Introducing My Gang

A lot of people have been asking what I carry with me when I’m on the road. I thought I could explain that to you by making a photo of my entourage and introduce my loyal travel buddies to all of you. There is a story behind them. So here we go:

My entourage

1. My American Ipod. There is an engraving in the back: Never forget where you come from.

2. My Swedish sneakers (the brand’s name is Vagabond. Cool, huh?)

3. My Japanese SLR Nikon camera D60 (bought from my first internship salary in 2008). It’s old but I would never sell it or give it away.

4. My American Iphone

5. My South Korean “You cannot stop NYC” shirt (bought in Dongdaemun, Seoul (!))

6. My French body lotion bottle (brand: Occitane, the fragrance is jasmine)

7. My Vietnamese pen with my name engraved on it (done by the old man sitting besides a tree close to Hoan Kiem lake in Hanoi. He is been sitting there for more than 50 years now. I visit him each time I fly back to Hanoi. Here is his story (unfortunately only in Vietnamese: )

8. My German passport

As you can see, the gang is quite international. I’m so glad that they are with me all the time. What do you carry with you when you are on the road?

Lost and Found


I hope life has been treating you well. Okay, probably not because you are in high school now and I know you are going through a hard time because you are still in that small town in East Germany. I know you hate it. I know some of your classmates are using you and you let them use you because you just want to fit in. I know some of them are making fun of you just because you are different. I know you are a little bit lost.

I just met a girl. She was like you. A loner. She reminds me of you. I know you can’t hear me now and I know I can’t help you because you can’t read the lines that I am writing right now. But I hope they might help other boys and girls who are going through the same thing. I know it’s easier said than done but you gotta do your best. Promise me you will.

  • Don’t let other people’s voices drown out your own. Especially your Asian parents’ voices. You know they care about you but their thinking is from the past. If you like languages and want to study American literature, then do it. Your parents might think it’s rubbish but you can prove them wrong. I know it’s hard to do this but you have to stay strong and have faith in what you do. Find your own path. I repeat: Find.Your.Own. Path.
  • Be proud of yourself. Don’t hide who you are. You are you and you are awesome. If you like reading books (mangas are books too!) all of the time, then do it. Don’t be afraid of other people’s reaction. If you like getting good marks just because you are ambitious and just want to fulfill your dreams while your classmates just want to get drunk and do ‘fun’ stuff, then do it. Seriously, you might have noticed that some of your classmates are just a bunch of losers. They are not worth your attention.
  • Dream lots of dreams and have the courage to fulfill your dreams. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Never. Period.

That’s a lot, huh? Hey, I know you are gonna have some doubts. Oh you will be so doubtful and insecure so many times in your life. For example, when you think that you are not good enough for that scholarship. Or when you just end your non relationship -relationship because, well, it is too early and too late at the same time. Or when you apply for jobs and don’t get invited to interviews. Or when your friends start getting married and having kids. But in the end it’s your happiness and you have to define it yourself. I’m sure you will make it because I wouldn’t have been the person I’m today if you hadn’t made it. You have done a good job of loving me and embracing all my rough edges.

Keep swimming, will ya?


PS. I’m in Berlin now, thinking about my next trip to the US and Canada with two of my bunnies ( it’s not what you think!). I did get that scholarship that you are thinking about. I have been to a lot of other countries, went to graduate school in funf**kingtastic NYC* (Oh don’t get me started why it’s awesome!),  worked in Tokyo (awesome!) and Indonesia (awesome!). I am now planning my next move (pssst). Of course it is not always a bed of roses but I can safely say that I am leading a happy and privileged life. Thanks for believing in me.

* Yes, I know you want Ireland because your love for Oscar Wilde but somehow it turns out to be NYC!

On Solitude

All right, here is the thing: I am an introvert and I like being alone and I don’t like justifying why I want to travel/to be alone (sometimes). For me, it’s as if someone would ask why I need to breath. You see, as soon as I mention my solo adventures, I get asked (even from my close friends and relatives and my own mother, who actually should know how I’m):

•Are you not scared?
•Why don’t you just take a tour?
•You shouldn’t do it alone (watching sunset, sunrise, watching anything that is beautiful)
•Are you not lonely?
•Isn’t it dangerous to travel alone especially as a woman?
•Won’t you get bored when you travel alone?
•Why do you travel alone?

Well, why the hell not?

Seriously, I don’t remember how often I have to justify myself. It drives me nuts. Worse, it drives me crazy when I have to justify myself and my decision in front of close friends and relatives. Aren’t they supposed to support me? Maybe it is just the idea of being alone in a new place that freaks them out because they associate it with loneliness and danger? Especially Asians tend to do that because collectivity is a key element in their culture. Let me tell you one thing though: loneliness is an entirely different thing. You can feel lonely amid a crowd of people. Loneliness is something that I wish none of us has to experience for too long. Being alone, however, doesn’t mean you are lonely.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a people hater and I really do enjoy my time (traveling ) with other people (2 or three are enough though). Like any other human beings, I also crave for the sense of belonging. But sometimes I just need time for myself and recharge my energy by being alone. Being surrounded by people makes me tired and exhausted so sometimes I just prefer reading or thinking or just enjoying the quietness around me. It makes me more creative. It gives me balance. It makes me happy. And why would you (especially close friends and relatives) deny me something that makes me happy? Come on, I don’t ask why you like traveling with other people or spending time and talking with many people so why do you have to ask me why I don’t like what you like? Why can’t you just give me the same respect? I can safely say that most of my ideas come from the moments when I am alone with my thoughts. And I absolutely don’t see the need to change myself to please other people. So to those who have benefited from any of my ideas (photos, videos, words, etc.): don’t thank me. Thank my introverted nature.

Traveling/Being alone is not everyone’s cup of tea but please do not associate that attitude with arrogance, weirdness or any other assumptions. Please have enough respect and accept their decision and take them just the way they are. So if you have a boyfriend, girlfriend, sister, brother, son, daughter, cousin or anyone who you love with that attitude, please try to understand them and respect them. Last but not least, just be happy for their happiness because at the end of the day who are you to define their happiness?

Some excellent books and articles on solitude, introvert people and traveling alone:

Susan Cain:

Michelle Lara Lin:

Jonathan Rauch:

Janice Waugh and Tracey Nesbitt:

Henry David Thoreau – Walden:

So my dear part-time, full-time, soon-to-be, wannabe solo travelers / introverts, give me some sign to show the world that you exist and I’m not alone! What other questions do you receive when you mention your solo trips or preference to be alone?