it the night before. It was tropical and busy, and I was bustling my way through the crowd with my large red duffle bag, on a mission for something to eat. I remember looking around at all the faces, most brown and tanned like mine, and simultaneously feeling like I blended right in and stuck out like a sore thumb. I felt nervous, excited, and afraid to use my English for fear of that awkward hi-i-am-American-and-have-so-many-allergies conversation as I didn't know any Malay. Eventually, I stumbled upon a man’s booth because he had made the first move, maybe sensing my uncertainty and hunger. He ushered me over so my eyes could feast upon gorgeous roasted vegetables and meats. I complimented the chef and his grin widened, both at the compliment but also at the chance to practice his English. I felt at ease, full, and fulfilled.
My dream felt something of a premonition.
Entry No. 4: June 20th, 2022
Next Month’s the Month
I’ve been trying to write this post for a bit now with no luck. My imagination keeps hijacking my flow - daydreams of crystal-clear beaches and sizzling street food hold my mind hostage. Hypnotized by backpacker’s blogs, I’ve been stumbling along recommended routes and itineraries, packing lists, budget guides, and all those other pre-travel preparations.
In one month exactly, I depart on my long-awaited and highly-anticipated backpacking adventure. My destination is Southeast Asia - prime for newbie backpackers, long-term travelers, digital nomads, foodies, adventure-seekers, and nature-lovers. Many Southeast Asian countries have established backpacking routes (Thailand being the most famous) and are praised as places where your dollar will go a lot farther. We’re talking $1 street food, $3 taxi rides, $5 hostel dorm beds, and 60-cent beer. To backpack Southeast Asia, bloggers recommend anywhere from $800-$1500 a month. I even watched a video about a guy who did $500 a month and another girl who spent only $2,000 over 6 months.
So it’s cheap, one reason I chose Southeast Asia. I leave in one month, but I’m not yet sure when I’ll be back.
In the summer of 2021, I started this blog in anticipation of travel and wrote whenever I wanted. In November of 2021, I quit my well-paying serving job because of some health issues. Unable to be too idle, I started the ZonaRoots Collection in January 2022, a curated secondhand shop that does local pop-up markets and online sales. Now it’s June and I depart in July for an indiscriminate amount of time, leaving behind a business and a boyfriend. I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I give myself whiplash.
After college, travel felt like the next step. However, three years (and a global health crisis, several jobs outside of my degree field, a bubbly business venture, and a plan to move back in with the parents) later, long-term travel feels more like an escape from reality than following my dreams. I remind myself that it’s both.
This is no “dear diary” thread, but I’ve been tearing through backpacking blogs, and part of me feels at home reading about world travel tips and trips. However, another part sees the polished and unanxious blogs and knows that my pre-trip self has felt neither.
Planning this shit is no joke. I keep feeling like I’m missing something. Even as I write this, I feel slightly overwhelmed by the fact that in one month I’ll be all packed and vaxxed for a multi-month, open-ended trip to Southeast Asia.
Though, when I think of what I do have planned so far, my anxiety eases to anticipation because I am so f****** excited for what’s to come:
My first destination on my solo Southeast Asian backpacking adventure is Bali for two weeks. But for those first two weeks, I won't be alone. By way of the travel gods, my sister Keeley who is notorious for protesting 8-hour car rides, let alone a 28-hour flight itinerary, agreed to a Bali vacation.
We’re going to spend our first week in Canggu learning how to surf. Next, we’ll explore Ubud for a few days, meeting monkeys and touring waterfalls. Our last days may be spent on the Gili Islands before Keeley flies home to begin her junior year of college. We’ll get her dropped off safely at the Depensar airport with some Dramamine to knock her out. Then I’ll be alone.
But if I learned anything from my brief Europe tour, it’s that backpackers are never alone, not for long anyway. Since I’ll be staying in mostly hostels for my trip, I’ll have a built-in community of travelers who have the same interests at heart: connecting with people and places, collecting stories and experiences.
Once my sister leaves, I’ll also be without a plan. Stay in Bali longer or explore other Indonesian islands, traversing up into Malaysia and southern Thailand. I’ll have almost a month from when Keeley leaves to get to the island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand. There, I’ll spend September in a Yoga Teacher Training program and become certified to teach yoga anywhere on the globe.
And who knows, maybe after that, I’ll be ready to come back home. Build the biz, teach yoga, not have to worry about bed bugs or potentially fatal mosquito bites...
I hope not. I hope I’ll be so swept up in the whirlwind of culture and adventure that I’ll be plotting the rest of my route through Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and maybe, hopefully, the Philippines.
Cue the daydreaming.