In this segment of “Meet an Indie Traveller,” I’m talking with Sabrina Iovino of Just Way One Ticket. Although originally from Germany, Sabrina now travels the world on her own terms as a full-time blogger based out of Istanbul. Today, she shares with us some of her best independent travel tips and throws some sage advice forward on following your passions.
1) How would you define independent travel and how do you feel it differs from how most people view travel?
I guess there are mainly 2 categories of travel: Independent and Package Vacation. As much as I love my freedom and to travel independently, it’s certainly not for everyone. My parents are an example. If they travel, they want everything organized: someone who picks them up from the airport, carries their luggage to the room, organized day trips, etc. They are simply too scared to do anything by themselves because they don’t speak English. It’s OK, I understand them, they just do two weeks of vacation a year and want it as hassle-free as possible.
This is exactly the fun part for me: going by myself, chatting with locals on the public bus, scouting out reasonable accommodation… I really enjoy these things. It surely can be more exhausting, but that’s part of the travel, and in the end, some of these random encounters become very memorable experiences.
2) Could you tell us a little about your first independent travel experience?
That was back in 2005. I left Europe for the first time and flew to Mexico City. I had a friend there and the plan was to travel with her through the country. After my arrival, it turned out that she just got a new job. So I could either stay with her in Mexico City for a month or just go and travel the country by myself. I’m glad I did the latter one.
3) How has your trip planning changed since you first started travelling?
I travel with much less stuff. Everything I need weighs less than 10 kilos altogether. I have barely any clothes. The act of packing and unpacking is something I truly hate, so I also travel much slower than in the past. I try to stay a minimum of five days at each place. Also, I don’t care much about sightseeing anymore. I’d rather sit in a local cafe and watch the people passing by than visit the main attractions a place has to offer.
4) What do you feel is the number one travel planning pitfall for first-time travellers to avoid?
Exactly the thing that I avoid now: fast traveling. I understand that someone who can take only two weeks off a year wants to see as much as possible, but it’s just hellishly exhausting to travel to five countries in ten days. And yes, most people bring way too much stuff. You don’t need twenty-one undies for three weeks. You can wash clothes everywhere in the world. The packing habits of others always surprises me.
5) What is the number one lesson you’ve learned through your travels? How has travel changed the way you view the world?
Surprisingly, in some of the poorest countries in the world I have seen the happiest people. Money can’t buy happiness. I guess that’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned. Working nine-to-five in a job you hate means wasting your life. Never stop chasing your dreams. Forget the cash and do what you love.
Many years ago, I used to earn much more money, but I was too often unhappy. I didn’t enjoy my job. Or waking up early. All these useless meetings. I was always waiting for the weekend. And being depressed on Sundays.
And now? I work almost everyday, even Sundays and I love it. My blog is my passion. I earn approximately only 10% of what I earned before and I’m happier than ever. And you know what? It’s even enough money for me to live or to travel. I work whenever I want to. I have more freedom than before and feel richer than ever. Feeling rich has nothing to do with money. Freedom makes us happy, not the money.
6) Since 2008, you’ve more or less become a full-time traveller. What would you advice be to someone interested in becoming nomadic? What are some of the on pitfalls you’ve encountered?
In order to life a nomadic lifestyle you need to give up many things. It takes a while to find out that a simple life is also an easier life, the less things you get attached to, the easier you can move around. Learn to adapt to uncomfortable situations and also to remove yourself when something feels wrong.
Many travelers stick to other travelers in the beginning and are scared to get in touch with locals. Don’t be shy of that, that’s actually one of the best things about traveling. We can learn so much from different cultures.
7) On Just One Way Ticket you often offer advice on saving money during your travels. What is the one place in your budget that you don’t enjoy cutting costs from? Do you have any guilty pleasures that you splurge on from time to time?
Generally food. I love good food. I rather save on accommodation than on food. I just love to eat :)
Furthermore, I’m addicted to massages. Whenever I travel around Thailand or the Philippines, I try to have at least 2-3 massages per week.
Oh—and some of you guys will hate me now—but I also go from time to time to Starbucks and work there on my blog. I know it’s quite expensive, but I love the cozy atmosphere.
8) After travelling throughout much of the world, is there any one place that you just couldn’t get enough of? Are there any that you would be just as happy never returning to?
For sure it’s the Philippines. I’m heading back in a month and it’s gonna be my 6th time. Every time I touch down in Manila it feels a bit like coming home.
There is no place so far where I would say that I never would want to return. Each place is unique and none of them was really terrible.