I spent a lot of my early childhood in hotels. Nothing as grand as Eloise at the Plaza Hotel, but it did have its perks. My father was the General Manager of a seaside resort on Pattaya Beach called Wong Amat Beach Resort.
At age two, I was dialing room service to order food for my family. I would even sign the bill in big capital letters "PATRICIA" because I didn't even know I had a last name. I had a breakfast buffet waiting for me every morning, the whole hotel grounds as my garden, complete with animal-shaped hedges (the elephants were my favorite), and my playground included three pools, a hot tub, and a private beach. I was one lucky two year old.
Travel was a huge part of my life, but growing up constantly shuttled from hotel to hotel, on tours and tour buses (at one point my father also ran a tour booking company) by my parents, I felt stifled. I would look outside the window of the bus and wish I were outside exploring the food stalls in Kuala Lumpur rather than eating the set menu at the restaurant that the tour company arranged for us to dine at. I wanted to shop at local artisan stores instead of the department stores that the tour buses shuttled us to.
I wanted to explore independently. And the minute I was able to, I did.
This type of off-the-beaten-path travel is my bliss.
I even went back to Pattaya Beach. But this time it was very different. The beach resort I had grown up in had turned into a massive 5-star luxury hotel.
When I was younger, I remember overhearing my father talking in the car about the importance of zoning and planning Pattaya's tourism infrastructure so that it wouldn't get out of hand. He was heavily involved with the Tourism Authority of Thailand and PATA, Pacific-Asia Travel Association. I didn't really understand the importance of this until twenty years later when I returned to Pattaya Beach, now a very busy and energetic beach town with a very active nightlife and rampant red light district. This was absolutely not the sleepy Pattaya Beach of my childhood.
There's a good side to that - more business and income for the country for sure, but there is also a downside - the beaches are no longer as clean or as swimmable as they were during my childhood. You can find needles washed up on the shore. I was sad to see how the beach town of Pattaya had become and that's when the seeds of FreshTraveler were planted. I wanted to start a socially-conscious travel business that encouraged people to explore the world more mindfully and with a lighter carbon footprint.
During my last trip to Pattaya, we took a motorboat to a group of islands called Ko Phai (Thai name : เกาะไผ่) about 13 kilometers away from the Pattaya Coast. The islands are currently under the supervision of the Royal Thai Navy and visitors are not allowed to stay overnight but we were able to enjoy the tranquil and pristine beaches during the day. There were probably 12 people on the beach in total. We brought our own picnic and made sure we cleaned up after ourselves when we left.
This is the way I like to travel. I encourage others to travel with a fresh mind, body, and spirit to discover what is off-the-beaten-path. You never know what you'll learn along the way.
I first bought the domain name FreshTraveler.com when I was in college. It started out as a senior thesis project when I was an undergraduate at Emerson College in 2007. I originally wanted to do an online travel show that featured the places that I wanted to see and the cool things that I wanted to do that were off the beaten path. The stuff that wasn’t in the guidebooks and the things that only locals know about. I wanted to see music, meet people and go on epic one-of-kind adventures.
But before I was ready to officially launch FreshTraveler, I first had to get out of my own way.
With a lot of pressure from the parentals, I had to push FreshTraveler out of my life for a few years while I got my MFA at NYU because of a very intense grad school workload, but it was always in the back of my mind.
When I graduated, I did what most film school grads did. I moved out to LA and worked for a film producer. I thought that this is what I wanted, but a few months into the job, I quickly realized I got into filmmaking because I wanted to see the world and I was not going to see it from my desk in West Hollywood. But since everyone around me told me how lucky I was to even have a job in this recession, I stayed on despite my misery. It came to a point when I didn’t even want to get out of bed to go to work. That’s when I knew I had fallen out of love with my life. There was no more passion in what I was doing.
I was following a path that other people prescribed to me. I knew inside that this was not what I wanted but since I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted, I stuck to it anyway. I stuck to it because I was scared.
I was scared of hurting people’s feelings, scared of having no money, scared of disappointing people and of potentially making a mistake.
I was taught to be grateful for everything I had, no questions asked. But when the tsunami in Japan happened and I saw people drowning on television, I realized how short life was and I didn’t want to die never fully realizing my potential. So, I took the scary plunge to follow my heart, end my engagement, and quit my job with no other work prospects in sight. I returned to New York and stayed on my sister’s couch to restart my life to figure out what I really wanted to do.
I wanted a meaningful life and job. One with a higher purpose and drive, not just a job for the money.
I tried all sorts of different types of odd jobs, but my interest in them quickly fizzled. Although I was struggling to figure out my path, I always knew there was something out there for me. That’s when I crossed paths with the very talented filmmaker Brandon Li (check out his awesome and very helpful blog about on-the-fly filmmaking called Run, Gun, Shoot) and we went on a trip to Mexico and made the first set of FreshTraveler videos since undergrad. This was such an amazing experience and I learned so much from traveling and filmmaking with Brandon that I quickly realized that there was nothing I enjoyed more than travel, documentary-style filmmaking, and highlighting off-the-beaten path local businesses, boutique hotels, and non-profit projects that I believe in across the world. That was exactly what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I had found my passion, or rather, rediscovered it. It was inside me the whole time, I just needed a reminder that it was still there.
I wanted to build a meaningful life that was authentically mine. I also promised myself that no matter how scary it sounded to embark on a journey without a well laid plan, I was going to create a location independent business and life that enabled me to travel the way I want and make films all over the world.
That was in 2011 that I made that promise and I haven’t looked back since then.
There have been some very hard times and days when I didn’t know how I was going to get through the next day, where I was going to sleep, or pay my bills. This drew a lot of harsh criticism from people around me (especially the ones close to me) about my very untraditional way of living while pursuing my passion. I’ve questioned several times whether I’m even doing the right thing, given all the things I’ve given up for this, but once I clear the voices of all the other people around me, I know it’s 100% worth the risk.
I started this travel blog not only for myself, but for you as well. I want to encourage you to face your fears through travel or whatever your passion is and see that it's okay to not know what the next step is and it’s okay to put yourself out there and pursue a meaningful life of what you REALLY want to be doing. Life’s too short to do anything but.
I encourage you to be vulnerable to life’s crazy journey and embrace the scariness of the path less traveled.
I encourage you to go off-the-beaten-path and do all the things that you want to do. Live your life with passion and with love. I’m not promising that it will always be a smooth ride, but what I can guarantee is that it’s gonna be one hell of a wild ride and you’ll emerge stronger and knowing that you’re so powerful and capable of so much more than you ever dreamed of. And think of all the stories you can tell your grandchildren!
I wouldn't trade any of the crazy adventures that I had over the past few years for anything. I am grateful for this journey and everyone that I have met on it. I believe that it is all these interactions that have led me to where I am today.
I never thought that I would one day be sponsored by Rand McNally and USA Today to go on a roadtrip across the United States to blog about it and then have my adventure be featured on the Travel Channel. I never thought that one day I would be invited to speak at the American Society of Journalist and Authors (ASJA) 42nd Annual Writer's Conference on April 26th in New York City about my travel blogging. All that would have never happened if I hadn't taken that first step to follow my heart and accept the great challenge of pursuing my dream.
I challenge you to go on that journey that you know deep down inside you were meant for. And on your journey, whatever it may be, I encourage you to keep a fresh and open mind, body and spirit. Be a trailblazer.
I encourage you to go find yourself and your business at a TrailBlazers retreat, like this one that my friend Lynan Saperstein of The Big Factor is running in Split, Croatia from May 17-24, 2014. It's going to be a gathering of inspirational trailblazing entrepreneurs with some intensive workshopping to get your business going. I invite you to go if you can – check out the website for details!
I also encourage you to share your travel adventures with me by dropping me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and with your permission, I would love to share that story with others.
Thank you for reading and I wish you safe (and fresh) travels!
Peace and love always,