Vagabonding Case Study: Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang unnamed

Age: 32

Hometown: Singapore

Quote: Wherever you go, go with all your heart. – Confucius

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

I’ve been reading Vagabonding since I started travel writing in 2008. It’s got some inspiring travel essays and useful travel tips especially for long-term travelers.

How long were you on the road?

I’ve been on the road since 2008 when I started my blog and began my travel writing career. What started as a six-month trip through Latin America eventually became a nomadic lifestyle and I’ve been traveling ever since. In the past year however, my husband and I have set up a home base in Granada, Spain, and although I still travel at least once a month, it’s good to have a place to kick back and refuel for the next adventure.

Where did you go? 

I’ve been to 90 countries across seven continents to date – most of which were visited in the last decade. This year alone, I traveled to Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Brazil, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Sri Lanka.

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

Since 2008, I’ve been making a living from freelance travel writing and my blog. I started out by attending a guidebook writing course in Guatemala organized by VIVA Travel Guides, who later invited me to stay on and write for them. From there, I picked up fundamental writing skills and began writing for publications in Singapore, and eventually international channels such as CNN Go and BBC Travel. My adventure travel blog, WildJunket, has also been an important channel through which I make connections, display my work and generate extra income.

Did you work or volunteer on the road?

During our travels, my husband and I did a three-month volunteering stint in a small village near Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We taught English and also helped to reconstruct a school which was in bad shape. It was definitely a life-changing experience as we learned valuable life lessons from the students and friends we made there. The experience left me humble and grounded, and it also taught me to appreciate what I have in life.

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

That’s a tough question to answer! I can’t just pick one. I’m a wildlife buff and my favorite places are definitely those with abundant wildlife such as Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Madagascar. I also loved tracking gorillas in Uganda and seeing polar bears in Arctic Norway – I’ll always remember the moments when I locked eyes with these animals. Coming face to face with animals in the wild is just such a moving and intimate experience.

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

Our trip to Halong Bay was quite disappointing as it was just packed with tourists and non-environmental conscious operators. The beauty of Halong Bay is undeniable but sadly local authorities are not doing anything to protect the environment.

The most challenging place would have to be India, although I do love the chaos, colors and immense energy! My husband and I are heading back there in two months’ time to do the Rickshaw Run, a 3500km rally across the country on tuktuk (motorized rickshaw) and we can’t wait! We’re currently raising funds for charity as part of the rally goal – if you’ll like to donate to a good cause, please head over to our fundraiser page.

Which travel gear proved most useful?  Least useful?

I’ve been traveling with my Osprey Waypoint 65 backpack for years and it’s never failed me. It’s been my best travel companion and I love just comfortable and lightweight it is. I also never travel without my Eagle Creek packing cubes. They reduce the size of my baggage and make things much more organized.

What are the rewards of the vagabonding lifestyle?

For me the biggest reward is to be able to indulge in the biggest passion of my life (travel!) and make a living at the same time. I’ve never felt this type of freedom and accomplishment in my previous jobs and I would never trade this lifestyle for anything in the world.

What are the challenges and sacrifices of the vagabonding lifestyle?

The biggest challenge for me has been juggling work and personal relationships while traveling. From 2011 to 2013, my husband Alberto left his full-time job to join me in my business and we ran a digital magazine together. We worked extremely hard to make sure it was the standard we wanted it to be but we made a lot of sacrifices along the way. Our relationship suffered and we weren’t as excited about traveling as we used to be. In the end, we made a choice and Alberto returned to his old job while I continue this vagabonding lifestyle – now our relationship has never been better.

What lessons did you learn on the road?

I’ve learned so much from traveling, but the biggest life lesson is probably that people are people and we are inherently good. Visiting forbidden places like North Korea and Iran has taught me that reality is often very different than what appears in media and that we have to visit and see for ourselves to judge.

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

When I started out, I wanted to see everything. That meant waking up early to catch sunrise at Angkor Wat, dashing up to Macchu Picchu with the crowd and spending 10 hours a day in Paris just sightseeing. Now I’ve learned to slow down, take my time to experience each place and interact with locals to truly learn the story behind each place.

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

That anything is possible if you work hard enough and believe in yourself. Before quitting my job and leaving my hometown for that trip through Latin America, I never thought that I would be able to lead this lifestyle or make a living from travel writing. It hasn’t been easy but it’s a journey that’s truly worthwhile.

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

I’ve written a book entitled The Adventure Traveler’s Handbook with the aim of sharing tips and advice for people embarking on adventures or journeys around the world whether beginners or seasoned travelers. The biggest message I want to convey is for readers to open their mind to possibilities and not let anything stop them from pursuing their dreams.

When and where do you think you’ll take your next long-term journey?

I don’t think this journey will stop anytime soon but I’ll like to slow down in 2015 and spend more time working on projects. That said, I already have plans for a long overland trip in West Africa and the Americas (Cuba, Haiti, Costa Rica etc).


Read more about Nellie on her blog, Wild Junket, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Website: Wild Junket Twitter: @WildJunket

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 Off on Vagabonding Case Study: Nellie Huang  | March 20, 2015
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