Vagabonding Case Study: Alana Morgan

On July 17th, 2015


Alana Morgan of Paper Planes Blog

Age: 28

Hometown: Seattle

Quote:“Once in a while it really hits people that they don’t have to experience the world in the way they have been told to.” – Alan Keightley

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip?

Before I left home I was completely oblivious to the vagabonding lifestyle…I didn’t even realize how many people thought it was normal to backpack around the world. I had lived abroad briefly and traveled a little through Europe before, but had no idea there were so many people from all backgrounds, places and ages that chose to live unconventional lifestyles with an emphasis on traveling. Realizing there was this whole community out there was a huge turning point for me in realizing I could live my life however I chose.

How long were you on the road?

I quit my ‘real’ job 3.5 years ago and have been living abroad and traveling ever since.

Where did you go?

Initially I went to Thailand thinking I would be there for maybe six months…I ended up staying three years living in the north and traveling around Southeast Asia. I’ve also gone back to visit the U.S. several times and spent about two and a half months traveling throughout Europe.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey?

After college I lived at home while working full-time and saving everything I could. I could have lived on my own, but knew that every rent check I’d pay I’d be thinking about the plane tickets that money could have went toward instead! I’m a natural saver and always try to make my money go as far as it can, especially while traveling.

Did you work or volunteer on the road? 

I’ve been working in some form or another for most of the time since I left home. At first I tried teaching English as a second language but realized it wasn’t for me. Since then I’ve used my background in writing, communications and public relations to work with freelance clients from around the world.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite?

I have to say Thailand since I need up staying there for so long – there’s something about the country that just got into my soul. Of course, I love other places, but Southeast Asia is something special…I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stay away for too long.

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging?

All places have their own share of challenges or disappointments, however I think I’m one of the only people in the world who hasn’t fallen in love with Italy. I spent a month traveling through the country on my own and it was incredibly frustrating and disappointing. I’d definitely go back, but on different terms, and wouldn’t recommend traveling there solo.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

I don’t actually travel with too much gear and am usually wary of items that are meant for only one purpose, though a good, sturdy backpack that fits your body and isn’t too big is key. As a backpacker, I never used the sleeping bag liner I bought to use while staying in dirtier places…it ended up being too much hassle and just took up space.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Constantly experiencing new and different things – at home I felt like I was stuck in a rut, but while traveling and living abroad I always felt that I was more mindful, present and proactive in living my life and recognizing everything around me. I also have so many fantastic relationships, experiences and stories now that I wouldn’t have if I had just stayed at home!

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

Many people encourage others to quit their jobs and travel the world – I understand the appeal, heck, that’s what I did – but at the same time there’s definitely something to be said for having a home base, a community and a sense of belonging. Vagabonding can leave you feeling disconnected and with no direction, even if in the moment you’re enjoying yourself.It also comes with a lot of doubt – I don’t know a single person who has been vagabonding and didn’t have periods of self doubt and questioning what they were doing. That’s not to say it’s not worth it but, as with anything, there are pros and cons.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

The more I see the more I realize I know and have experienced very, very little. There are infinite ways of doing things and nothing is completely right or wrong – the world isn’t clearly black and white. I also think I’m ow more patient and compassionate and am able to step back to see the big picture of things instead of being caught up in unimportant details.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip?

Originally I thought I would travel consistently for about a year then head home. Now I’m constantly trying to look for ways to blend ‘real life’, travel and work on my terms. It’s not easy, but I also can’t imagine going to back to a living and working situation like I had before I left home.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be?

That there were plenty of other people traveling and living abroad indefinitely and that it could be done. Before I started traveling long term I thought I was an anomaly and, at 24, that it was almost ‘too late’ for me to take a year off from work to travel. I was so wrong!

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure?

Start connecting and talking to other people who are doing things similar to what you want to do – they will encourage you, get you excited and help you realize it can be done. There will be plenty of people who don’t understand what you want to do, but don’t listen to them – surround yourself with people who are reassuring and supportive.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? That’s a good question…

Read more about Alana on her blog, Paper Planes or follow her on Facebook  and Twitter.

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Image: Andi Campbell-Jones (flickr)