Feature Friday | Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller
Meet Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller.
I strongly believe that people who love to travel are the best kind of people. This series will introduce you to some of the amazing women travelers with whom I have been fortune enough to connect. Women travelers who are overcoming adversity and crushing societal norms are a huge source of inspiration for me and I believe their stories will inspire you as well.
Tell us about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? When and how did you start traveling?
I am a blogger from Sydney, Australia traveling through South East Asia for the rest of the year, currently in Laos. I left a corporate job in Australia, on a sort of late-twenties gap year, to feed my wanderlust and travel this part of the world writing about responsible travel and community development. I first started traveling at the age of 22. I did the usual European route and traveled to easy places like Hawaii and Bali, but it wasn’t until I traveled to India in 2012 that I began to understand that we all have a role to play in social change. I’ve always had a passion for humanity so I decided to combine that with my love for travel to find ways that we can travel, while helping others at the same time. This year I started my blog The Altruistic Traveller, focusing on responsible tourism and sharing stories of good will from all the places I visit, and believe me there is a lot of good will out there. Before I left home I never really had a set plan or any idea if my blog would even take off, but so far I have achieved so many goals, seen amazing places and shared inspiring stories so I’m looking forward to what the next year will bring.
What is the most unique place you have ever been? Share with us an off-the-beaten path location that we may have never heard of! What made you decide to visit this place?
I would have to say the remote region of Chi Phat, in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. I jumped onto Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum to ask about responsible tourism projects in Asia. A traveler told me about a community based tourism initiative in Chi Phat whereby all proceeds from tourism go towards the community and protecting the forests. The rangers in the area are ex-poachers who now have a role which isn’t harming the surrounding environment, and the once impoverished community now has a source of income that doesn’t come from unsustainable practices such as tree logging. It’s a place where not too many tourists know about and you can find some amazing treks through the forest, swimming in waterfalls and spotting wildlife. They also have an animal sanctuary where you can stay in beautiful bungalows and help to get injured wildlife back into the forests. I filled out the guest book and the last person before me was there 3 weeks prior!
What is the most beneficial lesson you have learned from traveling solo?
Always ask if you don’t know something. No matter where you are, there will be people that will help you. There have been so many times that I have needed to ask for directions, or ask where something is and on many occasions I have had to ask more than one person. I firmly believe there is no such thing as a silly question. People are generally friendly and you can get through language barriers. One tip here is to always speak clearly and slowly if there is a language barrier. No use speaking as if you were talking to your friends at home.
When you decided to travel solo for the first time, were the people in your life supportive of your decision? If not, how did you overcome this?
The first time I traveled solo was to Bali. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship and I needed to clear my mind. Bali is the perfect place for that. My family had mixed opinions about it. My dad’s side of the family sometimes worry about my adventures but it’s normal for parents to feel that way when their children travel. My mum was supportive, and still is, of my solo travels. I just learned to understand that their different views come from two different cultural backgrounds. Europeans tend to be a bit more conservative than Australians.
Have you ever traveled somewhere that you did not feel safe as a solo female traveler? If so, where?
I have never felt unsafe in a place but I do know that there are unsafe places everywhere you go. You must be street smart and keep your wits about you, always trust your instincts. So far I have only traveled to Bali, United States, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia & Laos as a solo female traveler and all of those places I have found to be very friendly. I am planning to do India and the Philippines this year so I’ll be checking the safety precautions, staying in hostels and trying to use my resources to find fellow travelers. The Internet has made it so easy to meet people to travel with. I find the Facebook groups to be the most useful.
In your travels, you have likely come across many kind people. What country has the most friendly locals?
Oh yes! The world is full of wonderful people. I see kindness everywhere. If anything, traveling allows you to see the best of people because everyone is so open, like-minded and willing to help each other. I have found the locals throughout Asia to be extremely friendly, even in places like Laos where it’s not so customary to smile, people will still help you out. Thailand is the land of smiles because everyone does it. Malaysians are very friendly, and I would have to say Cambodia has the friendliest locals I have met. The only time when I feel that kindness is compromised is when there is money involved. E.g. that tuk tuk driver that wants to overcharge you, or the person at the market who gives you a mean look because you didn’t make a purchase. I have found the kindest and most friendly people to be people in the rural villages who have so much less than we do, but who are so rich in happiness.
If you could share one piece of advice with a large group of people, what would it be?
If there is something deep down that you really want, something you’ve always wanted to achieve, something you think about every day, then find the courage to work towards it no matter how big the obstacle. I was in a job that I knew wasn’t what I wanted, and my dreams were so far from what I was doing at the time. I slowly developed the courage to work towards what I wanted and once I did that, and believed that I could do it, everything started to fall into place.
Sometimes the biggest obstacle was myself, and although sometimes I still do get in the way of myself, I never stop trying to achieve the things that mean the most to me. Life is too short to live a life that’s not true to yourself. So try to achieve what you’ve always wanted, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or to use the support that is around you. There are always people that have walked the path before you and who will be willing to help you along the way.
Be sure to check in every Friday to meet other awesome women travel bloggers and future friends! If you follow a female travel blogger that you love, please send suggestions my way so that I can reach out to her! If you are interested in being featured yourself, please shoot me an email: hello[at]btravelsbetter.com.