Let’s take a journey down the rabbit-hole and explore the numerous wonders of the travel world! Tours4fun recently had the incredible opportunity to interview Alex Faubel, author of blog site Alex In Wanderland. Her zany wit and sense of humor display a quirky and off-beat side of long term travel. From inspiration to advice, travel -tips to hilarious stories, Alex In Wanderland covers it all. Every trip serves as a powerful learning experience, and that message is certainly conveyed in this blog. So if you’re looking to get some guidance before your big trip, or you’re just seeking out a great laugh, check out Alex In Wanderland!
Tours4Fun: How old were you when you caught the travel bug and what motivated you initially to start traveling?
Alex: I guess when I first started using the Internet and was able to see all of the far off lands where people ride camels, wear strange clothes and practice odd customs. I decided I wanted to visit all of the places that were most different from American culture. My junior year of college I went to Rwanda on a volunteer trip and I taught abroad in Thailand this past year. Countries so different and a lot of ways the same, each boasting some of the kindest most accommodating people I’ve ever met.
Tours4Fun: You recently took a trip to Thailand. Tell us an experience or a memory that stuck with you, and why that experience was such a significant one.
Alex: The Songkran festival in Chiang Mai celebrates the Buddhist New Year and is basically an excuse to host the world’s biggest water fight, making it my new favorite holiday. Men, women and children of all cultures flood the streets armed with massive water guns, buckets and trashcans full of ice water. By 11 am it looks like full-scale water combat. I unleashed my inner commando that week and my friends still joke that I legitimately believed we were in battle.
Tours4Fun: Many people dream of being on the road (or overseas) traveling, but budgeting becomes an issue. Can you give us a few tips on how to budget for long term travel?
Alex: I’m not the most skilled budgeter so my motto is: save, save, save and just when you think you’ve saved enough, save some more. It also depends on where you intend to travel; places like Europe and Australia are much pricier than Southeast Asia or South America. You must always prepare for the unexpected. Sometimes you get flat tires, your bus breaks down or the hostel you booked looks nothing like the photos and upon closer inspection the wallpaper is actually patterns of dead insects. It’s always nice to have that emergency fund.
Tours4Fun: When you got back from Thailand, you were slightly nervous about reverse culture shock. Tell us a little bit about what it was like being back in the US- a seemingly entirely different world.
Alex: I had to remember that although my friends and family care for me very much, they won’t necessarily understand what I’m talking about a lot of the time, so it’s not essential for me to drone on for hours about my travels. On the other hand, it’s good to keep in contact with those you met while traveling who shared your experiences and can act as your “links” to those memories. I also focus on the positive aspects of home, like being able to communicate without using props or flailing hand gestures.
Tours4Fun: What do you look forward to the most when visiting a new country?
Alex: The food! I’m all about trying new cuisine and I’m the least picky eater I know. I’ve tried everything from curried goat to fried crickets and some unidentifiable tastes that I’m still attempting to rid from my palate. Each taste is a new adventure—just go for it* (*Unless you have a weak stomach)
Tours4Fun: What are some of the biggest obstacles you have had to overcome in a foreign place? How did you combat them?
Alex: The language barrier is always a big obstacle. Also, taboo things we find impolite or offensive, others view as normal, like public nose picking—a habit I’m still trying to conquer. There’s less overcoming of the obstacles than adapting to them and knowing when to let something go and when to resist. Personal space (or lack thereof) was a big adjustment for me until I realized that no one wanted to harm me, the curious locals just wanted to stand very, very close to me.
Tours4Fun: Do you prefer to travel alone or with people? Why?
Alex: I enjoy experiencing new places with friends, but it’s also exhilarating to go out on your own somewhere foreign and march around like you know exactly where you’re headed. I met a lot of unique individuals along the way and as a traveler it’s great to be able to sit down with a very diverse group of people, trade stories and learn new things. It’s also beneficial to have someone around to tell you when it’s time for a shower.
Tours4Fun: What are some of the best ways to connect with the locals in a new destination?
Alex: Again I’d have to say food. So many cultures revolve around food and meals are a shared experience with entrees set in the middle for everyone to try. Going into a local restaurant and talking with the owners or playing with the children that are scurrying about is a great way to get to know the people. A Thai friend once brought her home cooking into a neighborhood restaurant for a group of us to try and the restaurant owner didn’t even blink twice, he was happy as long as we were fed!
Tours4Fun: Do you ever get homesick? If so, how did you battle it?
Alex: I get homesick a good amount, mostly for people rather than things. When I get homesick I try to remember that your home is merely an extension of yourself. Wherever I go, I bring my home with me and whenever I feel happiest is when I’m home. A sign in the small northern town of Pai reads, “You can’t get lost if you don’t know where you’re going,” and I believe that as long as we’re happy, challenged and moving forward, we can make a home even in the strangest of places.
Tours4Fun: Finally, where would you next adventure be?
Alex: I’d like to WWOOF in either South America or India. WWOOF is an organization that allows you to trade work on an organic farm for room, board and often learning a new skill. The idea of getting to work with locals often doing manual labor is both terrifying and thrilling, not to mention your contributing to the greater good of the place you’re traveling through.