Interview with Singapore’s Shin Min Daily News

A translated version of my interview last Saturday (17 October 2015) with Singapore Chinese newspaper, Shin Min Daily News, can be found here for my non-Mandarin speaking friends! 🙂

Isabel Interview with Shin Min

Isabel Interview with Shin Min

1. At what age did you start travelling? What countries have you been to?
I went on my first trip without my parents at age 14, contributed to my first trip at age 18 and subsequently started funding my own trips overseas as and when I can find the time and budget to.
I have been to 16 countries, including England, France, Spain, Germany etc. I recently spent 6 months travelling to 55 cities around Europe. I have always been curious about the world, from the culture to the people, the architecture to the nature. I love to rekindle the childlike wonder in me, of being in an unknown city and seeing everything as if for the first time. I love to challenge myself and push myself outside my comfort zone. Travelling, to me, is as much a discovery about the world as it is to discover myself. I learn things about myself that I never knew about. Meeting people allows me to listen to their stories, and imagine a world that is completely different from my own.
2. How much did you spend in total? How do you keep it within budget?
I spent $6991 alone just travelling around Europe, in exactly 83 days. This includes everything that a typical traveller would spend when overseas- food, accommodation, transport and the occasional paid tour.
As I embarked on this journey with full intentions to finance it entirely on my own, I know that every penny saved counts. I didn’t have to worry about splurging as I am well aware of my financial priority- to buy experiences and see the world. I have been financially independent since 18 years old, hence I know that money doesn’t come easy. I tracked my expenses when I was overseas. I kept every receipt so that I know where and how my money was spent. It allowed me to evaluate my expenses more objectively.
3. Did you travel alone? What difficulties and challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
My trips were either spent with friends, boyfriend, or alone! I had a list of places I wanted to go, so if I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, I’d do it myself! Travelling alone brings along an entirely different experience, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It forces you out of your inhibitions, to be more alert and you tend to notice your surroundings more, as compared to when travelling around with a companion.
When travelling alone, there will definitely be times where I wished someone was around for me to share my days’ moments with. It was more frightening when I was travelling around in a non-English speaking country, as in the case of France, where I spent most of my time at, as the direction signs were all French. While you’re more susceptible to danger, you also open your world to opportunities, like how a passer-by approached me to ask if he could walk together with me along a beach. Through my conversation with him, I’d learn how the locals in the city of Nice, France lived.
4. What were your parents’ and friends’ reactions when they know about it?
As I am financing it entirely on my own, I was met with little reservations from my parents. My friends were really supportive. They knew I always had this free-spiritedness in me and were really excited to hear all about my adventures.
5. How did you travel light when you’re on the road for as long as 6 months? Any packing tips for long-term travel?
Budget planes charge quite high for check in luggages, so as much as I can when I’m travelling to nearby countries, I travel with my Cabin-sized baggage. That means liquids don’t exceed 100ml. For a 10-day trip, I’d bring 5 sets of clothes or less. When I buy souvenirs, I don’t go for fragile, bulky items. Most of the time I find myself going for postcards, bracelets and magnets, which are lightweight and low-cost.
6. What was the most memorable experience that you had?
Memorable experiences would be couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is where people host their apartment for travellers like me to live for free, in exchange for cultural exchange, whether through conversations or cooking local food for the other party. Because of couchsurfing, I could experience what it’s like to live in a countryside in England, drink local beer at a local ruin pub in Belgium, watch an artist paint, listen to a musician play and learn the difference between the way a German mother brings her children up and that of an Asian parent.
7. Where is your next destination? Any upcoming goals?
There are many places on my bucket list, but for now I’ve got to work to save up as well as complete my studies. Perhaps one day, I can be an established travel writer. 🙂

Isabel Interview with Shin Min

Me getting all excited when I found out I appeared on the front page news last Saturday!

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