This week we would like to introduce Ashley of A Southern Gypsy. Having spent the past decade and the majority of her 20’s trying to figure out her life, she has realized what her true passions are. She is in the works of selling off her possessions, saving up money, and planning the opportunity (hopefully, indefinite) of a lifetime. To pass the time before she heads off on her own, she is working on her travel blog, photography skills, and writing about the annoyance of being stuck at home.
1. What inspires you to travel, and how would you define the word ‘traveler’?
I have always loved to travel from the cruises we took, to the long, cramped road trips, to flying. Everything about traveling appeals to me. What really inspired me to make a lifestyle change, where traveling is now a priority as opposed to a luxury, is series of unfortunate events. Just call me Lemony Snicket. A failed marriage and pregnancies, a shameful amount of debt, a cross-country move, loss of great friends, a decade worth of jobs I hated, and a useless (to me) degree all made me realize I wasn’t happy in life. It was all these events that led me to the decision to go after what makes me happy.
A traveler to me is someone who immerses themselves in the culture. It’s not someone who’s there just to see the main sights and go home. It’s someone who eats like the locals, travels like the locals and truly tries to understand and appreciate wherever it is they are traveling. It’s not about going to another place just to live the way you do at home. It’s about going to another place to live like they do.
2. How do you afford your travels?
I will admit that in the past, save smaller trips, my trips were paid for by family. Both of my trips to Europe, I didn’t pay for except some of the food and anything I bought while there. As for how I am going to be paying for my travels in the future though? Right now, I work a regular, boring job. I put a large chunk of my pay into savings. I’m also currently selling all of my possessions and every cent of that goes towards my travel fund. As soon as I move out of my apartment and back in with family at the end of the month, I’m planning on getting a second job in which all of my earnings will go directly to my travel fund. I’m also always looking for freelance jobs and so on.
3. Where has been your favorite destination? Where has been your least favorite?
I’m horrible at picking favorites and if you ask me this question tomorrow, the answer is bound to be different. I would have to say my favorite country so far would be Italy. I thoroughly enjoyed every city I went to-Rome, Venice, and Florence. I can’t wait to go back and explore Italy in more depth as I know I didn’t even scratch the surface. One of my favorite cities ever though is London. It held a special place in my heart before I ever stepped foot there and it’s one I can see myself returning to over and over again.
My least favorite place to visit has probably been South Korea. Not because of anything to do with the country at all. I was there for two weeks and I honestly can’t even say what I saw. I went to go see a significant (now ex-significant) other who was stationed in the Army there. It’s pretty sad that I was in a country for two weeks and hardly saw anything. I did have a pretty spectacular New Year’s Eve though.
4. Have you ever had high hopes for a destination, tour, etc., only to be disappointed in the end? Or any travel mishaps?
I grew up going on several cruises. At the time, it seemed like the greatest thing in the world and don’t get me wrong cruises can be very nice. They are relaxing and completely worry-free. However, I think of all the places I’ve been but didn’t really get to explore. I was a tourist, not a traveler. That makes me extremely sad to admit. However, I’ve got plenty of time to remedy that and go back.
5. What’s the funniest or weirdest cultural idiosyncrasy you’ve either witnessed or experienced?
This question alone and the fact I had a hard time answering it is exactly why I know I’ve made the right decision to follow this path. Doing the tourist thing for so long, I couldn’t even think of any great cultural idiosyncrasies. I’m sure I’ve seen them, but it didn’t leave a deep enough impression for me to remember it when being asked. I will say South Korea as a whole was the biggest culture shock for me to date though. I know going to SE Asia next year is going to open my eyes to some very different cultures than I’ve ever experienced and I’m beyond excited.
6. What souvenir do you have to buy at all your destinations?
I used to collect shot glasses from everywhere I go. It’s a fairly small souvenir, but with a long term traveling, I’m not quite sure that will continue to work out. I also like magnets and that’s a bit more feasible. However, if I don’t have a fridge to put them on what good does that do me…
7. How about the one thing you cannot travel without?
My camera and my laptop. How original, I know. What travel blogger can’t function without these two things though?
8. Why did you begin blogging? And how did you come up with your blog name?
I began my blog just a couple months ago when I decided to make this huge lifestyle change. I knew I wouldn’t be leaving for about a year, but I wanted to get myself acclimated to it and I wanted to network with other bloggers and really get in my groove before leaving. I didn’t want to try to learn all the things about blogging and networking while trying to also enjoy traveling.
As for the name, I struggled a bit with ideas. I didn’t want it tie me down to one area, but I wanted it to say something about me. I ended up choosing A Southern Gypsy simply because I’m deeply proud of my Southern roots just as much as I am for my love to travel.
9. Do you have favorite travel blogs that you read regularly?
I read a ton of travel blogs. There are so many that I thoroughly enjoy reading. Some of the ones that I really look forward to reading are Kristin Addis Of Be My Travel Muse because I see a lot of myself when I read her stuff, Dan and Casey of A Cruising Couple because it makes me hope I can one day find someone I love enough to travel long term with, and Dave and Deb of The Planet D because they are just simply inspiring.
10. How have you been preparing for your big trip to SE Asia?
I think the question is how have I not been preparing. The major things have been giving my apartment notice I’m moving out, arranging to move in with my mom, paying off debt, making a very strict budget plan and reading a ton of travel blogs and stories about SE Asia to get me pumped. Once I move out of my apartment at the end of the month, I’ll have much more time to focus on writing, photography, my MatadorU courses, saving more money and so on. All I can say is, I can not wait.
Travel has made me a lot more open to other cultures, religions, foods, and so on. I used to be the pickiest eater growing up, but now I want to at least try everything. I don’t believe in every religion I come across, but I accept that others do and I respect that. Travel has also made me realize the types of people that I want to surround myself with. I’ve been around some extremely close-minded and judgmental people in my life and now when I’m around those people it disgusts me.
12. What’s next?
I have my first ever solo trip to Disney World planned for January. I’m a huge kid at heart and love Disney World. I’ve been several times growing up and a few while an adult, but this will be the first time I’ve ever gone alone and get to do exactly what I want when I want.
I also lots of smaller day trips planned around the South. With working full time and saving as much money as possible for SE Asia, my budget is kind of low, but there are tons of free and inexpensive things to do around me. I’d love to hear opinions from readers on what they’d be interested in reading about in Nashville and surrounding areas.
And, yes I plan on staying away forever or until I don’t want to anymore because I plan on doing what I want in life from now on. So, if I want to continue traveling forever, I hope to but if I want to come home at some point, I will do that too. I don’t see that happening however.
Backpack or suitcase? Backpack. After lugging around suitcases on family trips, nothing is more welcoming than a small backpack.
Window or aisle? Window. Views, somewhere to lay my head, and my elbows don’t get hit by the carts. Win, win, win.
Solo or group? Solo. This will be my first big solo trip, but I’ve done smaller solo trips and ventured off alone on others and it’s definitely for me.
Tapas or sushi? Sushi. I could eat sushi for breakfast.
Want to learn more about Ashley and her travels?