Vagabonding Case Study: Malia Yoshioka


Malia Yoshioka

Age: 30

Hometown: Honolulu, HI

Quote: “When I returned home, I not only appreciated what a beautiful place it is, I also was able to see my hometown through the eyes of a traveler. This was an entirely new way for me to view my own community.

How did you find out about Vagabonding, and how did you find it useful before and during the trip? In 2007, I came across Vagabonding while camped out in Borders doing research for my big RTW trip. It had links to tons of helpful resources for my planning, all in one place. I took a copy with me on the trip, and eventually passed it on to another potential vagabond while on the road.

How long were you on the road? I left home on January 8, 2008 and spent 6 months in Southeast Asia, Australia, and NZ with my friend Jess. After returning home for a week to attend my high school reunion and see family, I took off again on my own and spent another 3 months traveling through Europe and the U.S, including Rolf’s Summer Writing Workshop in Paris, which I’d highly recommend to anyone interested.

What was your job or source of travel funding for this journey? Originally, I’d planned on owning my own home by the age of 30. I’d been working and saving up for a down payment for years, but unfortunately due to the nature of the housing market here in Hawaii, I realized it would be more practical for me to look at living elsewhere in the US, or potentially abroad. Part of the reason for my RTW was to search out areas where cost of living was lower and my savings would stretch further.

Did you work or volunteer on the road? No. I did work a lot on my travel writing though, and eventually sold a couple of articles, although after coming home my writing has been less travel-focused.

Of all the places you visited, which was your favorite? Oh this is such a difficult question! Top 5 countries (in no particular order) would have to be New Zealand, Thailand, Ireland, Vietnam, and Indonesia (Bali).

Was there a place that was your least favorite, or most disappointing, or most challenging? My least favorite stop was Fiji. It was sort of thrown in as an afterthought on our “circle-Pacific” ticket, since we’d never been there and wanted a break in the flying between New Zealand and coming back here to Hawaii. Because the climate was so similar to my home, at that point it just made me homesick. It was also one of the only places that I really felt uncomfortable getting out and exploring on our own, away from the hostels or touristy areas. It seemed like there was a lot of unemployment (men milling about with nothing to do) and scamming of tourists in the capital city, and it was a turnoff for me. Granted, I never got a chance to see the “real” side of Fiji, but by this point in our trip (5 months in and just a week from the “end”) I was just ready to head home.

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 matter how well you know someone, I think traveling together 24/7 can really put a strain on your relationship/friendship. Communication and different traveling styles were definitely obstacles that my friend Jess and I ran into while we were on the road, but ultimately we worked through it and came out closer than ever. We also had a difficult stretch when Jess caught typhoid when we were in Bali. In hindsight, a vaccination probably would have been a good idea.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful? You’d be amazed at what some of the “little things” can do for you as multi-function items in your gear. Jess and I both bought fake pashmina scarves in Hong Kong (our first stop) and were so proud of our new found skill at bargaining, but what really amazed us was how often we used the scarves throughout the trip. They provided warmth when we needed it (Hong Kong, then later in Australia and NZ), they worked as sarongs in beach areas like Bali, we used them as towels in hostels, extra blanket coverage on the plane, etc. Ziplocs often came in handy as well and little plastic clips that we used to hang our laundry. We’re not “flashpackers” so while it was nice to have our digital cameras along, I found that pulling out an old fashioned notebook or travel journal often allowed me to capture more than just the images.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle? Oh, where to begin?!? Long-term travel is so rewarding. Not just to check off items on your list, but by slowing down you get the chance to really experience life at the pace of the people who live in a world completely different from your own. I loved when we began to see that, even with all our cultural differences in food, dress, lifestyle, etc, there are a few things that are truly universal that connect us all together. Love, family, and happiness can be found anywhere you’re willing to look…

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle? Being away from “home” for an extended period can definitely get lonely, and constantly being in a new environment can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on what attitude you bring to the situation. While I thoroughly enjoyed my travels, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times that I missed home, or that I wished that a particular friend or family member could have been there to experience it with me. But that homesickness in itself ended up being a blessing in disguise, because when I returned home I not only appreciated what a beautiful place it is, I also was able to see my hometown through the eyes of a traveler. This was an entirely new way for me to view my own community.

What lessons did you learn on the road? Communication is key between traveling partners. Remember to take care of yourself – drink lots of water, stretch, eat good (not just delicious!) food – I gained 20 lbs even though we were walking everywhere and sweating constantly! Be aware of your surroundings and soak in all the little details. Avoid the tourist traps when you can, but realize that sometimes they are just part of the fun. Be flexible and enjoy both. A little research into cultural practices and customs before arriving in a new country is always helpful and ensures that you are respectful to your host country and new friends.

How did your personal definition of “vagabonding” develop over the course of the trip? I think initially the word had more of a connotation for me of “running away” from something and I traveled that way a little bit at first. But as time went on I realized that I was just learning how to be myself, so it was really going towards something, not away. To be able to do that in a variety of environments and new situations was extremely empowering. I really came to enjoy to art of long-term travel and all it teaches you, both about yourself and the world around you.

If there was one thing you could have told yourself before the trip, what would it be? Go with the flow and enjoy the present moment!

Any advice or tips for someone hoping to embark on a similar adventure? Just do it! There is so much world out there to see. They say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so find out what step you can take right now – be it picking up a guidebook, starting a savings account, or talking with a friend who has done it… get started now and you will not regret it, I promise!

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey? I can’t believe it’s coming up on almost 2 years now since I’ve been back! I’ve been through Asia and Europe mostly, so I’d love to go someplace I’ve never been before. For my next journey, I hope to start off with some Spanish classes in Central America, then continue South as far as I can go before the money runs out. I’d also love to see Africa, but you never know… I’m actually putting in my passport renewal application now so I’ll be ready whenever that next trip comes up! =)

Email: Twitter: maliayoshioka Website:

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 and tell us a little about yourself.

Posted by | Comments (1)  | June 9, 2010
Category: Vagabonding Case Studies

One Response to “Vagabonding Case Study: Malia Yoshioka”

  1. » Vagabonding Case Study: Malia Yoshioka :: Vagablogging :: Rolf … | study highschool abroad Says:

    […] the original post here: » Vagabonding Case Study: Malia Yoshioka :: Vagablogging :: Rolf … Share and […]