Hi! My name is Kristina. I’m a Canadian-born traveller currently backpacking/living in Southeast Asia with my French boyfriend, Gaspard. I have been a traveller almost my whole life; I’ve grown up in several countries and have lived as an expat for most of my childhood. The travel lifestyle has become a natural part of my life, and when I am not abroad I feel antsy! After six years of university back in Canada, I left home once again and have been on the go ever since.
My feet have gently settled for a time being – in Thailand! Gaspard and I have now been living in Koh Phangan, a small island in the south of Thailand, for the past three months and we have no plans to move on anytime soon! I have a job here as a SCUBA diving instructor at an amazing dive school in a lovely quiet area of the island. I could not be happier.
What inspires you to travel?
I have constantly reflected upon why travelling so important and so vital in my life. I believe travel makes me feel connected; I feel connected to people, I feel connected to cultures. Travel allows me to continuously face new challenges and new situations and in turn lets me grow as a person. Travel allows me to feel humble, and reminds me that the world is a complicated and diverse place. I would not have the same lived experiences if I stayed at home.
Travel allows me to feel free and creative. When I travel, I see opportunities that would not have been available to me if I had stayed in one place – if I had stayed at home. Travel allows me to remind myself, daily, that there is more than one path to follow; you don’t have to follow the same road as everyone else. Feeling creative is important to me, and travel helps me find creative outlets. Whether it’s appreciating art from several cultures, or practicing yoga at the beach.
Travel is my therapy. I feel less anxious; I feel less pain, I am happier when I am on the road. And if travelling is the key to my physical and mental heath, then that is the only inspiration I will ever need to keep my feet on the go.
Where is your favorite destination to date?
I always love travelling to Thailand. Thailand is an easy country to travel to; as a traveller you are well taken care of. But you can always step aside and stay away from the typical traveller’s route and discover a Thailand that is all your own. It is such a diverse country; no place is the same. In the north you have the Golden Triangle, in the south the beaches, then you have vibrant cities like Bangkok. Every destination in Thailand is unique. Thailand’s culture is unique as well. It is one of the only countries in Southeast Asia that was not colonized, therefore its tradition has stayed authentic and its own. For that I think Thailand is such a culturally rich destination as well: The spiritual traditions, the language, and the food!
How do you prefer to travel? Solo or With a group? Why?
I do not like travelling in groups! I find it overwhelming, and I don’t feel in control of my own trip. I am the person who will always end up following along with what the others want to do rather than voice what I really want to do. Not only that, I think traveling in a group can become an organizational nightmare! Accommodating to everyone’s plans, spending loads of time waiting for others, and deciding on itineraries. I find it more constricting to travel with more than two people in a group, and my personality means I will be the one stressed out about whether or not everyone is having a good time. I like travelling with my boyfriend. I don’t need any more company than that. We are a great fit and fantastic travel buddies. We are both very introverted people, so it’s easy to decide to take low-key days and not have to worry about jamming in a full-day plan. We are interested in similar things too, so we agree on destinations and activities easily.
I enjoy solo travel too, and sometimes getting time to travel on my own is really rewarding. I feel accomplished when things go smoothly, and it’s freeing to be on no one else’s time than your own. I was recently in Penang, Malaysia for a few days on my own. I felt triumphant when I successfully organized my travel arrangements, when I was able to argue my way out of potential scams, and even help other “newbie” travelers along the way. I did it all on my own. While I was in Penang I didn’t care if I ended up spending hours reading my book in a café. I had no one to worry about!
Do you think there is a difference traveling as a woman?
I think travelling, as a woman, has become a huge trending subject to talk about. I have never thought about it so much until recently. Perhaps it’s because I have traveled solo more often lately, or perhaps it’s a result of the fact that every female traveller talks about her experience…
I am very aware of my sex. I am aware of it no matter where I am or what I am doing. I am aware of other things too; I am petite, I am brunette, I am young… these are things that affect my lived experience too.
And of course, that doesn’t change while I am travelling. Perhaps when I travel alone, it becomes even more of a big deal that I am on my own because I was told it is a big deal to travel solo as a woman. For fair enough reasons. We are the minority sex, and we are often the victims. So when a woman travels on her own, her friends and family immediately warn her about the dangers of travelling alone. Traveling to an unknown place is a scary thing for many people. And for many women who want to travel solo, it has become the very thing that stops them from traveling all together. The fear of the unknown is the major factor. Being a female in your hometown can be just as dangerous if not more than when you’re travelling.
As a young female adult, I am aware of my vulnerabilities. It makes me anxious when I travel to new and unfamiliar places. But from past experience I remind myself that I have nothing to fear. As long as I keep my wits about me, stay logical, and not accept anything I wouldn’t accept back home, I will be fine.
But because the worry is instilled in me, I find the small successes of travel become huge victories. Just like my journey to Penang; being so proud of myself that I was able to get through the trip without an anxiety attack or feeling like a “damsel in distress”. There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of the little victories, but it shouldn’t be a surprise when you have made achievements – whether on your travels or in daily life.
How do you plan your trips?
Plan? I don’t! Not really. On our travels, a day or two in advance, my boyfriend and I will decide where to go and book our ticket to our next destination. We will then book accommodation, but that is as far as we go. We never make a list of things to do, or make a daily itinerary of what to do and where to visit. Our travel style is slow and relaxed. We value exploring a place by simply getting lost in the area and only occasionally visiting popular sites. We want to experience a place for its authenticity rather than go on tours to popular/organized sites. I think making a rigid plan is bound to fail and doesn’t leave much room for surprises that you will encounter along the way. I think not having a plan allows you to be open to creating more experiences, as you don’t have anything pre-arranged!
When is your next one?
I am not sure what my next adventure will be, or when it will be. I am enjoying my current one so much, and I think I’d like to keep it up for some time. I feel lucky to have the opportunity to live and work on such a gorgeous island. It’s definitely a dream come true!
Any advice you would like to give to your fellow travelers?
Apart form “don’t plan much”; don’t be too anxious as it hinders you from really enjoying your travels and experiencing things genuinely. Stay safe – of course – and like with anything you do, stay wise. Follow your gut, but stay open. Travelling is the most real way you can ever learn and experience life, be tolerant to new customs, be empathetic to strange ideas. Don’t judge or compare countries to each other, especially to your own. I can guarantee you that if you do, you will be grumpy a lot! If you enter an experience with solid expectations you are setting yourself up for disappointment and not opening your heart to new experiences and life lessons.
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