One of my favorite things about traveling is the people we meet. In Bukit Lawang, a small town of only a few hundred people (if that many) we met a fellow traveler who we were lucky enough to spend time with over beers, hiking or dinner. She is a definite contrast to me and J.. Nikki travels alone a lot, she is much younger than us, and definitely travels to places we are apprehensive about visiting. We had a great time with her, learned a lot and were really inspired by her dedication to her passion even when it isn’t easy.
Nikki is in her 20’s, single and working in her hometown in the UK. She bravely gets on planes (despite her fear) and travels around the world, checking off her dream list as she navigates experiences and adventures. Recently she agreed to answer some questions and share her story. This is our interview:
Me: How long have you been traveling?
Nikki: My first long term trip was in May 2014, so coming up to 4 years now. Since then, I’ve travelled at least once a year, usually for a few months at a time.
Me: What was your first trip? Nikki: I backpacked around Asia for 7 months; visiting Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. Although 3 of those months were spent on one tiny island on the east-coast of Malaysia, because it was so beautiful it took me a really long time to leave.
Me: Why do you travel? Nikki: I travel because for me, I never feel more free than when I arrive in a new country, and everything is completely alien to me. It’s both terrifying and exhilarating arriving in a place where you know no-one, can’t speak the language, and have no plan. Each day is a new adventure, and the choice on how you spend it is completely up to you. Your imagination is your only limit!
Me: How are you able to work and travel? Nikki: I usually work for 6 months in the UK, saving every penny I can, and then travel for as long as my funds will allow. Then return home, and repeat.
Me: Do you travel alone or with others? Nikki: I have done both. Each has its pros and cons. As I get older and travel more, I enjoy travelling alone because it gives me complete freedom to make my own schedule, and choose exactly what I want to see and do. I am glad I travelled with a friend for my first trip though; as a sheltered 23 year old, it was quite a daunting experience and it was nice to be able to share it with someone while my confidence at navigating the world grew.
Me: What is your favorite destination so far? Nikki: The toughest question of all, but I’d have to say Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia. The people were so welcoming, the food was amazing, beautiful scenery, and it was so cheap! It’s still pretty off the beaten track in terms of backpacking in Asia, so it’s really affordable.
Me: Where do you dream of going? Nikki: Everywhere! Most days I hear about a new place I’d like to visit. But Scotland, the Faroe Islands, Norway and Iceland are next on the list. I’m planning a 6 week trip to visit them in April.
Me: Do you think traveling has changed you? If so how? Nikki: It always sounds like such a cliche when people say travel changes you, but for me, it certainly has. Personally, I’ve learned that I need very little to be happy. A nice car, the latest mobile phone, a designer handbag, all seem so irrelevant after a while.
I’ve also learned to relax a lot more, and accept situations that are beyond my control. Traveling definitely teaches you not to sweat the small stuff, and I’m not easily phased now. A 14 hour bus journey through the mountains of Vietnam will really make that traffic jam on your daily commute seem insignificant.
Lastly, it has increased my confidence more than I could have ever imagined. Five years ago, the thought of a train journey to London on my own would have scared me. Now, I regularly fly all over the world, with no plan, sometimes not even so much as a hotel booking, and I just know that wherever I am, and whatever difficulties may arise, I’ll be OK.
Me: What advice would you give people wanting to travel more but wondering how they can afford it? Nikki: I would say to them, it’s not as out of reach as it seems. A lot of people who talk to me about my travels say they wish they could do the same, but they could never afford it. If you’re prepared to budget, and make sacrifices, it’s a goal that’s quite easily attainable. Once you start tracking what you spend, you’ll be amazed at how much a few pounds for that coffee every morning, or eating out for lunch at work every day, all adds up. Plan ahead and pack your own lunches, and put the money in your travel fund instead!
Me: Have you ever felt intimidated being a woman traveling alone? Nikki: There have been a few occasions where I have felt intimidated, but for the most part I am always in awe of people’s compassion. I have found myself in a couple of unfortunate situations whilst travelling, and whilst it is a disappointing experience, the displays of kindness and help from strangers, wherever you may be in the world, restores your faith in humanity tenfold.
Me: Are your friends and family supportive of your traveling so much? Nikki: Yes, they are. In fact they’re so used to me leaving, they don’t even plan leaving parties anymore! But they do always keep in touch while I’m away, and always show an interest in what I’m doing while I’m gone.
Me: I find I feel antsy and stifled when I am not traveling. Do you feel the same? Nikki: Always. I find this is both one of the best, and worst things about being a travel addict. The curiosity to step outside of your comfort zone is a great thing, but I now find it hard to stay in one place for too long without becoming restless!
Me: What is your best advice for surviving long flights? Nikki: Long haul flights are never pleasant, especially for those of us who are terrified of flying. My top tips for making them more bearable are downloading a few of your favourite TV shows and films; Netflix now enables you to watch them offline. I always make sure I have the following in my carry on;
* Books/ Magazines
* Face Wipes – Great for freshening up on the go!
* Moisturiser – Flying can really dry your skin out.
* Snacks – Because food on planes is expensive, and that money is better spent at your destination!
You can follow Nikki’s travels on Instagram.