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About

Solo in Jaipur

Hi, I'm Ummi!

When I think of a solo traveler, I’d picture someone who is:

Fearless

Tough

Sporty

Chatty

Sociable

Alert

Sharp 

Outdoorsy

Smart

Confident

Resourceful

Fun at parties

Good at reading maps

I am NONE of the above.

I’m an introvert who would rather bury her head in a book than make small talk with people. I can’t catch a ball, can’t drive, and can’t swim. I have a fear of every little thing — from water, to speed, to reptiles, to heights. And I have zero sense of direction.

Yet, through all my blunders, I have managed to visit 44 countries over 4 continents. I’m writing this blog to share my stories that I hope can help and inspire you to travel solo — even if you don’t think you’re cut out for it.

Who am I?

I’m a 30-year-old traveler from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. If you’re not sure where that is, I don’t blame you. It’s that country between Thailand and Singapore that people only visit when their Thai visa is expiring or when their Air Asia flights transit here.

We are known for our food (nasi lemak, asam laksa, non-crispy chicken rendang), our phobia of gay people, and our ex-prime minister who embezzled $4.5 billion to buy a luxury yacht and help fund The Wolf of Wall Street.

When did I start traveling solo?

I didn’t own a passport until I was 20.

Growing up, I was taught that money was only to be spent on bare necessities. Travel was not one of them. I remember listening in wonder as my wealthier classmates told stories of their month-long family vacations in Europe. Even in those early years, I had already accepted that there were things in this world that people with money could do that I couldn’t. 

This notion stayed with me well into adulthood. If I had had any dream of traveling at all, it had long since retreated into the far back of my mind. I simply dismissed it as something that was only possible for the elite few. In the meantime, I had other priorities to take care of–like clothes, and makeup, and boyfriends.

But when I was 20, a friend of mine invited me to come with him on a weekend trip to Thailand. That first trip abroad was a steep learning curve. But it was also an eye-opener. I learnt how to check myself in at the airport, how to board the plane, and how to survive in a foreign country. And I realized that hey, this wasn’t too difficult! It was perfectly doable on my own, and didn’t have to be expensive at all. Most importantly, it gave me a certain high that I didn’t think any clothes or makeup or boyfriend could replicate. So that was the story of how I caught the travel bug.

But it wasn’t until I went through a breakup (it’s always a breakup, isn’t it?) that I finally took the plunge. Three days before my 21st birthday, I booked a train ticket to Singapore as a gift for myself. It was only a day trip because I was still feeling apprehensive about staying in a hotel room on my own (not that I could afford to anyway), but it was enough to get me hooked. From that point on, I was unstoppable.

girl standing on cliff overlooking the sea

What do I do for a living?

Ah, the dreaded question. But before I answer that, I should probably start by telling you about my university education. I had none. Well, I quit during the first semester, but that’s another long story. Suffice to say that the experience taught me to always put myself first, and that if something does more harm than good to my mental well-being, it’s okay to quit.

Many people slave away for years doing something they don’t particularly enjoy until they realize that that’s not how they want to live. I’m just glad I came to that realization earlier on. So while you often hear stories of other travel bloggers who finally quit their jobs after having spent a huge chunk of their lives in the corporate world, I was never there in the first place. I didn’t sell my house and my car to fund my travels because well, I didn’t have a house or a car to sell.

But I have created for myself a financial stability that allows me to keep traveling while being unemployed (most of the time). When my money runs low, I take on odd jobs, working in restaurants and bars and bookstores, but only for as long as I enjoy it. I always make sure I know when it’s time to call it quits.

How do I afford travel?

I wish I could say that I’m earning enough money from this blog to fund all my travels. Well, that’s the dream anyway, but as it is, the blog is only several months old, so it will probably take awhile. Currently, I’m working on an article about how I can afford to travel despite only working minimum-wage jobs and being unemployed most of the time. I’ll post the link here once it’s done. Keep checking this space!

What made me start this blog?

I have depression. It has pretty much been a permanent fixture in my life, on an on-and-off basis since I was 14. After a particularly rough period in 2013, I started a bucket-list blog to help me cope, and found that it made a tremendous difference. Not only was it therapeutic to write, the bucket list itself gave me a sense of purpose and achievement. It helped me practice self-care (which involved a lot of traveling). However, I didn’t like to publicize it much, because in there, I wrote about whatever tickled my fancy, and not always in the most politically correct way. It could probably even land me in jail.

But as the blog grew, I realized that some of the content might be helpful to others too. I needed another platform to reach a bigger audience, so that I could help more people. Hence, the birth of Ummi Goes Where. While in the other blog, I merely share my experiences, in this one I aim to make the articles more in-depth and informative. You can help me make this happen by sending me your feedback and suggestions here.

girl sitting on balcony overlooking Jaisalmer city

Other F.A.Q.

(Real questions that people have asked me)

I started out as a backpacker, roughing it out, sleeping in airports, bus stations, train stations and parking lots (this was before I discovered Couchsurfing). I still consider myself a backpacker, but now that I can afford to, I allow myself some luxuries when I feel like it, although I still try to keep my budget as low as I can.

I’m a very light packer. I don’t carry a tent or sleeping bag with me. For a typical trip (ranging from 4 days to 4 weeks), I only carry a 25L backpack and a small sling bag. I never check in my luggage.

I don’t travel full-time or for very long periods, because I don’t like being away from my mom for too long (she’s all that I have!), so it’s usually around 3-4 weeks each time.

I like staying at home. There are just so many things to do that I don’t understand why people keep asking me if I’m not bored staying at home. I’d have several projects going on at the same time — cross-stitch, knitting, drawing, calligraphy, scrapbooking, 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles. I also have a ukulele and a foldable keyboard piano that have been sitting in the corner for years because I hadn’t had the time to learn them. Recently I learnt to bake (because we ran out of cooking gas, and I had to resort to baking). But mostly, I love reading and writing. Sometimes I force myself to go running to keep fit.

I often ask myself this question too. And I think it all boils down to three reasons:

  1. Pride. My pride has always been bigger than my ass. I want to be able to say that I went to all those countries on my own, and with my own money — not on any sponsored trip, business trip, family trip, and not for any airline company.
  2. Lack of freedom. I don’t like being told what to do or when to do it, especially during my travels. So I’m not sure if I would enjoy it very much if I don’t get to decide which cities I’m flying to, or how long I get to stay in each place. The reason I like traveling solo is because I can be the sole decision maker, and I get to do everything on my own — from the planning stage to booking the tickets, to figuring out how the public transportation works, to finding my way around town. I don’t like being chauffeured around in a car from one expensive hotel to another. Believe me, I have traveled with people who tried to impress me with all those. I did not enjoy it.
  3. (And probably the most important reason of all): I don’t think I would make it past the first stage of the interview anyway. ;-D

No, I’m a drug lord.

Yah, your dad was a regular.

It’s “oo-mee”, not “you-me”, or “yummy”. Not many people get this right, so thank you for asking.

I didn’t. I still have a (mild) fear of flying. I still get nervous when I’m on my own in a foreign place. And that’s fine. Being nervous is normal. Even experienced performers get nervous every time they need step into the spotlight. Just take it as a positive sign that you care and that you don’t let your guard down.

Does my phone camera count? I used to have a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, which was given to me as a present. But I lost it in Latvia. So I bought a Xiaomi Redmi 6, which was less than a quarter of the price of the Samsung I had. I also have a dash cam that works like a GoPro but is a lot cheaper.

Thailand, because green curry.

Well, the dream is of course to visit every nation on earth. But for now, I would really love to visit South America, particularly Argentina, Peru and Chile.

Yes, I’m waiting for your husband to propose to me.

Do you have any other question you’d like me to answer? Ask me anything >>here<<.

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