1) Hi Alex, and congratulations on being featured as a globelle gal in focus!
Can you tell us where in the world we'd currently find you?
Cheers! I’m writing from a sunny coffee shop in the heart of Lahore, Pakistan’s
2) What inspired you to first start travelling?
My family instilled a love for travel in me from the start. Three cultures played a role
in my upbringing— I was born in the United States, my mother is from the Philippines,
and my father is from England.
We had to travel to visit family all throughout my childhood, and on top of that, my
father was a professor for many years. He often had to travel to conferences in far
away places, and occasionally the family could tag along! Together, we munched on
centipedes in China, road tripped across the lonely plains of Iceland, bemoaned milk-
induced diarrhea on the Mongolian steppe, and strolled down the white sand
beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
Travel was always our priority, and clearly it had an effect on me!
3) What's been your favourite place to visit, and why?
Ah, I could never choose a singular favourite. Every country has its ups and downs,
every country is unique. I love Pakistan and Bangladesh for their hospitable people,
Bhutan for its perfectly picturesque vistas, Mongolia for its endless blue sky, Iran for
its divine architecture, Thailand for its food, India for its insanity. How could I decide?!
4) What's the worst thing that's happened to you since being on the road? How did you deal with it?
My lowest moment happened pretty early on in my current multi-year journey. It’s pretty gross, but admittedly I almost drowned in my own vomit while sleeping after consuming way, way too much homebrewed liquor with some people who picked me up while hitchhiking in Georgia. It sounds silly, but it was rather terrifying once I regained enough consciousness to realize what happened.
I ended up alternating between lying in bed and vomiting more for hours and hours and hours, dreaming of the moment where I could finally crawl across the road to the convenience store for more water. All hangovers fade eventually; about 12 hours after waking up, I mustered up the energy to wipe up my disaster, slither to the store, and regain a shred of dignity.
(Let it be noted that swearing off alcohol in Georgia is virtually impossible—I ended up drinking a couple of days later. Sigh.)
5) Obviously life on the road is about fewer possessions and more moments, but what is the one thing you can't travel without?
My camera, hands down. Travel photography is a passion of mine; I feel naked without it!
6) You've travelled through some incredibly remote regions (in Afghanistan, Pakistan to name a couple) and to destinations that are still quite uncommon for many travellers. What drove your decision to prioritise exploring these parts of the world?
Places with many travellers are usually very commercial and/or artificial.
The experiences you have in these places are contrived, crafted to cater to foreign travellers who want as easy an experience as possible. If you go off the beaten track, you can escape the tour advertisements, souvenir stall hawkers, lengthy lines for The Instagram Shot at sights.
Local people are much more genuine and friendly, and though it’s more challenging to travel where few others do, it’s much more rewarding when you finally accomplish whatever it is you set out to do!
Beyond that, Western media skews negative when it comes to many of the countries I’ve visited.
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran; most people associate them with terror or disaster. What the news doesn’t show you is that life still goes on in these countries, and it’s often drastically different from what you see online or on the TV. I like seeing what life is really like in these countries, rather than basing my opinions on fear mongering talking heads on the television.
7) You've also written about breaking up on the road. How have you found the transition to a solo female traveller? What would be your advice for others perhaps going through the same thing?
Solo female travel is definitely more challenging than traveling as a couple, but overall, the transition has been fantastic. I have much more freedom, my self-confidence is building, and I meet way more people than I ever did as half of a pair.
The downside is that, given where I’m traveling, I have to deal with deeply misogynistic ‘tudes and a lot of creepy dudes on a regular basis, but… well, I learn to tune them out. Most of the time.
My advice to others? If you’re transitioning from couples travel to solo travel, take time for yourself. Don’t feel pressured to keep going as you were. It takes a while to get used to the new you, and that’s okay. Treat yoself! Stay somewhere comfortable that feels safe. Watch all that bad TV your partner made fun of you for watching. Eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. (Okay, maybe just for dinner.)
8) You must have met so many amazing people on the road. Could you tell us about a couple of your most memorable encounters on the road, and who has left a lasting impact on you?
I’ve met all kinds of people on the road, from village shamans to the King of Bhutan! (Side note: King looked like an Asian Tom Cruise from Top Gun.)
There was Bezhat, the carpet salesman in Tabriz, Iran who spoke English like a BBC presenter thanks to avidly watching videos of David Cameron’s speeches. He took my ex and I all over his city, and treated us to everything from cold Iranian “Coke” to sheep brain sandwiches.
Then there’s Hamza and Siraj, two Pashtun cousins from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan bordering Afghanistan. Pashtuns have a reputation for being dangerous and highly conservative, yet they were jolly, open minded, and were the most hospitable people I’ve met in my travels. Together we went duck hunting, ate enough food to feed an army (many a time), and explored Buddhist ruins around their home village, to name a few.
Karma is a young Bhutanese man who ended up as my tour guide in Bhutan. I was afraid of being stuck with a stuffy old bore for my three weeks in Bhutan, but things were quite the opposite! Far from formality, we ended up taking boy band-style selfies while trekking in the mountains, going clubbing in Thimphu, Bhutan’s capital, and getting up to all kinds of smoky hijinks that I probably shouldn’t explain too extensively ;)
9) What are your plans for the future, and what do you hope to achieve through all of your hard work?
Current plan is… keep the ball rolling! It’s no secret that I have a love affair with Asia, so I’ll be skulking about this region for most of the foreseeable future.
Though it’s not making me rich by any means, my blog is making enough money to keep me afloat for the time being. I’m not looking to rake in the cashmonies; my goal is to be able to fund my travels through my photography, storytelling, and ability to pimp myself on social media online presence. It’s a lot of work, but every time I get a message from someone telling me I’ve inspired them and their travels, I’m reminded that it’s all worth it.
10) What does travelling mean to you?
Traveling is a way to understand the planet we live on and the humans we share it with. It’s approaching a place with an open mind and insatiable curiosity, saying yes as often as possible, getting lost on a regular basis, seeking out the new in every which way.
11) If you could offer one piece of advice to those travelling for the first time, either as part of a group or solo, what would it be?
Don’t plan everything! The best opportunities often arise where you’d least expect them. If your plans are open and flexible, it’s much easier to say yes to things as they come.
My suggestion: pick a place, figure out how to get there, and if you’re flying there, book a hotel or hostel for the first few nights. If you really need to have security, figure out a general direction you want to travel, or a final destination. After that, make up plans on the fly! Keep your eyes open, get recommendations from locals and other travelers, and go with the flow. I promise the most memorable moments will be the ones you didn’t plan.
12) And finally, how can girls get in touch with you, and keep up to date with where you're exploring next?
Lost With Purpose is my travel blog and home on the internet; you’ll find all of my stories, photos, and thoughts there. If you’re a social media person, I’m most active on Instagram and Facebook.
And, of course, girls can always email me at hello [at] lostwithpurpose.com. I’m not always the speediest responder, but I do read every email, and I always reply to personal emails (eventually).