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Ep. 250: How this female solo traveler inspires others to follow their dreams with Lash

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In this episode Lash is an American woman who has been traveling the world full-time and solo since 1998.

In 2011, Lash started her travel blog LashWorldTour to inspire other people to travel the world and/or follow their dreams. 

On the blog you’ll find heaps of travel tips & suggestions, destination articles and personal adventure stories.

Listen on to find out how Lash has inspired thousands to travel the world!

Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone. Thank you so much for being here. I am really excited to be speaking with my guest today. I’m here with Lash.

Hey, Lash. How are you?

Lash:

Hi, Debbie. Thank you so much for having me. I’m equally excited.

Debbie:

Thank you again. And before we get to all of your journeys, can you tell us about you and why you live an offbeat life?

Lash:

Wow. Okay.

Well, I’m an American who grew up in the states, but after our university, I left to travel the world. I’ve been traveling since 1998 solo and full-time around the world. So that’s over 23 years so far.

Debbie:

Wow.

Lash:

And prior to that, I lived in Japan for six years, Kyoto, Japan, where I moved there specifically to save money, to travel the world. So that’s kind of the intro.

Debbie:

That is amazing.

So, Lash, it’s really interesting, right? Because 23 years, you have been traveling, you have done all of this exploration and during that time, almost a quarter of a century. And it’s usually with a lot of people, they stop at a certain time and after a few years, they’re like, “Okay, I’ve had enough of this.”

What made you keep going? What made you keep exploring the world instead of having what people will say the traditional life, the traditional type of work?

Lash:

Good question.

So I guess there are two parts to that to start with. I grew up as a ballet dancer and my big goal dream of my life was to become a professional dancer. And I skipped my senior year of high school, went to college to study dance, but after one year I quit because I was afraid of that artistic struggle where you have to go to auditions and work in a cafe or a restaurant.

And I didn’t wanna have to deal with that. I guess I didn’t have enough confidence in my danceability. So I quit. And after that, I felt kind of devastated because I gave up my dream. I kind of crushed myself. So then it took me a few years to figure out what I wanted to do. And I always wanted to make my life extraordinary.

I never, ever, ever wanted to have this normal life where get a job, get married, have kids, work in your job for 20, 30 years, retire, and then your life’s over. It’s like, “No, that sounds awful.” So I was finishing up university and I was kind of starting to wonder, “What am I gonna do?”

So I went on a weekend retreat with my boyfriend at the time. And while we were on the weekend, my boyfriend suddenly said kind of out of the clear blue, “Hey, Lash, maybe we should go on a world trip.” And something inside me went click. I was like, “That’s it! That’s what I’m gonna do with my life. I’m gonna travel the world.”

And so I, after the weekend, went back and started studying all the different countries of the world and how to travel, how to get around in the world and everything I could get my hands on. And when I finished university, I moved to Japan specifically to save money, to travel, like I already said.

So I guess the first part of the answer is that I already decided I didn’t want to have a normal life and I wanted to do something different.

Okay. Now the second part, I guess, gets more closely to your question. You’re right, this time I’ve been working as a travel blogger since 2010, 2011. I’ve talked to a lot of bloggers who got started on their trips when I’d already been traveling for like 10 years.

And I’ve seen all of them, well, most of them. After a few months, they’re kind of like, “Okay, that was good. I’ve had enough for one year or two years.” And they’re like, “Yeah, that was great. But now I’m ready to settle down and have a family or get a job or live in a house or something.”

And I’ve also met other travelers out in the world, not necessarily travel bloggers, but people out on a between school, summer session, or one year off kind of thing. And I’ve discovered that most people who go out to travel after a few months or a year, like you said, they’re like, “Okay, that’s enough now I’m done.” But a few people like myself, what happened?

I started out on my world trip after saving for six years and studying and preparing. And within like a month or two, it was like, “Oh my God, this is awesome. I wanna do this as long as I can, if I can do it my whole life, that’s what I’m gonna do. I can’t even imagine going back to living in a place full time and working, that was just awful.” So that’s why.

Debbie:

Yeah.

And I think there’s definitely a different type of breed of people like you, Lash, who seeks adventure, who doesn’t wanna do the norm. And you kind of in a way it’s the not norm for you, right? That’s not the norm for you. And I think that, if you did, you ended up doing that. You would just be so unhappy and it wouldn’t be you.

Lash:

Exactly.

Debbie:

It wouldn’t be you as a person. And I love hearing that story because I think for a lot of people, maybe not so much now, but especially back then, whenever you felt that need to do something different, you always felt like you were doing something wrong.

And it does take a lot of courage to step out of that box and do something different and commit to it. And it doesn’t matter what the norm is and you just keep going forward to it. And you just showed us that it can actually work if this is something that you really wanna do with your life.

Lash:

Oh yeah, absolutely.

Debbie:

Yeah.

And you know what, too? It’s great to see somebody like you, who has been doing this for over 23 years and you’re still loving it and I’m pretty sure you’ve had some pretty interesting stories. And you talked about living in Japan to save money.

Now that is kind of interesting because I have heard from a lot of people that it is pretty expensive there. How are you able to save money while you were in Japan, Lash?

Lash:

Okay. You know what? Everybody asked me that same question.

It’s true. Japan is expensive, everything’s expensive. But when I went there in 1991, they were seeking native English speakers to teach in these sort of like Berlitz language schools. And the pay was really good. I only had to work 25 hours per week for a full-time salary.

Debbie:

Wow.

Lash:

And I moved there with my best friend and we found an old Japanese-style house in Kyoto. So it only cost us basically $300 a month split by two that’s $150. So part of it was because I had inexpensive accommodation. We later had to move to a different old Japanese house which cost, I think, $600 a month. But split by two that’s 300. So that’s cheaper than living in the US actually.

Lash in kimono with sensei te ceremony

And most of the apartments there, even the modern ones were about that same price, anyhow, 600 to 800 a month plus utilities. But basically, I think the reason I was able to do it is because that’s what I had decided to do. And I was determined. And I just set aside a bunch of my salary every single month to do, I think, a thousand dollars a month.

And also because I only worked 25 hours a week, I could pick up some other work. So I was actually making more than my main salary

Debbie:

That is pretty interesting that you are able to do that. And I think one of the things that a lot of people get to really find out is your money goes so much further when you leave the United States because it is really expensive here and it really depends on where you go.

But you have been able to do that. You’ve been able to save your money. And the next thing that I’m really curious about is how you were able to create income while you were traveling all around the world. Did you stay in one place for a certain amount of time so you could get a job there save or were you traveling frequently?

Lash:

That’s a really good question. And that’s also the main question that most people ask about travel is, “How can you afford it? It’s so expensive.”

Debbie:

Yeah.

Lash:

The first part of that, is a perspective from the United States. I mean the United States is expensive and Americans don’t realize how cheap a lot of countries in the world are. I mean, you can easily get a place to stay for $10 a night in a lot of countries. Not Europe, not New Zealand, not Australia, but just about everywhere else. Central America, Latin America, South America, Africa, almost all the Asian countries.

So it’s a lot less expensive than people think. And one reason is, for example, we don’t really have budget accommodations in the United States. There are only ninety-three cities in the whole country that have hostiles. And so like budget, accommodation to Americans is like $80 a night. I’m like, “What?! That’s more than I pay for an entire week’s accommodation in most places in the world.” So one part of it is that it’s a lot cheaper out there.

The other part is okay, how to make income, which you also hit on. There are so many different ways to make income. So from working online to going to a place, stopping for a while, working and saving money and all kinds of things. So in my 23 years of travel so far, I’ve done a lot of different things.

So when I started out, when I finished my stay in Japan, saving all that money, I invested it. And for the first couple of years, I actually lived off the interest of the investment without touching the principal. Then the stock exchange crashed in 2001 ended that. So I was like, “Oh crap, I have to work again.”

So then I’ve done a lot of different things. My first profession, while I was in university was cutting hair. So there’ve been a couple of times where if I’ve stayed in a place for a while, I could earn money by cutting hair. I worked as a dive instructor for about eight years in Southeast Asia. I had my own restaurant bakery in Thailand for a year. Then I started my travel blog in 2010 and started earning money from that in 2011.

So I was able to earn all of my income from that for a few years. And then now I review luxury and boutique hotels and update travel guides for an American company. And so between that and my travel blog, I’m able to earn enough money to continue traveling.

Debbie:

It’s like you’ve lived a lot of different lives.

Lash:

Absolutely.

Debbie:

You’ve been so many different times of person from cutting hair to owning your own business, a brick and mortar business to being a reviewer, a travel blogger. Like, there’s just so much. And I think that makes you even more interesting as a person and you’ve experienced so much in life. And I think for most people you’ve only been one or two, right? And you’ve been like a hundred.

Lash:

Aw, thanks, Debbie. Yeah. I’ve definitely done a lot of different work.

Debbie:

And it also goes to show you that you can really make things work if you are just willing to do it. If you have the work ethic to do it if you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty and it works out, right? You learn, you figure out what works, what doesn’t work. And it literally leads you to where you need to be, which this is where you are right now, Lash.

And it’s so interesting how it kind of goes and puts you into these different types of situations. And now you’re here where you are reviewing luxury boutiques and hotels, which is like, “Whoa!”

Lash:

Yeah.

Well, you know what? You hit on the other really important aspect of how to afford traveling the world. So that is the first question most people ask me, “Oh my God, how can you afford it? It’s so expensive.” So my first reply is, “Well, actually, it’s more expensive to live in the United States than it is to travel the world.” And people don’t believe me, but it’s absolutely true.

Debbie:

Yeah. I believe you, Lash.

Lash:

Thank you.

The other point is that most people who say, “Oh my God, that sounds amazing. I wish I could do that.” When it comes down to it, they actually don’t want to do that. They don’t want to have this nomadic lifestyle. They just like the idea of it. It sounds glamorous and amazing.

But if you start pressing them, “You can do it, you can do this, that, and the other,” they always come up with these reasons why they’re not doing it. These are like excuses, which is fine. It just means that they actually prefer to live in a house and have a job or have security or whatever it is.

The other point that I wanted to make is that people approach this. If people did wanna travel more, then they generally approach it from the wrong point of view. So they generally say, “Oh my gosh, I wish I could make enough money to go travel.” Or, “Oh my gosh, if I just had a job that would allow me to do it.” It’s like, “No, that’s the wrong approach. What you have to say is, ‘I’m gonna travel the world,’ that’s it. ‘I’ve decided I commit to it.'”

And from that perspective, then you start seeing all these opportunities and possibilities and how you can do it, which is the point that you are kind of making. So you have to take that first approach of, “I’m gonna do this. This is what I’m gonna do.” And then, you start asking yourself, “Okay, well, how can I do it?”

And then you find this job or that job. And then you find your podcast or you find my website and everybody gives you more ideas. And also you have to kind of like go. And once you go, then you start finding these things. Well, you can’t find ’em if you stayed at home, you have to find ’em when you’re out there.

So it does, to some extent, take a bit of a leap of faith or courage. Like you mentioned that things work out.

Debbie:

Yeah.

Now I think a lot of that is fear. There’s a lot of fear that goes into it, especially in terms of creating that income, having that security. But it is a risk to take, but honestly, I don’t think it’s such a big risk at all. The reason why I say that is because you can always go back to your old life.

You can always go back to working a regular nine to five. You can always go back to your town, the city that you’re living in, you’re not ostracized. You’re not being told you’re not welcome back, but there’s only one life that you can live. If you wanna try something, do what Lash did, look where she is now. Still, a traveler after 23 years and you just love it so much.

Lash:

Right.

Debbie:

So one of the things I did wanna ask you too, Lash, and I’m sure you’ve been asked this because you’ve been traveling for so long, is that it’s a beautiful thing, the life that you’re living, but I’m pretty sure there are certain things that maybe have irritated you or you’ve really encountered things like loneliness, burnout, maybe homesickness. How do you deal with that and stay focused on your goal and stay focused on where you wanna be?

Because like you mentioned before, there’s a lot of people that don’t last very long, right? So what made you different? What made you do this for as long as you have?

Lash:

Okay.

Well, for one thing, as I mentioned in the big beginning, it was my goal that I said, “Okay, I’m gonna travel the world.” And once I started, I realized that I really love this. I don’t wanna do it as long as I can. And my goal is to visit every country in the world.

So I’ve got a clear goal. I’m dedicated to it, I’m committed to it. And that’s the one thing that kind of keeps me going. Other things, you mentioned loneliness. Well, I’m kind of a loner and I’m kinda an introvert, so I’m okay without people.

But if I do get lonely, oh my gosh, that’s so easy to do something about. I can call my mom, call a friend, message somebody, get on WhatsApp or Facebook. I can go outside, down to the hotel receptionist, and start chatting with her. I can go out to the store and talk to someone at the store. I can go out to a park, a restaurant, a bar anywhere and meet people. It’s so easy to meet people.

So I am almost never lonely, but if I am, I can just pick up a conversation with somebody or contact someone I already know. I don’t really get homesickness because my parents are still alive. My brother’s in the US. And I do come to visit maybe once every two to three years.

But I don’t really overall miss the US or anything about it. And part of that reason is that when I was growing up, my family moved every five years or so. So I don’t really have like a childhood home where I live for 20 years of my life, that I’m built up 20 years of nostalgia that I would return to.

When I come back to the states, I go to my mom’s house or my dad’s house, but they aren’t my house. I didn’t grow up there.

Oh, burnout. Yeah. That’s a good one. When you’re traveling full-time, you can get burned out from travel. So that’s easy as well. I just stopped for a month and through a two and a place that I’m comfortable with. Usually, a place that I already know and have explored, because that way I don’t feel compelled to keep going out every day and exploring more.

If I go to a new place for a month or two to recuperate, I can’t do it. I keep going out to, “Oh my God, I have to go see this place. Oh my God, I have to go to the museum. Oh, I didn’t go there yet. I didn’t go here yet.” So for me, it’s better to go to the place I already know, and love. And I am comfortable in and just stay there for a month or two and recover.

And during the travels, it is important to take a break, like, regularly, I mean, travel is my life, that’s what I do. So imagine if you worked five days a week, seven days a week, and you never stopped working, you worked every single day. Well, you’d get burned out too.

So it’s important, like, once a week, at least take one day off or two days off and don’t travel, don’t go out and explore. Just do something else personal, something you enjoy: watching movies, grooming your nails, sitting on the beach, something. And I forget, I have to remember, I get tired out. I’m like, “Oh yeah, I didn’t have a day off for a long time. All right. I’m just gonna sit here and do nothing.”

Debbie:

I love that.

Well, that’s the beauty of it, right? You have that freedom to slow down, or if you wanna keep going, you can do that as well. And it’s so interesting that especially here in the US, we have this mindset and this mentality to always be constantly on the go.

And then I think traveling to certain places like in Latin America and certain parts of Southeast Asia, where people take breaks in the middle of the day when the sun is too hot and people just take naps. And then the US, when you tell people that they’re like, “Are you crazy? That’s the time where you should be the most productive.”

And it’s so funny how it teaches you to kind of slow down and to just chill and enjoy life and smell the roses as they say. So it’s so interesting how different cultures go about life.

Lash:

That’s true.

So I can say that in the US, it’s gone crazy. I mean, people have gone too extreme with all this, just work, work, work, go, go, go, go.

And all those success gurus and so on. I was reading several of their books and so on and so forth until eventually, I realized, “Wait a minute, they’re just trying to teach you how to pack even more into every day. So you’re just more go, go, go, go.”

And I learned from, as you point, as you mentioned from different cultures in the world, the Latinos, the Southeast Asians, Indians, that in my opinion, they have a much more balanced life. I mean, yes, they work, but actually, in some countries, they are so poor that they have to work sort of like seven days a week, 10, 12 hours a day.

But if they don’t have to do that, if they can make enough just working a normal job, they spend a lot more time with family, with friends, leisure time, and also maybe going to temples or religious stuff. And they have a lot more balance in their lives, which you don’t see in the US.

And you don’t realize it. If you grow up in the US, you are just taught to go, go, go, go, go, go. And you don’t realize how unbalanced that is until you step out and look how other people are living and say, “Whoa! Wait a minute. What are we doing here?”

Debbie:

It’s really true.

And I think we all are groomed into that type of mentality, which I think is really unhealthy.

Lash:

Exactly.

Debbie:

You have to really put yourself out of that mentality as an adult, because at school, at work, this is what everybody feeds you. And I think there’s a sense of guilt when you’re not working, right? And that’s how I feel. I’m an immigrant, my parents are immigrants. Like, I was taught to work all the time.

And then it became even worse here in the United States because it’s like 24 7. And as an adult, starting my own business, I’m like, “Why am I working so hard? Like, there’s only so much you can make before it doesn’t really matter anymore.”

You’re just working to work and you’re not enjoying life anymore. It has to be so much more than that. There’s a reason why you make money so you can enjoy life. But if you’re just working, what’s the point of this, right?

Lash:

Right. Exactly.

And I think pretty much most Americans have completely lost perspective of if you can take a broader view of your life on earth, you’ve got so many days, so many hours, so many years, what are you doing with your life right now? Is this really what you wanna do when you get to be 80 or 60 or whatever? When you die, do you wanna look back and, “Oh my God, that’s it.”?

I mean, look at what you’re doing in your life now. That’s it? Are you doing what you really want to do and maybe accomplish or enjoy in your time that you have here on the planet?

Debbie:

Yeah.

And I do have to say too, like waiting to enjoy your life until you retire is such BS.

Lash:

Yeah.

Debbie:

Because you should be enjoying your life throughout the entirety of it. And not to say you just don’t do any work at all, but there has to be like you are mentioning, Lash, there has to be a balance between the two. It can’t just be one or the other.

Of course, you don’t wanna be a complete bum, but you don’t wanna just work to work. You don’t wanna just have a whole purpose of working and that’s it, what you wanna do with your life. And it’s so interesting how different cultures see this in such a different way.

And I think the reason you have such a unique perspective on this is because you’ve been to so many different countries, met so many different people, and actually experience the lifestyle to know what’s right for you and what isn’t as well.

Lash:

Yeah.

I wish every American would go out to some other, at least, say three different countries when they’re young, so they can get a perspective of the US from outside. I mean, of course, the US has some great things, but there are a lot of serious problems here. Like, the healthcare is so completely corrupted. This ridiculous work ethic and lot of guns, all of the gun safety, the violence.

I mean, Americans don’t realize this is actually one of the most dangerous countries in the world, of the developing countries, outside of some country that’s in war. I mean, there are no other countries in the world where all the citizens have guns and can walk around with them or have all these school shootings, hundreds every single year.

Lash with rooftop restaurant view of Taj Mahal

It’s like, “What?! The whole thing is just totally insane.” And Americans don’t see any of this because they’re just all caught up in it. So I really, really wish more Americans would go out. I wish it was required. When you’re in your twenties or your teens, you have to go to Asia, you have to go to Latin America and you have to go to Africa say, and get a perspective on the world and different cultures and what life’s going on in the US.

Debbie:

Yeah.

But I do have to say, I mean as bad as US can be, there are definitely certain places in Southeast Asia, Latin America, also Africa. And of course the middle east. I feel like every place has its bad and good, but it is just a matter of where you see yourself in and what type of life you see yourself living, right?

And as I get older, too, Lash, I’ve been thinking more. And I think that’s what happens when you get older. And it’s like it’s kind of interesting where you thought you would see yourself in and then you finally get to that point and then you kind of reevaluate everything. And then you’re like, “Did I do this? And now am I happy?” And I think that’s one of the things we should always question ourselves.

And one of the things that I always thought was the worst was like, “Oh my God, if I have to start all over again, am I gonna have nothing?” And then I found out like things usually tend to work out if you just take action with certain things whether it’s your career, your money, with personal life. It always seems to work out.

Like there’s always that fear that, “Oh my goodness, something bad is gonna happen or I’m gonna lose everything.” But even if you do, there has been a lot of people that have lost everything who seem to bounce back after a while because of just taking action and doing something that they really want.

So there’s definitely that as well. So it’s like we just think about life in a different way I guess once you start seeing a different part of the world, seeing different cultures, and seeing different parts of how people live that you weren’t even introduced to before. And that’s why it’s so unique in that sense.

Lash:

Yeah. That’s right.

Sounds like you have a lot of good perspectives. And it’s also good to hear that you’re so insightful about yourself. I think that probably the majority of people don’t actually do that.

Debbie:

I think it’s also because I talk to a lot of people like you, Lash, who I’m like, “Oh, that’s interesting. I never thought about that.” Because if you’re just in your little bubble, it’s the same perspective that you’re getting. And that’s why I, honestly, right now I can’t really travel as much as I’d like to, but talking to people like you who are all over the world, it’s pretty much as close as I can get to travel.

Lash:

For now. You can get back from the road again when you’re ready.

Debbie:

Absolutely.

Lash:

Sounds like you’ve done a lot of traveling yourself.

Debbie:

Just a bit.

Lash:

You’re not any couch potato, yourself, Debbie.

Debbie:

Yeah. I know.

Like, I don’t like that, but sometimes it’s nice. Not gonna lie, sometimes it’s nice to be a couch potato, but I don’t think I could do that all the time.

Lash:

Right. I agree with you on that one, also.

Debbie:

Love it.

So Lash, let’s go forward to about 30 to 40 years from now, and you’re looking back at your life. What legacy would you like to leave and what do you want to be remembered for?

Lash:

Oh boy. Okay.

Well, I told you my personal goal is to visit every country in the world. But my sort of like community goal or what I can give back is to try to inspire other people, to follow their dreams, to follow their passions, and if that happens to be traveling the world, to then help them learn how to travel the world.

So being able to do podcasts like this and reach more people and get the message out and try to help convince more people to stop living this just normal, maybe small life and follow their passion, whatever that is, mine happens to be travel, but other people can have other passions.

And you mentioned that also on your podcast that you found the best thing to do is to follow your passion in life. And then everything is much better. So I guess my legacy I’d like to be remembered for being someone who followed her passions, who had an extraordinary life, who wasn’t afraid to stand out from the pack, or who didn’t want to just be a normal average everyday person.

Debbie:

That’s definitely what you’ve done. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who was able to do this successfully for almost 25 years. And they’re still here saying they love it. So you’ve definitely stood out from the pack for sure, Lash.

Lash:

Oh, good, great. Well, then I’m accomplishing my goals.

Debbie:

Absolutely.

Well, thank you so much for being here with us today, Lash, I really appreciate all of the perspectives you gave us on life and travel and everything else. If our listeners wanna know more about you, where can they find you?

Lash:

Okay, well my travel blog is LashWorldTour.com and the only social media that I use is Facebook. And it’s also the same names /lashworldtour.

Debbie:

Perfect. Thank you so much, Lash. I really appreciate it.

Lash:

Thank you so much for having me, Debbie. It’s been great talking to you and thanks a lot for having me.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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