22 Years Strong! Lash Is Traveling Full-Time On Her Mission To Visit Every Country In The World
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26th Feb | 8 min read

Born and raised in the US, about one year before Lash finished university, she decided to devote herself to traveling the world, so soon after she graduated, she moved to Kyoto, Japan in order to save money to travel. That was in 1991 (Teaching English paid big bucks there then). 

Lash lived and worked in Kyoto for six years, saving money and preparing for her upcoming travels until late 1997. Having completed her savings, she left Japan, invested her money, and started traveling full-time in 1998. She’s been traveling ever since.

Besides her passion for travel, Lash has been a health and fitness nut ever since she was a teenager. In her travels, she is especially interested in nature, culture, and the arts. You can connect with Lash on GAFFL and through her travel blog LashWorldTour and through her Facebook.

How I Started Traveling Solo

Well, actually, I never intended to travel solo!

I moved to Japan with my best friend, Rick, and we planned to travel the world together after saving money for several years. While living in Japan, we did many domestic trips together, as well as one international vacation, always preparing and learning lessons for our big world adventure.

Unfortunately, I guess Rick wasn't as devoted to the world trip as I was. I don't think he ever saved much money and eventually he found a Japanese girlfriend. But besides that, he and I had some serious difficulties traveling together, so by the time I was ready to leave Japan, I had already concluded that we couldn't really travel together. I left for the world trip and he stayed in Japan with his girlfriend. 

So I became a solo traveler by default! It was either that or give up on my dream. My dream that I'd already diligently prepared for and anticipated for eight years. No way! 

To be honest, that was initially a bit of a shock to my system. While visiting family in the US after leaving Japan, I eventually noticed that I seemed to be stalling on beginning my trip. When I examined that, I realized that I was indeed a bit intimidated about setting out on my own.

I finally overcame that by deciding that I was not going to let fear stop me from pursuing my dreams. I 'tricked' myself into taking the first step of flying to Bangkok, Thailand. I told myself that if, for some reason, I didn't like it after I reached Bangkok that I was allowed to stop and return home at any time. That did the trick!

Of course, once I arrived in amazing Bangkok and started exploring, I quickly wondered what I'd been so scared of. Since then, I haven't wanted to stop traveling yet, 22 years later. 

My main motivation – drive – is that I've set out to see every country in the world. I have a clear goal. 

As far as traveling solo goes, on the one hand, I'm quite ok on my own, doing just about everything. I'm perfectly happy eating at restaurants, going to stores & markets, attending the cinema, visiting museums & cultural events, riding trains & buses & planes, all solo. No problem, good fun. 

However, I would actually prefer to have a partner. After all these years, I'm still a solo traveler more or less by default! 

Much to my amazement, I simply cannot find one other person who can & wants to travel the world full time for the next 10 years or so! Do you know anyone who'd like to join me?

I've made good friends from many countries in the world. Most of them are travelers, some expats living overseas, and some fellow travel bloggers. I've also remained friends with many people who've hosted me on Couchsurfing, Airbnb, and HelpExchange gigs. 

Thinking of my best friends that I've met on the road, I can say that we've mostly met at hotels and hostels, from scuba diving (I was a PADI Instructor for 8 years), rock climbing, hiking, and even dance clubs.

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How I Choose Where To Travel Next

Oh, that's easy. As I mentioned, my mission is to visit every country in the world.

But I'm not out to just check off countries from a list. I travel slowly and really get to know most countries I visit, especially their natural places and the most interesting towns & cities. I'm also a budget traveler, which means I need to travel in an economical manner.

All of those factors make travel decisions quite easy and straight-forward.

I don't hop around the globe hither & thither. I simply pick 'the next' major region on the globe and then go travel through it slowly, mostly overland, until I've seen it all. Then I pick the next region and do the same.

I started my world travels in SE Asia and, oopps, I ended up traveling, living and working in the region from 1998 until 2015 (!), with some excursions off to Australia/NZ/Fiji and to India/Nepal/Sri Lanka, mostly towards the end of that time.

Then in 2015 I finally left the region, returned to the US to visit family for a few months, then headed down to Central America. I explored Mexico and C. America for three years.

In early 2019 I headed over to Morocco then Spain and Portugal before reaching the Balkan countries and Eastern Europe. I've been in this region ever since, currently 'stuck' in wonderful Turkey during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Traveling Full Time Means

As you know by now, I don't have separate 'trips'. I travel full time. 

I can say that, on average, I spend 1-3 months in each country I visit. That depends on how big the country is, how many amazing things there are to see and do, and how much I like the country. 

Occasionally, I arrive in a country and discover pretty quickly that I don't like it. So I leave sooner than planned. Cambodia and Honduras come to mind. 

On the other hand, some countries I love so much, and there's so much to see and do, that I spend considerably longer than planned and/or return over and over again. That's how I ended up staying in SE Asia so darn long. I loved southern Thailand, Bali, Malaysia and Singapore.

I also fell in love with Mexico, which I returned to three times and spent a total of 1 ½ years exploring. I'm having the same experience with Turkey, though I'm actually staying here longer because I can't leave due to Covid-19! Lol. That's fine by me.

Biggest Travel Related Challenges

The limitations I have sometimes are with which places I can travel to or how long I can stay in a place. That's because of financial restraints. 

Sometimes there are places in a country that I really want to visit, but it's just too expensive for me. Usually I can work around that. For example, I can stay in a nearby town/city and visit on a day trip. Or I can try to find a Couchsurfing host, house sitting gig or work exchange opportunity. Usually it's expensive accommodation that gets in the way, so if I can greatly reduce or eliminate accommodation expenses, then the place suddenly becomes affordable. 

I guess I also miss out on some amazing experiences & adventures that are too expensive for me, such as a trip to Antarctica or a cruise along the coast of Alaska. 

On the other hand, some expensive adventures I'm able to enjoy by saving up money or using yearly Christmas & birthday money to pay for my most desired experiences. For example, this year I finally did hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey. I decided I couldn't miss it, so I pooled together all my Christmas & birthday money. Oh, I also went skiing for Christmas, 2019 in Bulgaria with Christmas funds. 

In addition, I've been working as a professional hotel reviewer since 2016, so I visit plenty of beautiful luxury & boutique hotels as I travel. I get my fair taste of luxurious surroundings, gourmet meals and spa treatments to spice up my usual budget travel life. 

So there's not really too much I miss out on due to lack of funds.

My Best Budget Travel Advice For New Solo Travelers

I've written a whole series of articles on how to afford long-term budget travel. I've given heaps of tips on accommodation, eating & drinking, transportation and other aspects of budget travel. Here are a few main tips in each category:

Accommodation – If you stay in a hotel/hostel/room for one week or longer, ask for a discount. Most places will give you one, though you'll probably have to pay it all in one payment upfront.

Eating – In expensive countries, you can keep your food expenses low by buying groceries and cooking for yourself instead of eating at restaurants. In cheap countries, it might be the same price or even cheaper to just eat out.

Personal habits – Smoking, drinking alcohol, partying and/or enjoyng other substances is incredibly expensive. If you partake in any of these, then if you can cut them out, your expenses will be MUCH lower and your travel funds will go A LOT further. Just one of those habits can quickly double your expenses, versus not doing them. Two or three of them will probably bump you up out of the 'budget' travel category. 

Drinking – If you do like drinking alcohol, it's usually A LOT cheaper to buy it at stores and drink at your room/hostel/hotel/park/beach/street corner than to drink at bars & clubs. Some countries have super inexpensive alcohol (like Mexico and C. America) while in other countries (like Muslim countries, Singapore and Bali) alcohol is incredibly expensive. So if you can choose which countries you drink in and which not, you can control your budget much better.

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