Vagabonding Case Study: Lauren
Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA
Quote: “I was taking off to Africa with a one way ticket, telling everyone, “I could be gone 3 months or 3 years, it’s anyone’s guess.” It was a great reminder that others have done this and made it possible and I could do it too..”
How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?
I stumbled across the website and book about a year before I took off on my trip. It was helpful during the planning stages and after I bought my ticket when I would have my moments of doubt or concerns about how I was “just traveling” vs. studying, working, or volunteering. In America, gap years aren’t typical so I felt I was doing something atypical, whom most couldn’t understand. (Then again, I was taking off to Africa with a one way ticket with no time frame, telling everyone, “ I could be gone 3 months or 3 years, it’s anyone’s guess.” It was a great reminder that others have done this and made it possible and I could do it too.
How long were you on the road? 9 months!
Where all did you go?
I went from Tanzania- Kenya- Tanzania- Malawi- Mozambique- Swaziland-South Africa. When I got burnt out after 8 months, I joined an overland tour and visited Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.
What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?
I lived at home during and after I graduated college. I saved money for 2.5 years.
Did you work or volunteer on the road?
I had the idea, if any volunteer opportunity that resonated with me came my way, I’d volunteer. In the end, I didn’t volunteer but did visit a few orphanages and NGO’s. I also have a new outlook and opinions about volunteer tourism.
Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?
South Africa holds a special place in my heart. For some unexplainable reason, it feels like “my second home.” My first trip to South Africa I volunteered in a women’s shelter and during weekend travels and meeting other travelers the seed was planted to return to Africa and travel East to South.
Mozambique is one of my favorites. It’s a country of contrast and full of beauty. The people are resilient and friendly, the country is gorgeous and there were many moments where I wondered if I was still in Africa. There are so many influences of the Portuguese, who colonized both Mozambique and Angola, including the language, architecture, and food. In the capital cities, there were “European style cafes” and in the smallest towns there were always women selling pao, bread on the street.
Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?
The most challenging for transport would be Mozambique. Buses often left at 4am and the roads were littered with pot holes from the civil war in the 90’s.
Did any of your pre-trip worries or concerns come true? Did you run into any problems or obstacles that you hadn’t anticipated?
No. I don’t remember if I had any pre-trip concerns but in hindsight, I was scared out of my mind before embarking on my travels but I didn’t admit this to myself until after I returned home. I had to be my own advocate for what and why I was doing this trip solo, especially as a young woman.
I didn’t experience problems that may come to mind while traveling in Africa but did face a lot of attention from men who saw me as a “walking visa” or as sex. They were almost always friendly and asked the same questions in almost every country, so I came to expect them
1. What’s your name?
2. Where are you from?
3. Are you married?
Always the same order, always the same questions. I always said I was married. Sometimes I’d answer them, sometimes ignore them, sometimes give them funny answers such as “I’m from the Earth” or “guess?”
Which travel gear proved most useful? Least useful?
Most:, Camera, Headlamp, Flip flops, sarong because it’s multi-use cloth that can be used as a towel for bathing or for the beach, as a skirt, scarf, head wrap, dress etc. and Thermals, despite popular belief, it does get COLD in Africa.
Least: Mosquito net tent. I brought because I wasn’t sure what type of lodging I would find and if there would be mosquito nets. In almost every place I stayed in, there were mosquito nets hanging from the ceiling.
What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Being free. Free to go where I want, when I want and having everything I need on my back. I always felt empowered knowing I had everything I needed and could do without a lot of material things, were trained to believe we need.
Meeting other travelers on the road and sharing and connecting with them.
Trying new things
What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?
Leaving friends and family behind
What lessons did you learn on the road?
Often the people who seem to have the least, seem to be the happiest
I learned how resilient and curious I am, how much I can push myself and comforts, how feisty I can be and just how independent I am.
Go with the flow, let go and trust life always works out
If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?
Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?
Just go! Don’t wait for the perfect time or opportunity because there “never is a perfect time.”
If you’re traveling in Africa, there may not be as many travelers who are crazy/brave enough to travel in Africa but you will meet people.
Prepare to hand wash your clothes
When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?
I just returned from a year teaching in the South of Spain. I may be returning for another year this time in the North.
As for another vaga-bonding journey, I would love to travel in South America. I’m just not sure when-maybe in a year or two?
Are you a Vagabonding reader planning, in the middle of, or returning from a journey? Would you like your travel blog or website to be featured on Vagabonding Case Studies? If so, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us a little about yourself.