Every Tuesday, Besudesu Abroad would like to feature another really awesome traveler in various forms. Some Tuesdays may be interviews, while other may feature guest posts, videos and more!
This week we would like to introduce Kimi of Wandering Souldier. Kimi Sugiyama is a girl with one foot in multiple worlds. She is a Detroit native that has been traveling the world since June 2012 looking for big adventures on a small budget. After quitting her job, she is now the chief comfort zone demolisher at Wandering Souldier, working her way towards a location independent lifestyle, studying the Japanese language, and sharing all of her adventures along the way.
1. What inspires you to travel, and how has it changed you?
People and food. Instead of chasing tourist attractions and bucket list items like I did when I first started traveling, I am on this never ending quest to hear people’s stories, tap into their dreams and what makes them tick, and understand the way they think and live. It’s an ongoing learning process, and I’ve discovered the best way for me to get know people is by sharing a meal. It gives them a chance to share a prevalent part of their culture in an intimate setting such as cooking a meal in the home, a picnic in the park, or snacking on local delicacies at a street market. In turn, I get the pleasure of listening and observing the way people interact with each other.
Travel allows me to see things from a big picture perspective and has taught me not to hang on to trivial frustrations. Whenever something inconvenient happens, I shrug it off a lot easier than I used to, and with that comes a more compassionate, understanding, and forgiving attitude. Among other changes, cultural exploration has fueled my curiosity and creativity. I’ve been humbled by people’s kindness and reminded to express gratitude and appreciation as frequently as possible.
Above all, traveling light has made me realize that I don’t need much to survive, and I don’t have to live life the way everybody else does.
2. Where has been your favorite destination? Where has been your least favorite?
Everywhere I’ve gone has been a favorite for different reasons, but Japan definitely left the greatest imprint on my soul.
Moscow is not necessarily my least favorite destination, but the most difficult to navigate without English, as a solo traveler. It’s a beautiful city, and now that I’m familiar with the lay of the land and know what to expect, I would jump at the chance to go back.
3. What has been your most memorable travel experience so far?
There are so many. One of my favorites was taking a hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey. I had made a few friends at the hostel I was staying at, who happened to be fellow Americans, and we spent the whole day together. We did the hot air balloon ride, got lost on the hiking trails among the fairy chimneys, and had dinner at a small restaurant overlooking the vast landscape. The weather was great for spending time outdoors, and it was the perfect environment to enjoy each other’s company.
4. Have you ever had high hopes for a destination, tour, etc., only to be disappointed in the end? Or any travel mishaps?
Bloggers and friends before me had raved about Bangkok so I had high hopes and expectations for Thailand’s capital city. After spending 3 weeks there, I just didn’t understand the appeal. The cheap, delicious food and markets are fantastic, but that stuff can be found almost anywhere in S.E. Asia. Even though I’m unsure of what makes Bangkok so special, I’m willing to give it a second chance.
5. What’s the funniest, weirdest cultural norm/tradition you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
It’s a toss up between the pushing and shoving to get on the subway in Korea and the spitting, peeing, and littering in public in China. From a cultural standpoint, both were difficult to get used to. Every time I crossed the street in Beijing, I felt like I needed a shower and even just as a witness, I felt uncivilized. In Seoul, people would line up for the subway, but once the doors opened, it was a mad rush to get a good spot. Both cultural norms still baffle and intrigue me.
6. What souvenir do you have to buy at all your destinations?
Postcards. I’m not big on collecting souvenirs. When it comes to perusing the local shops and markets, it’s more to get acquainted with my new environment than to shop. Memories, photographs, and postcards are enough of a souvenir for me.
7. How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
A sleeping mask and earplugs. Without those, a good night’s sleep in a hostel dorm is not guaranteed, and I definitely need/love my sleep.
8. Why did you begin blogging? And how did you come up with your blog name?
Quite honestly, I led myself to believe I could make money from blogging, but I quickly learned that was not true. Within 3 months of creating Wandering Souldier (WS), I almost gave up, when I realized that wasn’t the right reason to get into blogging. Now, WS has become a personal record of my trips and thoughts on travel, and I don’t intend to monetize it in any way. Writing has become therapeutic for me, and meeting people through WS, hearing their stories and experiences, and trading travel tips has become an extra perk that fuels the blog.
Wandering Soul was the first name that came to mind, but I felt like that was too vague. After a few days of brainstorming, the word soldier popped into my head so I decided to combine ‘soul’ and ‘soldier’. Thus Wandering Souldier was born, and it eventually evolved into the idea of waking up everyday ready to fight for the life of your dreams and defend what you’re most passionate about because nobody else will.
9. Do you have favorite travel blogs that you read regularly?
10. You seem like you’ve become pretty successful freelancer. What advice do you have for those who are looking to become location independent?
Whatever your craft, persistence is key. If you have a full time job that doesn’t necessarily require you to be in the office all the time, ask your supervisor to work offsite. If you’re looking to break into a new market outside your own country, make the bold move to wherever you want to work, build a clientele through word of mouth, and along the way, collect testimonials and recommendations for new clients. Use websites like elance.com where you aren’t tied down to one specific skillset, and you can build a diverse portfolio, learn, and improve as you go. Any kind of online-based, freelance career is fiercely competitive so don’t be afraid to talk to the people around you and promote yourself.
The most important thing is not to take on an overwhelming load, especially if you’re going to be traveling and working at the same time. Leave enough time to explore and enjoy all the new places you visit.
11. How do you deal with your travel addiction when you aren’t traveling?
By tucking myself away in the travel section of Barnes & Noble.
Staying in one place for too long, I get antsy and start to feel trapped so I always have to have a next step. It doesn’t matter if it’s months into the future, as long as it’s a concrete goal to work towards. For instance, when I got home from my most recent trip to China, I didn’t have any other travel plans for 2013, and that scared me. When I don’t have any upcoming trips, I tend to spend less time on social media so I don’t get worked up over all the cool places other people are going.
In the interim, I take day or weekend trips to neighboring cities and states like Cleveland, Chicago, NYC, etc., but I don’t broadcast or write about those trips. They’re just for me. Recently, to keep the mind sharp, I’ve taken on Japanese tutoring lessons, reading books, trying all sorts of ethnic foods, and watching Korean variety shows on Youtube. The most important thing is staying busy so I’m not constantly distracted by my wanderlust.
12. What’s next? You recently stated that you won’t be planning any big trips until next year, what will you be doing until then?
Even I don’t know the answer to that question. For now, I’m taking the summer off to work and save up money to move to Japan next year. This fall, I’m trying to coordinate trips to visit a couple of friends in Australia and Italy as well as make a quick jaunt back to China before my multiple entry visa expires in February. There’s a lot up in the air so it will be exciting to see how things pan out.
Backpack or suitcase? Backpack
Window or aisle? Window
Solo or group? Solo
Tapas or sushi? Veggie sushi rolls
Beach or mountains? Mountains
Want to learn more about Kimi and her travels?
Are you a travel blogger? If you would like to be featured on Travel Tuesdays, we’d love to have you! Let me know if you’d like to be interviewed or provide a guest post!