I met Lash last year at MITBCA in KL, Malaysia. She stood amongst thousands present there in the conference with her unique personality and eclectic style. I distinctly remember people asking here where she came from and she kept saying ‘I am Nomadic’, that a lot of people took the time to digest. She has been traveling for almost 2 decades now, and that is all she does. She has written two books on Bali. One on Hiking in Bali and another on Cycling around Bali. Besides writing a very successful travel blog, that not only talks about the good things that travel offers you. But also the potential disasters that you may have to handle. I am happy to have her as the second traveler in this Travelling Souls series on my blog:
Interview with Lash, the World Traveler
Tell us about yourself, where were you born, where did you grow up, what did you study and if possible about your family.
Lash: I was born and raised in the US, more specifically in small towns of Ohio, Indiana, NJ and Pennsylvania states. My father started out as a college professor of religion and a minister at small-town churches. He later grew disillusioned with the Christian religion, left that profession and became a carpenter. My mom was a nurse. Our family moved about every 5 years, mainly because of my dad’s career changes.
My family made a lot of fun road trips, mostly visiting the great outdoors at national and state parks. We did a lot of camping, hiking, mountain climbing and exploring nature. By the time I was 11, I’d seen the Eastern half of the USA and experienced just about every kind of natural environment: ocean, beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains, forests and so on. I’m sure this is a significant factor in my love of travel and immersing myself in nature.
Meanwhile, I studied ballet growing up and wanted to become a professional dancer. I went as far as skipping my last year of senior high school to attend university for dance. After one year, I quit. Instead, I became a licensed hair designer, returned to university, and put myself through university by working in an upscale hair design studio. I got my university degree with a dual major in Computer Science and Philosophy.
By that time, I had already decided to move to Japan to teach English, specifically in order to save money to travel the world. About one year after graduation, I drove across the USA with my best friend and took a flight to Kyoto, Japan, where we lived for 6 years, exploring the amazing Japanese culture and saving money.
How did you gravitate towards a Nomadic lifestyle? Was it a sudden decision or a gradual adaptation that happened over a period of time? What is it about this lifestyle that keeps you going?
Lash: I love planning, organizing, and scheduling. I spent 8 years preparing and saving for my big world trip while teaching English in Kyoto, Japan. (Two years in the US then 6 years in Kyoto) By the time I began my world travels in 1998, I set out to travel for as long as possible, my whole life if I could.
Since I wanted to travel indefinitely, I never had any reason or desire to own a home. For what? I didn’t want to ‘be stuck’ in one place. And I didn’t want to be ‘tied down’ to home ownership, with its mortgage and perpetual upkeep and costs.
After I actually got out on the road traveling, I loved it so much that I just wanted to keep going. I love the freedom that I feel in NOT owning things or property.
I don’t know why, in terms of my soul, I prefer being nomadic to stationary. In practical terms, whenever I stay in one place for more than 3-6 months, I start feeling restless, bored and ‘stuck’.
I recently read a National Geographic article about this very subject. Scientific research apparently shows that certain people – 10-20% of humans – have a higher dose of one particular chemical/hormone that leads them to be risk-takers and explorers. There have always been explorers amongst humans. Perhaps it’s this hormone responsible for those of us who prefer being nomadic?
I remember when I met you in Malaysia, most people expected you to at least have a base – even when you kept repeating – I am Nomadic. Tell us how do you think most people react to your being nomadic and what do you think of them.
Lash: Not surprisingly, if I’m speaking English, most local people who meet me automatically assume I’m just another westerner on a short vacation in their country. As such, they tend to treat me like I’m brand new to the place. I have to explain to them that I’ve been traveling for 14 years and am quite familiar with their country/ city/ culture.
If they inquire further about my travels and find out that I don’t have a home or a base, but that I just wander around… The most common reaction I get is mild surprise and excitement. Most people seem to think that’s very interesting, fun and adventurous. They get shiny eyes thinking of it.
Once in a while, I meet people who say they would not like to live that way. They prefer to have a home. And a few times, I’ve met people who respond to the idea of perpetual travels as “irresponsible’ and/or’ running away”.
That’s a very odd reaction to me. From my perspective, who WOULDN’T want to travel forever?! And ‘irresponsible’ about what? Aren’t I just responsible for myself? I don’t’ think I”m obligated to be married, to be a wife, to bring children into the world, to devote myself to a company or organization. I don’t know what they’re thinking?
What are the biggest advantages or high points of a Nomadic lifestyle and would you recommend it to others? What are the biggest challenges and what kind of people do you think should avoid this lifestyle?
Nomadic life is for people who value freedom over security. And for people who have a medium to high risk-tolerance.
For me the highlight is freedom. Freedom to go where I want, when I want, for as long as I want. I choose the places I love and want to be in. Freedom from a ‘rut’ or ‘rat race’ life, from rules and regulations. Freedom from bills, taxes and things. My only restrictions are visas (how long I’m allowed to stay in any given country) and money. I have to travel within those parameters, but that’s about it for ‘rules’. The biggest challenge, for me, has been earning enough money to continue indefinitely. But so far, so good. I’m still going. 🙂
Thousands of people say they want to travel the world. But most of them don’t, of course. Either they’re afraid or else they actually, deep inside, value other things in life over travel. Things like owning a home, raising a family, staying near family and friends. That’s fine, too. Each person has to decide what’s most important to them and then do that.
If they’re afraid, then either they just haven’t educated themselves about the things they’re worried about or else they can’t handle risk. If they need security, then they probably should stay home.
Though I have to add that long-term travel does NOT mean you have to give up those other things if you want them. Lots of couples travel together. Many people travel as a family with their children. Many travelers own homes and/or apartments that they rent out for passive income. You CAN do all if you want.
The kind of people who should avoid this lifestyle already is already doing so! I don’t know anyone who started traveling the world and then decided they didn’t like it or that they wanted to go back to their old life! Anyone who gets so far as to start already is the right kind of person and they will love it.
Magenta or bright pink seems to be your favorite color, and I heard you saying that you love colors. How do you relate to colors and how do they impact you as a person and personality? Is color one of the reasons that you love South East Asia so much?
Lash: I love bold and strong everything. Bold colors, strong coffee, intense chocolate, bold people, adventurous people, energetic people. I don’t do so well with subtle.
As for colors, bright colors energize me. They make me feel happy and alive. I often get a natural high, believe it or not, just by gazing at beautiful vibrant colors. On the other hand, neutral colors, pastels and other soft colors I find extremely boring and dull. They don’t do anything for me.
I suppose bright colors must be one reason why I love SE Asia. But I think I can find bright colors everywhere in the world. A few years ago I spent the summer in England. I was surprised and delighted to discover that England is engulfed in bright, vibrant green foliage. And I was happy. 🙂
I was reading your Travel Disaster section and though in retrospect the incidents sound amusing. But for your readers, I think that makes a well-rounded impression of traveling while most travelers tend to glorify it all the time. Your comments.
Lash: Aside from my one disastrous WWOOFing experience, none of my ‘travel disasters’ are really disasters in the sense of a tragedy or fatal incident. But they do show some of the weird and crazy incidents that can happen out on the road that travelers have to deal with.
I actually think I also tend to glorify travel by usually writing about all the wonderful places and experiences I have. That’s usually how I honestly feel about life and travel.
I do write honestly about my experiences. For example, there are a few places I just really disliked, including Cebu City and Boracay Island, Philippines and Cambodia. So I wrote about how much I disliked them and why. I got a lot of angry comments from Filipinos about my Philippine stories!
But I think it’s important to write my true feelings and honest perspectives on places and experiences. It just happens that I’m generally a very positive person who likes just about everything and every place. …So you can be sure that if I didn’t like it, it was really horrible!
Would it be right to say that your primary travel style is Adventure? You are an accomplished Scuba Diving instructor, tell us some amusing tales from that experience.
Lash: Yes, I’d say I am an adventure traveler. I love doing all sorts of activities in the great outdoors: hiking, cycling, scuba diving and any/all sky sports. Love heights!
I can’t think of any amusing tales offhand, but you can read my day by day adventure tales from my 2-week cycling trip around Bali island. You could also read descriptions of several of my favorite dive sites in Bali and Malaysia.
Since when have you been writing your blog and how much time do you spend writing your blog say per week on an average. What is the most visited section of your extensive and well-organized blog? You have authored two guidebooks on Bali – Hiking in Bali and Cycling in Bali. How do you compare the two mediums – digital and paper?
I created my original blog in late 2010, but I started working on it seriously in Feb. 2011, when I discovered it was a feasible career. I’m sure any travel blogger will tell you that the work and hours required are crazy insane. In 2012 I worked 6 days/week, usually 8-10 hours per day. On top of that, there were 3 months that I worked even more. It’s was insane. In fact, I literally damaged my back and my health by Dec. 2013 from way too much sitting, concentrating, stress and lack of exercise or fun. I’m now rehabilitating.
So this year, I’ve changed my life drastically. I now work only 4-5 hours per day, 6 days per week. If I don’t get everything done, too bad. I stop anyhow. I exercise every day, have personal time for fun and relaxing, and make sure I travel if only to explore the neighborhood I’m in. Let’s see how it goes!
On LashWorldTour, my most extensively read posts are my ‘10 Free Things to do in Series’. Singapore’s Changi airport is no. 1 and KL no. 2. I get a lot of readers from search engines to that series. Those posts are relevant for many years and to many people.
You have interacted with many world travelers on your blog. Did you see anything common between all of them and you? Does travel make them more open, receptive, accepting and accommodating? Do you think persistent travelers can eventually retire and live in one place and ignore the itch in their feet?
Lash: I’ve been interviewing other traveling bloggers on a weekly basis for nearly 2 years. After one full year of interviews, I published a post talking about just that: One Year Round-up of Travelers’ Interviews. Please check it out for the results.
AS to whether or not long-term travelers can actually settle down, I’m sure it varies from person to person. But I do know several traveling couples who already have settled down after 1-2 years of continuous travels. Traveling Canucks of Canada and Positive Travels of Australia are two examples. Of course, they still go travel, but they basically have a ‘settled’ life’ with a home and other jobs, perhaps children.
For others, like myself, it still remains to be seen. Personally, I plan to travel another 10-15 years to see the whole world and then finally settle down to a nice house on a beach with landscaped gardens, where I’ll enjoy myself gardening, strolling the beach and picking fresh fruit for breakfast. That’s the dream, anyhow. 🙂
Were most travelers traveling by choice or some did it as part of their jobs? Would travel for a job take the fun away from the nomadic way of traveling?
Lash: All travelers I know do so by choice. We all love traveling the world!
As for whether traveling for work can spoil the travels: As a matter of fact, I’m about to publish my story, “how travel blogging ruined my travel life’. Seriously. It’s true. I was traveling the world for 12 years before I started blogging. Before I started blogging, my travels were much more carefree. I was less stressed. I didn’t have to sit and write all the time. And I had a lot more time to travel I didn’t have to choose my destinations based on whether or not I had internet access. Quite Ironically, travel blogging actually restricts travel a lot! That sucks.
As a result, this year I’ve made a lot of changes to my life so that I can begin to enjoy life and travels again, like I used to, as I mentioned above.
I see that your Caravan has not yet reached India. When do we see you here?
Lash: I was hoping to get there this year. Let’s see. I’ve always wanted to visit India, of course, with all the vibrant colors, amazing culture, and architecture and delicious food. But I sooo wish I could visit as A MAN! I’ve talked with so many travelers and the experience male travelers and female travelers have to India is an entirely different thing!
I want to visit India as a guy! I want to skip all the harassment and groping by local men. And I want to skip having to wear long hot clothes to cover my entire body.
AS that’s not possible, though, I will try to go with a male friend or at least another woman.
Well, I would definitely like to change her opinion on India, it is not as unsafe as you think. Come over Lash, we will take good care of you