Alex Bellink, 24
What have you been up to?
This past year I literally circumnavigated the globe, starting with a trip to the west coast to visit friends, moving onto Japan and Southeast Asia, following one month in my favorite country in the world, Turkey, then several weeks in The Balkans and ending in Norway before flying home to New York. After spending a few weeks at home, I took off again for a "short" five week trip to Europe, where I traveled in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Denmark. It's been a long year, and at this point I'm hoping to take a break from traveling and move out to California for a bit.
Why do you travel?
For as long as I can remember I've always loved being in motion, seeing different places, and being out and about. In college I couldn't afford to travel internationally, so I'd just spend nearly every weekend driving around the Northeast to visit friends and see my favorite bands. When I graduated college and I finally had the time and money, I took off to see the world.
How do you go about planning your trip?
I always check out other travel bloggers' websites to see where they've been traveling, and if any of those places interest me.This American Girl, The Never Ending Footsteps and Travel Write Sing are some of my favorites. I usually just pick one city to start in, and from there I play it by ear. Once I'm ready to move on from wherever I am at the time, I just ask other travelers where they've been and where I should go next. Hostels can be helpful as well with planning excursions, referring you to other hostels in cool places (I've stayed at one in the jungle of Guatemala, one on top of a mountain in Colombia, etc etc), and even transportation.
What's the best part of traveling?
The best part is that you meet new people every single day, many of whom, will change your life. Last winter in Central America I made an interesting variety of friends, from a Jewish Mexican waitress who gave me some of the wisest words of wisdom, a Danish girl and Swedish guy who I celebrated Christmas with in Mexico and then later met up with again in Colombia (and again in Denmark this year!), another American who travels 80% of the year because her job is location independent, an El Salvadorian taxi driver who lived in Miami for ten years, and the list goes on and on. It's not as much the places, but the people who you meet that shape your journey through this life.
Traveling isn't always sunshine and rainbows. What's the worst part about traveling?
As a solo traveler, the hardest part is not having somebody there to take care of you when you really need it. On every single trip I've been on, I've injured myself severely enough that I needed to go to the hospital. It's a scary moment when you don't know what's going on with your body or what to do when you're alone, in a foreign country. Two weeks ago in Italy, a glass door shattered on my hand at 3am. There was nobody to take me to a hospital or even call me a taxi, so I had to walk 20 minutes down a dark, winding road to get my bloody finger cleaned up. In those situations I often find myself thinking, "when can I get on the next flight home?".
What item do you never forget to pack?
A toothbrush! No, just kidding. I've definitely forgotten a toothbrush before. My one travel item that I always have with me is a hydroflask. It's a bit heavy, but it's a must if you're trekking around hot regions and want to keep your water cold. You can sit on the beach in 90 degree weather with it all day, and it will still keep your water ice cold!
Give the readers some Lifestoned advice!
Don't think, just do. If you have something in life that you want to do, just do it! Stop sitting around and thinking about maybe possibly doing it, JUST GO! If you want to take a long around the world journey, but the trip isn't financially feasible at the moment, save some money until you can do it. Some of the bloggers I follow saved for five years to travel, but now they're full time travelers/travel bloggers! Or if you don't want to wait that long, take a small trip-- even an adventure in your own area. You'd be shocked to find out how much you can find in your own backyard. To sum it up: enjoy life, always adventure, and don't ever take for granted the people who love and support you.
Follow all of Alex's adventures on her blog A New Day A New Place!