Our Traveler this week is Trang, founder of Travel with Trang. Hi, Trang!
This post is part of our YouPaca The Bag Traveler Series. This series looks at how people from all walks of life travel. We analyze what works for them and what doesn’t, their travel planning strategies, obstacles they’ve encountered, destinations they enjoy, their future travel goals, and more. We hope you enjoy reading this series as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together!
Tell us about yourself.
Hi! I’m Trang – an Asian solo female traveler who loves to eat. Because I saw real life examples of people traveling, it inspired me to do the same and I hope I can help others go on their short quick getaway trip or a lengthy gap year around the world.
After hitting 40+ countries and trying to figure it all out on my own, I noticed many of my friends had questions about my trip: How did you have the money to travel and fund it? How did you work overseas? Where do you even start? Do you need visas? How about safety as a female?
After helping some friends plan for their own trips, I realized I could help a LOT more people out there by sharing my first-hand experience and travel knowledge here on the web.
Did you grow up traveling? If no, when did you start to travel?
I grew up in a Vietnamese household just outside of Washington DC. We only took vacations to visit family pretty much. I got car sick so easily that my guy cousins nicknamed me “barf girl” (it’s ok, it helped me build a thick skin). The only time I went overseas was when I visited family in Vietnam when I was 8 years old. I hated it. It was so hot and humid and I was eaten alive by mosquitoes.
My travels really started in 2011 when I met a Spaniard and two Brits at my college. In what felt like a short span of time with those three, a light bulb moment went off in me. If they could travel to the other side of the world without dying, then I could do the same, right? One year later, I saved up enough money for a three-month trip in Europe.
In addition, a fellow traveler I met in a hostel tipped me off on working abroad. Curious, I looked into what he called a “working holiday visa”. Eventually, I came home for a few months after my trip. Three months later, I told my parents I was going to Australia. Fast forward and off I went and wound up working there for a year. Then, using that money I was able to save up, I traveled all of Asia for an entire year.
What is your favorite trip you have taken? Why?
Europe for sure. It was my first solo trip and I was in the honeymoon phase – everything was an amazing new experience. Hop on the train for a few hours and you’re in a completely new world. The people looked different; the food tasted different. And it was this trip that introduced me to the possibilities that existed out there.
You know when you read how people online are saying “Omg, travel changed my life”? Well, I can see why! I encountered people from all over the world, from all walks of life. People who were happy, who grew up from such different backgrounds, upbringings, and mentalities. It opened my eyes in seeing that there were different ways to live and that it was okay and possible to break away from the traditional work-work-work lifestyle.
How do you normally plan your trips? (Do you plan them, join a group tour, hire an agent, etc.)
Ask my friends and they’ll describe me as the organization queen. I know it sounds silly but I enjoy creating lists. In fact, my site has a couple of them to help people organize and prep for their trip. I mainly worry about the logistics – how to get to the airport and to my hostel, which I think can be the trickier part of traveling. I actually don’t spend too much time on researching what to do or see because I know the receptionist will usually have heaps of information readily available or I just ask other travelers at the hostel what they’ve done.
What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome while traveling?
You’d think it’d be assault or violence as a solo female traveler, but the hardest part for me was actually overcoming my fear to take that leap and go on my first trip. Not many people back then traveled solo and I was doing something unconventional. I felt very alone in my journey when I was working two jobs to save up for Europe.
After traveling, not to sound cliché, but I came back feeling fearless and more confident. When there’s an opportunity to go on another trip, I don’t hesitate at the thought of it. When people talk and debate on whether they should go somewhere for the first time, I try to be the voice to push them to do it because I wished I had that when I started.
Best travel tip you have ever received?
Don’t wait. Don’t keep putting things off. I remember older people telling me they put off their goals and dreams because of life – having kids, the house, etc. And they all kept putting it off, until they said it was too late for them and they didn’t have the energy to do anything anymore.
Another interesting tip I got was: “I don’t talk to locals who approach me, so I never ran into trouble,” said a travel friend. Now I know people will heavily debate on this one, but I do remember being in Southeast Asia, and I got scammed on some tuk tuk thing. I didn’t lose money or wasn’t in danger. If anything, it just annoyed me when they took me around to shops to buy things first (which I didn’t) and then they took me to the temples.
Of course if your intuition tells you someone seems trusting, then of course you’ll trust them. However, if you don’t trust your intuition and want to be on the safe side, you could avoid locals that come up to you. Sometimes their motive is to sell you something, especially if their livelihood depends on tourism.
What is a travel essential that you must travel with and why?
Earplugs. I’m a very light sleeper. A bad night of sleep = a very unpleasant Trang the next day. Travel underwear comes in second place. I know it sounds weird, but check it out!
Where do you want to visit in the future, why?
Is it terrible I can’t list just one spot? I plan to visit in the far future Central/South America, Africa, Middle East, and Antarctica, as I haven’t been there yet. If I really had to choose just one area, it’d be the Middle East. Everyone I’ve met whose traveled there said they’re the most hospitable people. I also love middle eastern food!
Sign up for our newsletter to receive regular travel tips!