Mike Hilbert, a teacher from Arizona(USA) decided to travel the world along with his fiancé Jenna for a year. They travelled to the most parts of the South East Asian countries. They were stationed in Chennai during demonetization.
#1: Inspiration plays a major role in the things we do. What inspired you to see and travel the world?
Personally, I was inspired to travel from a number of angles. First, growing up in the countryside, without a lot of other kids around, I had to explore by myself which really curated in me a sense of discovery. Also, when I graduated undergrad, my aunt got me a subscription to Nat Geo Traveler, and the pictures in that magazine instilled in me a desire to see the most beautiful and interesting places in the world.
#2: What are your thoughts on ‘travelling as a profession and travelling for profession’?
I’m not sure how you are making the distinction, but travelling as a profession is not an easy thing to do. First, you need to have the personality to be very fluid and not inclined to settle down. Travelling for profession, I would think, requires travel, but entails a home base in some way, which, for most people, is a requirement. Many people travel for their profession. Not many pick travel as their profession.
#3: Demonetisation was an overnight decision and affected many people. How did it affect you?
We took out 20,000 rupees and it was worthless the next day. Many banks refused to change our money because we were foreigners (we had a travel visa, or the computer system said we had already changed money when we actually hadn’t), which was very frustrating. We waited in line like everyone else and had friends and acquaintances wait in line for us (again, like everyone else), to get the cash we needed to get by.
#4: What do you like and dislike about India?
I like the food, the people are so friendly, the culture is so diverse. But I dislike so many loud horns and sometimes the food is too spicy.
#5: South-east Asian countries are known for their strict tradition and rules. Was it hard for the two of you to adjust to it?
It was not hard. We’ve been travelling for quite a while in South East Asia and are accustomed to strict rules. We know to wear certain clothes when going to temple, etc.
#6: How did you two meet?
We met using the online matchmaking site plentyoffish.com.
#7: Travelling for a year can be exhausting. How were you able to manage?
Well, our time being stationary in Chennai has really helped. After about 5 months of non-stop travel, we were feeling pretty tired and ready to go home. But after a month in Chennai, doing very little travelling (we were volunteering almost every day), we’re back to being excited for our next leg in Sri Lanka and Northern India.
#8: Travelling is said to put a dent in your savings account. Was it the same for you?
We made sure to save enough money to be able to travel for at least a year. It looks like we’ll be headed home before the year is out, so we’ll have some money left over. This will come in very handy when paying for our wedding and hopefully will be able to buy a house when we get back to Tucson.
#9: What were the most difficult barriers that you experienced while travelling?
The most difficult barrier was mental. After travelling for this long (although many people have travelled for much longer than 5 months) one can get quite tired of it. We call it travel fatigue. It’s like eating sweets. One can eat a chocolate and live it, but after 5 chocolates, they’re ready for something else. It’s kind of the same way with travelling – very sweet at the beginning but then it becomes harder to swallow as you continue on. What we did to get around that is take some downtime in different areas (such as here in Chennai) so that we wouldn’t be on the move constantly.
#10: You and Jenna have been volunteering during your travel. Can you tell me how your experience has been so far?
Well, I’ve been very happy with Chennai volunteers. Jenna’s volunteering with Unite for Sight was a little boring since she was not able to really put her skill set to use.
#11: What is that one fond memory that you will take back with you from each of the countries that you visited?
Oh, there’s too many to try to recall, but we really enjoyed our cooking class in Japan, our time on Ant Atoll in Micronesia, visiting an orphanage in South Korea, meeting up with my parents in Vietnam for some tours, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Rock climbing in Tonsai Thailand, exploring the temples in Mrauk U Myanmar, trekking in Nepal and checking out the scene in Hampi, India. We’re now in Oman and we really like it too.
#12: For how long have you been planning for this trip?
We planned this trip for about 9 months in advance.
#13: What were the things that you had to sacrifice in order to save money for your yearlong travelling?
We sacrificed on a lot of things. New gadgets, like phones, cars, computers, eating out, clothes. You name it, we didn’t buy it and were able to save enough to travel.
#14: What message would you like to tell people who wish to travel and follow your path and travel around the world?
If you dream it, you can do it. As long as you’re willing to research, save, plan, and deal with the difficulties, you can go anywhere and do anything. But you have to have patience and resolve.
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