Interview With Lash of LashWorldTour
Lash, please give my readers a background about yourself. What made
you want to start lashworldtour.com?
I moved to Japan in 1991, soon after university, specifically to work and save money to travel the world. I lived in Kyoto for 6 years, immersed in the traditional Japanese cultural arts. In 1997 I reached my goals, quit my job, invested my money and set out on my world travels in early 1998. I've been traveling solo ever since, often by bicycle, and mostly in Asia. While living in Japan I started writing about my experiences and life there. From the beginning of my world travels I kept detailed journals, often making them into collages, of my adventures. All the journals take up 2 full shelves in my dad's house!
In 2004, soon after I became a dive instructor, I started meeting travelers who had blogs, mainly to keep friends and family updated on their travels. I thought, “Wow, that's a cool idea. Maybe I should do that.” I also had a twinge of 'that's not fair' syndrome. I'd been on the road 7 years at that point, but nobody on the internet knew about my travels. In great contrast, here were these newbie travelers with their adventures, photos and stories plastered all over the internet. Hmph! Well, of course it was fair. They wrote a travel blog and I didn't. Simple.
So the idea of having a website or blog of my travels was sparked from that. Over the next few years, I was busily immersed in teaching scuba diving and traveling. It was great fun but, quite unfortunately, it gradually dawned on me that the diving gig's low pay for fun but hard work wasn't sustainable. Most professional divers seem to max out and drop out within four years. I began looking for other ways to earn a living that would allow me to continue traveling. I met a few web designers who were location independent. Hmm... In 2008, I temporarily moved to Shanghai. While there I chanced upon a Web Design Course taught by a Dutch man. I took his private lessons- building websites with Dream Weaver. Great fun!
I immediately began designing and building websites. LashWorldTour (it's first format) was the first, followed by LashDiveWorld. I wrote loads of stories, took lots of photos, offered online resources, etc. I designed many other websites and tried building sites for small businesses and dive shops, but found that most small shops and acquaintances wanted sites built for free or next to nothing. Drag! I would have pursued web design more, but in 2009-2010 I got side-tracked managing a rock climbing shop then opening my own cafe/restaurant/bakery in Thailand... My first business! That's its own story...
Finally, late last year I got around to creating the current blog LashWorldTour, shifting all my stories and photos from my previous 2 websites over. Presto, instant 100+ story blog. I didn't do much with it until this February when I discovered the vast world of travel blogging already in full swing. Wowie! I had no clue! In February I began working on developing the blog more seriously with the aim of earning a living to continue my travels and writing.
Since I've been traveling for so long and so actively I have loads of information, travel tips, advice, stories, and photo galleries to share with people. It's great to let people know, first hand, about the fabulous people, cultures, and natural wonders out there. I really hope to inspire more people to follow their dreams, be it travel or other pursuits.
I intend to travel another 10-15 years, so LashWorldTour will be around for a long time to come. I have lots of developmental plans in the wings. In addition to travel stories and photo galleries, I will begin posting a lot more travel tips and advice. I have several new products in the works including 2012 calendars and 2 more books coming up next year.
Lash in Turqouise Kimono
In all of your travels, in your opinion what country has the best food? and the worst food?
Most Asian countries have delicious and varied cuisines. My absolute favorites are Japan, Thailand and Malaysia. The only countries where I didn't especially like the food are Philippines and Sri Lanka. In both countries the food was ok, but not exceptional.
When you first started traveling, did your family support your decision?
My family's opinions didn't have much bearing on my plans, as compared to what I'd imagine most people's families would have. I left home at 17 to attend university and was on my own since then. It was several years later that I decided to move to Japan, so I'd already been away and living on my own for a long time. In addition, neither of my parents have ever given much advice or suggestions nor expressed their opinions about my (nor my brothers') ideas and decisions. They just sort of let us do our own thing without any input, whether that's good or bad. So when I decided to move to Japan, they didn't really say much one way or other. My mom did express some somewhat joking feelings of 'going to miss me', but that was about it. So I'd have to answer that my family neither supported nor opposed my plans. I still have no idea what they really felt or thought about it at that time. Bizarre, really.
Australia's The Great Ocean Road
Did you always have a love of travel or did you develop your passion
for traveling as you got older?
As far back as I can remember, I always loved going out on road trips, visiting new places, and traveling. My family moved from Indiana to Ohio when I was 5, from Ohio to New Jersey when I was 10, then to Pa. when I was 11, so I got accustomed to leaving where I'd been 'rooted' and starting all over in completely new places. From about the age of 10 my parents started taking us out on road trips, camping, visiting national parks, and exploring the great outdoors. Our longest road trip was over 3 months long, the summer I was 11. By the time I left home at 17 I'd see the eastern half of the US and camped, hiked, canoed, climbed in dozens of national, state and local parks. That's undoubtedly what sparked my love of travel, nature and outdoor activities.
Koh Phi Phi
What impact has lashworldtour.com had on your life?
The biggest impact thus far (since Feb this year) is that it's pretty much taken over my life! Including writing 3 books this year, work on the website has kept me working 10-12 hours per day/ 6 days/ week. I mostly force myself to take an entire day off once a week. Otherwise I get burned out. Social life is almost nil. Romance nil. The only things I haven't dropped are eating, sleeping, and exercise. I've always been a fitness nut, so it would be impossible for me to give that up, although I've definitely cut back from my ideal. I still manage to do weight training 2-3 times/week and cycle every second or third day. Still, I've watched my fitness level deteriorate. :( My body is not at all used to sitting so much! Muscles are often screaming at me to go stretch, get my heart pumping, and expend more energy. That's been kind of tough.
Lash at Mt Ranier with friend Meg Estep
There are definitely days when I wonder what the H*** I'm doing, whether it's worth it or not. Occasionally I get started in the morning and soon realize I just can't take it that day, either physically or mentally. On those days I 'play hooky'- a planned work day that I bale on. That feels just great and I return the following day completely recharged (and slightly guilt-ridden).
Why I stay motivated and keep going are two factors. First of all, I figure I just need to bust my A** one more year before it all starts paying off. I can work my A** off one more year, no prob. Secondly, all my efforts- developing the website, participating in social media, writing travel stories, tips and 3 books is slowly building a name for myself in the travel community as an experienced world traveler. It's also quite satisfying to be building my own business. This is all leading- I hope- to carving a career for myself traveling. Which is the only thing I want to do anyhow. I may as well go for it!
Lash in Laos with Elephant
What has been the least exciting destination you've traveled to?
I can't think of any! Every place I go is interesting, exciting and new. I'm a big pre-planner, and I can tell from guidebooks if I'm going to like a place or not, so I always choose places that are really appealing to me...
Oh, hold on, I just thought of one: Australia. Don't get me wrong, Australia has many great, beautiful wonderful places, including cities, architecture, national parks, unusual and varied topography and climate and unique animals. And I'd been dying to go there since I was about 20.
I think my disappointment stemmed from the facts that it's another western country and because it's so spacious. It was very similar to the USA to me. That was quite dull compared to exotic Asian cultures. In Australia I visited many beautiful outdoor places, but I always felt, “this is great, but xyz (in another country) is even better” By then I'd traveled through sooo many incredible natural areas in USA, Japan, Thailand, Bali that those places always trumped similar places in Oz.
I also greatly disliked the spanking clean, tidy, organized little conventional towns (the epitome of want I want to escape from in the US) I hated the incredible amount of rules and regulations, all of which all Australian citizens obediently adhere to. Blah. After traveling around Asia, with so few rules and so much freedom, that was a real downer! I even had a cop race across a parking lot in his patrol car, screech to a halt, jump out, and accost me because I wasn't wearing my helmet cycling- in a park on a path! Whaaat?! Wasn't his driving to come 'arrest' me a lot more hazardous than my helmet-free cycling? Crazy stuff.
One thing in Australia that captivates many overseas visitors is its vast open lands in central and western Australia. I watched my European travel companions utterly amazed as we drove from the east coast into the outback. But I'd already driven across the entire US twice. There was no novelty for me.
A few things in Australia did not disappoint me, though. The Sydney Opera House, koala bears, kangaroos, Australian birds, and Uluru (Ayer's Rock). Those were all unique, wonderful things I'd anticipated experiencing for many years. When I left Australia, I was soooo glad to get back to Asia, but I did miss one thing- the birds!
Lash Scuba Diving in Thailand
What has been the most surprising destination you've been to? Meaning,
you had a specific mindset about a certain destination but it was totally a
different experience than you had imagined.
Hmmm... I can think of two.
Philippines. I expected to love the Philippines and also to earn a great living scuba diving, based on recommendations of other dive instructors I'd met. Unfortunately, and quite to my surprise, as soon as I departed the airport at Cebu City, central Philippines, I immediately recognized I didn't like it! “Uh,oh”, I thought. Quite unfortunately, that was my impression the entire time I was there- for 4 long months. It rarely improved. The island I went to for teaching diving was a complete disaster: Boracay. I'm sure that about 20 years ago, Boracay was paradise. But now it's the perfect example of development gone waaayyyy wrong. Hideous construction, piles of garbage and construction materials scattered about, violent crimes, loud zooming traffic, billowing clouds of pollution, even traffic jams! Sewage dumped in to the sea, coral reefs obliterated. You name it, it's wrong at Boracay! But that's just my opinion. Thousands of people think it's fabulous. I dont' get it.
However, I did briefly visit 2 lovely islands in Philippines and one gorgeous reef. I'm sure if I'd stayed on those islands instead I would've left Philippines with a completely different impression.
Myanmar. Based on international reports of severe government oppression in Myanmar, I expected that I'd feel that while there and wondered if I'd feel safe, watched, suspected. However, during my one month travels around the country I never once saw, heard, or noticed anything like that at all! Had I not heard the international news before going I would never have known. I suppose some- all?- of that would be due to locals completely avoiding talking about it to travelers.
Myanmar was an incredible surprise! I expected it to be very similar to Thai culture, but that was completely wrong. There's a lot more Indian influence in Burma. Temples are also completely different. Bagan was one of the most incredible experiences of all my travels. In 2001, Bagan was like stepping into a movie at the turn of the century. Paved roads, but almost no motorized traffic. People walking, bicycling or riding horse and carts. No electricity at night. Restaurants, shops and guest houses lit by lanterns. A completely different world. Phenomenal. I hope it's still the same.
If you had to decide which destination has been the most influential
in your life, which destination would you chose?
That's easy, but there are 3 equally important ones:
C1. Japan. That's where I started my dreams: where I saved money to travel, where I first explored a totally new culture, where I first accomplished a second language, where I began cycle-travels. Japanese interpersonal skills and habits have also greatly molded who I am today: how I communicate with people, expectations for politeness and customer service, abitlity to remain calm and listen to others' perspectives.
C2. Thailand. Thailand is where I started my world travels, by cycling down the east coast from Bangkok to Singapore. It's where I launched cycle-traveling, budget traveling, and solo traveling. After Japan, it's the first country where I got really immersed in the culture, learning the language pretty fluently and hanging out with locals. Thailand is also where I did my scuba training and where I had my first business- a bakery/cafe. Since 1998, I've spent about 1/3 – ½ my life in Thailand, esp. the South.
C3. Bali. Bali is the only place I've found thus far that I'd like to eventually retire to. The first time I arrived in 2000, I immediately started thinking of ways to earn a living and stay. To that end, in Bali I've cut hair, worked in a performance company, manufactured goods and done exports, and worked as a dive instructor. Since 2000, I've spent about 1/3 of my life in Bali. It's also where I was inspired to write my first two books: Hiking in Bali and Cycling Bali. The Balinese culture, arts and nature are simply astounding. I feel happy and blissful from the moment I arrive, every time.
Lash in Nepal Himalayas
Lash, if you could travel with any celebrity for one week, who would
you chose and why?
That's easy too: Sir Richard Branson. He's one of my biggest heroes. He's the very definition of entrepreneur and self-made man. Do you know that he has never in his entire life ever worked for someone else? Can you actually imagine that for yourself? He started his first business- a school newspaper- in high school and then just continued developing one business from the other. He seems to never be intimidated by any person or any task. Do you know that when he started up his record company and recording studio, he just personally called up the top musicians of his time to ask them to work with him? Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, Richard Daltry. Could you do that? When Richard was about 20 years old he needed a recording studio and scouted around. He finally found a castle. A c a s t l e. With no money, and completely unfazed, he put on a suit and went to the bank to ask for a loan. Now, how incredible is that for a 20 year old?
On top of all that, from what I can surmise, he has always been a bit of a rebel, anti-establishment 'business man'. He joined the whole sexual revolution in the 60s, the rock n roll revolution in the 70s, and eventually stood up to the well established 'old money' institute of British Air with his Virgin Airlines, fighting for flying rights against the long established monopoly in England. Wow. He seems to be fun loving, down to Earth, and full of integrity- completely unlike many big corporate owners in this day and age. He's awesome.
I'd love to hang out with Richard Branson for two reasons. First of all, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I have this strong belief that he and I would just hit it off. He just seems so adventurous and fun. I think we'd appreciate each other's energy and zest for life. Secondly, I would sooo love to hear his perspectives, ways of thinking and outlook on life. It must be so inspirational and amazing to get to know him!
Lash in Kyoto
What advice would you give to a newbie traveler?
Wow, that's a tough question! It all depends on what kind of trip they want to do, for how long, what their interests are, what their fears and risk levels are, and so on.
Sooo.. I guess I'd advise newbie travelers to first figure out those issues
for themselves. Sit down and answer a bunch of questions:
How long can you/ do you want to travel?
What are your interests?
What do you most want to do in the time you have?
What's your risk level for the new and unknown? Are you comfortable trying new foods, new cultures, new kinds of accommodation? Or do you prefer to start with familiar/similar things?
If you're uncomfortable with particular things, do you want to push your comfort zone and take some risks? Or stay within your comfort zone?
What's your budget? What level of luxury do you want/need?
What countries or regions of the world excite you?
Do you prefer to go alone, with one or two friends, in a group or on a tour?
What things are you nervous, worried or concerned about? Educate yourself on those things.
By first answering those questions and getting a clear idea of what kind of traveler you are, you can then choose where to go, for how long, and what to do. If you're not much of a risk taker and/or nervous, then start in easy countries, and perhaps for a shorter trip. If you're up for pushing your comfort zone, maybe try a more exotic destination, try street foods and stay at budget accommodation. If you prefer playing it safe, maybe book your accommodation ahead of time, join a tour, eat at tourist restaurants, etc.
Whatever your answers and interests, you can now find information, answers, and travelers who've been there- all online at travel blogs, travel sites and via Google searches. Easy!
Hiking in Bali Front Cover
In 10 years, do you see yourself still traveling or slowing down?
I plan to travel another 10-15 years- however long it takes me to see the entire world. Or until I get bored, sick of it or fed up. I don't really see that happening, though! I'm still just as excited, driven and determined to see the whole world as I was when I started 20 years ago. Eeeeventually, I imagine I'd like to buy a great beachside tropical plot of land and build a fab house (already designed, on paper) with landscaped gardens, then spend my retirement years enjoying my property, inviting friends to visit, traveling, swimming in the sea, and gardening surrounded by tropical vegetation. :))
Thank you Lash for the interview. Please visit her blog @ Lash World Tour
Riverside Life in Bagan, Myanmar
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