Anna Shares Her Experience Of Traveling Over 30 Countries As A Digital Nomad And Mesmerizing Stories Of How Strangers Became Her Life Savers And Friends
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This is Anna. She’s originally from sleepy Suffolk in the UK and almost 10 years ago she quit her job to travel the world.
18th Jul | 13 min read

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    At GAFFL, we love to publish inspiring travel stories from adventurers around the world. You can connect with adventurers from 170+ countries on GAFFL, meet up, and explore destinations together. In this post, we are featuring Anna, a digital nomad, and solo female traveler.

    This is Anna. She’s originally from sleepy Suffolk in the UK and almost 10 years ago she quit her job to travel the world. She ended up becoming a travel writer and blogger and living in Goa, India! You can read about her adventures through her blog Global-gallivanting and follow her on Instagram. You can also connect with Anna on GAFFL

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    What Inspired Me To Start Solo Traveling

    I didn’t want to waste the best years of my life being miserable and cold and working for someone else’s dreams. I had a health scare in my early twenties and realized life is way too short to spend it not doing the things that make your heart sing! So I saved up, quit my job, and set off for India – somewhere as culturally different as I could get from the UK!

    How Often I Travel And Activities I Enjoy

    For the first few years, I was constantly traveling but I traveled slowly, spending at least 1 month in a country, so I could really soak up a place instead of just whizzing around ticking off the sights – I don’t find that style of travel fulfilling.

    But constantly traveling does get tiring, especially when you are working at the same time.

    Since I fell in love with Goa and rented a house I’ve settled down a bit there and spent at least 6 months of the year in Goa and travel around India in the winter.

    I don’t like the Indian monsoon though (I had enough rain growing up in the UK!) but it’s the best time to travel to Europe then and I also like to visit friends and family in the UK every summer too. I think it’s important to stay connected to your roots.

    I like to explore the historical and spiritual sights in a country and get to know the people and culture there but generally, I just go and see what happens and make it up as I go along depending on what inspires me that day or what the locals or other travelers recommend! Discovering the unexpected is the beauty of travel for me.

    How I Pick My Travel Destinations And Prepare For It

    To be honest, I’m quite spontaneous and don’t do that much planning. I kind of get inspired by hearing about a place, checking the essentials like visa requirements and cost of travel, etc, and reading some blogs and just going and seeing what happens.

    Things generally work out and I travel slow – usually spending at least 1 month in each country. I tend to stick to warm and cheap countries though my money lasts longer and because I hate the cold, rainy weather – it’s one of the reasons I left the UK!

    My Packing Philosophy

    My main tip is to pack light! It saves money and hassle and you can buy literally anything anywhere in the world – often for cheaper than it would cost in the UK. Often I travel carry on only. I always have an eye mask and earplugs though to ensure a good night's sleep, a padlock for hostel lockers, and a multi-country power adapter to charge up my devices.

    Safety Precautions I Take

    I try to learn a bit about the culture of the country I’m visiting and dress appropriately and I just take the general precautions you would take anywhere in the world like not getting drunk, looking lost, or wandering around alone at night and not flashing expensive cameras and jewelry.

    It’s also a good idea to research which neighborhoods of a city, like Mexico City, are safe and which to avoid and to get a local sim card so you can check google maps, use google translate, and find help easily if you need it.

    I try not to arrive in a new country at night either. I like to travel spontaneously but I do book a decent hostel or hotel as a safe landing space to get acclimatized for the first couple of nights and ask for an airport transfer so I know I’ll get to my accommodation safely.

    When you arrive in a new country, you are at your most vulnerable and I have been scammed taking a taxi from Delhi airport so I like to guarantee I’ll get safely to my accommodation when I first arrive in a new country. I also don’t trust anyone who comes up to me outside an airport, train station, or tourist attraction.

    I think confidence is key if you don’t look like an easy target you should be fine. I’ve never really felt unsafe to be honest, apart from that time I got a taxi from Delhi airport.

    Meeting New People And Making Friends

    I think I’ve visited over 30 countries, including most of Asia and Europe, and spent a year in Australia. But I don’t count countries though – it’s more about the experience than ticking them off a list.

    Hostels are great places to meet other travelers and make friends and I find that locals are keener to get to know you outside of the main touristy places.

    Some of my favorite travel memories involve the kindness of strangers. In Khajuraho, India, a family invited me to attend a wedding anniversary party in their rural village hut which was an amazing riot of color, music, and love and a fascinating insight into traditional village life.

    Another time, I was lost on a motorbike in the hills of Vietnam. Darkness was falling and the road conditions were awful. When I asked a family for the direction they gestured (they didn’t speak English) that we should stay with them in their hut and, in between taking hits of opium, cooked us caterpillars for dinner!

    I’m eternally grateful to them as we could have died if we’d carried on through the night.

    There’s also the time in the Australian Outback when my campervan got stuck in the sand in a heatwave but a kind farmer went and got his tractor to pull it out. There was no phone signal out there and I was running low on water – another situation that could have been fatal but luckily the kindness of strangers never fails to amaze me!

    What Inspired Me To Travel To India

    I just wanted to go somewhere with a totally different culture from the UK and I had a friend working over there, it was hot, cheap, exotic and exciting so I went to India!

    If you told me I’d be living there a few years later I would never have believed you. I’ve spent about 5 years in India in total and there are just too many highlights to list but exploring the tribal lands of North East India holds a special place in my heart and of course all the friends and memories I’ve made while living in Goa.

    India was quite a culture shock at first and it is a challenging place for a solo female traveler but it’s also the most exciting, life-changing, rewarding place to travel.

    There’s never a dull day in India and it inspired me to start writing my blog!

    Encouragements Behind Starting My Blog

    I started my blog simply because I wanted to record and share my experiences in India with my family and friends and also because I wanted to build up a portfolio of travel writing that would whisk people away to another place, like the travel magazines that I’d read obsessively while I was saving up to travel, to kick start a career as a freelance travel writer.

    So I actually didn’t intend to be a travel blogger with all the focus on social media and Instagram influencers like there is today.

    I just wanted to write travel stories but I also wanted to show people that travel doesn’t have to be expensive and that there’s so much more to life than working a 9-5 so I started including budget travel tips on my blog and that’s when it got popular.

    As well as travel tips I’ve also got a series of interviews with people who make money while traveling the world to show people how they can also quit their job and travel the world too.

    Travel Experience To Mexico During Pandemic

    I recently spent one month traveling around Mexico. The pros of traveling in Mexico are that it’s a beautiful, colorful, fun-filled country with so much to see and literally the only country to have been consistently open to all nationalities without any testing or quarantine.

    From ancient ruins to cenotes, tropical beaches, and colorful colonial towns, nearly everything was open although for me the main dilemma was how to save money and make friends while keeping distance and staying healthy.

    I wasn’t so sure if hostels were a good idea and ended up feeling pretty lonely. It was also pretty difficult to communicate when everyone’s wearing masks as my Spanish is very poor but there are some excellent Spanish schools in Mexico – I’d really recommend learning some Spanish if you travel in Mexico!

    Traveling On A Budget And Managing Cost

    I tend to stick to traveling to cheaper countries like Asia, South America, and Eastern Europe or camp if I’m in expensive countries.

    I try to make economical choices but I don’t religiously stick to a daily budget anymore. I used to, but it does take a lot of the fun out of it a bit and if you’ve gone all the way to the other side of the world you don’t want to miss out on the things you came to see – that doesn’t make economical sense either. So I just try to be sensible and spend just enough to be comfortable, well-fed, and to see the things I wanted to see.

    I find that approx £30 per day is enough in the cheaper countries.

    Some Cool Stories To Share With

    My favorite travel memories are not from the popular tourist sights, they usually happen when I’ve got lost, like in Vietnam, or broken down and have to rely on the kindness of strangers to get me out of a sticky situation.  I think things are often better when you have no expectations or when something spontaneous happens, like the wedding party invitation in India.

    My most precious memories are from when I’ve really immersed myself in another culture like when I worked in an outback pub in Australia and got to know all the locals and their way of life.

    I even saved up enough to buy a campervan which I drove all the way down Australia’s east coast, along the Great Ocean Road, and through the mesmerizing outback.

    I then sold the camper at the end of the trip making it a super way to see an expensive country on a budget and the freedom of the open road is hard to beat!

    I also love exploring abandoned places. Sometimes the most interesting things are not even on the tourist trail.

    Another of my travel highlights was exploring the abandoned, UFO like Buzludzha – the eerie and surreal former Communist Party Headquarters in Bulgaria because it was unique and unexpected.

    And of course, living in Goa, India. After a couple of years of full-time travel, it was bliss to rent a little house near the beach and settle down as the sun-kissed days melted into months of beach bliss, fish curry, spectacular sunsets, and exploring on motorbikes.

    Staying somewhere for longer allows you to really make a better connection with the people and places I love so much and slow travel is so much more rewarding than rushing around ticking off touristy sights.

    How I Manage My Work And Travel As A Digital Nomad

    To be honest it’s difficult! If I’m in a place for a limited time I want to go out and see everything instead of staying in and working.

    I tend to check my emails in the morning, spend the day sightseeing or on the beach and do work in the evening so I don’t feel like I’m missing out too much and I’m not spending on going out but you have to work around the weather too – in many places it’s just too hot to be sightseeing in the middle of the day so then I’ll work inside instead and venture out at sunrise and sunset when it’s cooler. Sometimes I’ll have days where I just work for a few days. I build this into my travel plans so if I know I want to spend 3 days exploring a city I’ll stay for 6 so I have time to work and to plan my next move.

    When I’m at home in Goa I have a nice routine of going to a yoga class, working in the heat of the day, and then going to the beach for sunset time.

    Biggest Challenges To Traveling As A Solo Digital Nomad

    The internet and being disciplined enough to work when you want to go out and explore a new city!

    Especially when traveling in developing countries it can be a struggle to get good enough internet. Dealing with clients in different time zones, clients who don’t pay, and having an unstable income is another challenge. It can also be a bit of a lonely life – you are always having to say goodbye to people and your friends are all over the world. It’s especially hard nowadays being separated from friends and missing important life events because of border closures and travel restrictions due to coronavirus.

    That’s why I now spend a lot longer in places and have built a base in Goa so I have more regular friends around and I got decent wifi installed in my house! So that solves the two worst things about being a digital nomad.

    Lessons I Learned From Traveling

    The world is not such a scary place as you might see on TV or in the news. We are all the same really, we all need the same things, and most people are inherently kind and will help you even if you don’t speak each other’s language. Don’t worry about it too much, things just seem to work out and every trip will change your life in some way. You never know until you go.

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