BookSinglesHolidays: We’ve read the About Me section of your blog and we must say, we are very impressed. You have overcome so much, have worked so hard to achieve your goal of traveling the world, and this makes you a true role model. So many people dream of doing what you’re doing, but need an extra push. What would you tell those people?
Lauren: Thank you for the kind words! Travel has been the best thing I’ve ever done, and I fully recommend it to everyone. It’s because of travel that I overcame a debilitating anxiety disorder, found confidence in myself, and gained a tremendous amount of life experience. It has truly transformed my life!
For people who want to go travelling, but can’t seem to make the leap, I’d recommend starting out with short trips and working your way up to long-term travel. Start by going to a different city in your home country, then head a little further afield after that.
And for anyone who isn’t sure they’ll be good at travelling, I’d say that before I left the UK, I had never eaten rice or been on a bus. If I can do it successfully, so can you!
BSH: You’ve mentioned your lifestyle isn’t perfect and that you do work around 40 hours a week. How do you have the strength to keep going? How can you, after working 8 hours a day, go outside and explore?
L: I typically spend much longer in a place than I would if I was travelling and not working. The perfect amount of time for me is one month in one city, so that I can get to know it at my own pace.
Additionally, I work every single day so those 40 hours spread out to just five or six a day. Working for myself means that I can set my own work schedule: I can head out and explore during the day, then work at night. Sometimes I work 12 hours a day and sometimes I will take three days off. If I’m feeling uninspired, I won’t work. It’s all pretty easy when you work for yourself and don’t have any deadlines.
BSH: Even though it takes work to do what you do, there are so many great things about your lifestyle. You stated that freedom is one of them. Can you mention a few others things that make your heart beat faster?
L: So many things! I love that my Monday mornings are my own to snooze and explore – when I see my friends’ depressed Facebook statuses about hating having to go into work, it reminds me of my life before travel, and reminds me to grateful I’ve managed to build the life I have. And then I go to the beach.
One other thing I love is having the opportunity to throw myself fully into new hobbies. I can pause my work for a month and go take an intensive Spanish course, or I can take a week out to go to a surfing retreat, or even take cooking classes every day.
BSH: You’ve visited 65 countries across five continents. What are some places you wish to visit in the future?
L: My list is forever growing! At the moment, South Africa, Ghana, Madagascar, and India rank right at the top.
BSH: You say that travel is affordable, which we’ve heard so many other travel bloggers say. We believe that it’s all about priorities: if luxury is your priority, then probably you won’t be able to spend all your days traveling. But if your priority is to explore the world, then you’re going to find a way to do it. What are your thoughts on the vacation culture vs travel culture? Tourist vs traveler?
L: One of the reasons why I’ve been able to travel for as long as I have is because I’ve always made travel my priority. When I was saving up for my trip, I skipped dinners with friends and buying anything new, because I’d have rather put that money towards an extra few days on the beach in Thailand. Likewise, when I travel, I do so on a budget, so that I can see as much as possible.
I don’t really have much of an opinion on vacation vs. travel culture, or the tourist vs. traveler argument. People travel for different reasons and no one way is better than the other. If you’re happiest spending two weeks in a resort, that’s great – it’ll probably be far more enjoyable than spending 18 hours on an overnight bus in Nepal with food poisoning! I’m not going to shame anyone for traveling on a luxury budget or limiting their trips to a week each year – everyone’s different.
But if you do want to travel long-term and see as many places as possible, make travel your priority, stop spending your money on anything else, and travel on a budget.
BSH: So many people are struggling with anxiety and for some of them traveling may offer the relief they need. What advice would you have for them? How does one go about traveling with anxiety?
L: Travel has been fantastic for my anxiety and you definitely don’t have to let it hold you back from seeing the world. Honestly, the best advice I can give is to just go. You can spend months building it up in your mind as something you can’t do, but all it’s going to do is make it harder for you to leave. Some of my best tips:
Remembering that you can go home is always a big one for me. I felt like once I planned out a trip and left, I had to stick it out for the entire time. You don’t have to: if you feel terrible, you can book a plane ticket home and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Forming a routine on the road can help a lot. It keeps you in control of your life, and a lack of control is definitely one of the sources of my anxiety. Wake up at the same time every day, spend your afternoons in coffee shops, and set aside one day of the week as a treat day, where you spoil yourself rotten.
Against the typical advice you read on travel blogs and in articles, I’d recommend ignoring your intuition. When you suffer from anxiety, your intuition tricks you into thinking that everything you do is going to result in your death. If I’d have paid attention to mine, I don’t think I would have ever been able to leave the UK!
Finally, I’d suggest leaving your comfort zone as often as possible, even if it feels like the last thing you want to do. Taking on new challenges is what shows you you’re capable. It introduces you to new things and helps build your confidence. I believe it was leaving my comfort zone on a daily basis that helped me overcome anxiety.
BSH: Tell us a bit about your book, “How Not to Travel The World”. Is writing a book also something you’ve always dreamed of doing?
L: How Not to Travel the World is my memoir about how I’m the unluckiest traveller ever. On my travels, I have been scammed, assaulted and robbed, lost teeth and swallowed a cockroach. Instead of finding myself, I lost a laptop, a camera, $1000 and a backpack. I fell into leech-infested rice paddies, had the brakes of my motorbike fail while riding down a mountain, and a boat started to sink with me on board. I was caught up in a tsunami, sat beside a corpse, and experienced a very unhappy ending during a massage in Thailand.
How Not to Travel the World is about how I turned my bad luck around and used it to conquer my debilitating anxiety. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone, following your dreams, and using travel to change your life.
As for whether I’d always dreamed of writing a book: nope! I had no intentions to ever write one. I was actually contacted by two big publishing companies within the space of the month, each enquiring as to whether I’d thought about writing a book about my misadventures. I threw a proposal together, found an agent, and suddenly found myself with a book deal!
BSH: On your blog, you don’t shy away from sharing personal details about your trips, such as costs and tales of bed bugs. What reactions have you gotten from people?
L: Reactions have been uniformly positive! A lot of travel blogs focus only on the positives, so my readers find it refreshing to see a different take on the travel experience. I want to show the realities of travel, whether it’s how affordable it is or how some days on the road can really suck – that way, I can show more people that it’s an achievable goal to have, and to not beat themselves up when things go wrong.
BSH: And now a real easy one, what are your favorite destinations?
L: My top five are: Cambodia, Mexico, New Zealand, Slovenia, and Taiwan!
BSH: And lastly, is there anything you would change about your lifestyle? And if there is, what would it be?
L: One of the great things about having this much freedom is being able to change something if I’m not happy with it. One recent development is my realisation that full-time travel is no longer for me. Moving from hotel room to hotel room to hotel room with no constant set of friends and no sense of stability has been exhausting, and after five years of doing it, I’m ready to stop.
I’m not going to stop travelling, but I am hoping to find a base this year. Having somewhere familiar to return to in-between trips (and a kitchen!) feels like the best option for me!
BSH: Thank you, Lauren for your time and for sharing your thoughts with us! Good luck and may all your travels be safe and fun!
Want more of Lauren’s travel anecdotes? Head on over to her blog, Never Ending Footsteps! Has Lauren’s story inspired you to venture out on your own? If it has, then make sure to check some awesome offers on BookSinglesHolidays.com. The adventure of a lifetime could be right around the corner!