At Tripoto we love to uncover astonishing stories of wild mavericks around the world and illuminate travel ideas that are quite unheard of. This week we started a talk with Diana Edelman to know more about this expat’s life and her badass take on the world. She travelled for the sake of it but soon it became travelling for a purpose. Her life in Chiang Mai is truly inspiring because she could let go of her fears and discovered a life for herself worth boasting about. She is also the co-founder of #RTTC and her contribution to the responsible elephant tourism is commendable. Read on more for insights from this solo expat.
1. Hi! Welcome to the Tripoto community. Please introduce yourself to the community members.
I’m Diana and I am a travel writer and responsible tourism advocate living as an expat in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I am the voice behind d travels ’round, my blog is about solo female travel, expat life, responsible tourism and more. I first got the travel bug when I was a wee lass, but it wasn’t until I hit 30 and my 30-Life-Crisis that I really did much about it. Sure, I traveled, but when I hit 30, I rediscovered my passion for writing and started my blog, quit my career and headed out into the great wide world for some solo long-term travel. Today, I work in responsible animal tourism and write on d travels ’round, my other baby — The Comfort Zone Project, and handle clients as well.
2. “Tell us about your travel beginnings. Your first breakaway trip. How easy or difficult was it to venture out into the world?”
My first solo trip was when I graduated college and headed to Europe in the dead of winter 2002. I never thought twice about going solo, but once I landed in Milan and had to get from the airport to the train station with my stupidly heavy backpack, I realized I might be in over my head. I powered through the language barriers and spent a month outside of the USA, hitting the major western cities, and fell in love with the possibilities solo travel offers. It was hard, but as I went through the trip, it became easier.
3. How has the medium of solo travel evolved over the years? How easy or difficult is it for women to travel solo now compared to when you started?
The smartphones really changed the way people travel solo. When I went out on my first solo trip, it was 2002, and I used the hostel computers with dial-up internet and phone cards from pay phones. Today, with the number of apps available and ways to learn about destinations and meet other people, solo travel has completely evolved. In a sense, it has taken some of the discomfort out of travel — but the discomfort I really enjoy — like getting utterly lost and not being able to speak the language. Today, don’t worry. There’s a map on your phone, an app to translate and a bus schedule you can pull up. So, to me, it has gotten easier for solo travel, period. I don’t know that things have changed in regards to it being easier or more difficult for women to travel solo. I think it depends on the person and their travel style far more than anything else. I do think that people have become more embracing of women traveling solo and more supportive. I don’t get far as many “you’re crazy” statements from friends now when they hear I am going out solo today than I did a decade ago. Then again, this is par for the course when it comes to my lifestyle and solo travel.
4. What is your take on responsible tourism as it is right now? How important is it to promote such programs across the globe?
Responsible tourism is becoming a hot issue right now, and it really makes me happy. It sucks that it took this long to make it one of those topics that people are talking about a lot, but it is great that it finally is one, and people are starting to pay more attention to their travels and how their decisions impact the world.
I think it is incredibly important to promote responsible tourism and the companies who get it right. The more education there is, the more change there can be, and the more responsible travelers can become. The launch of #RRTC, a weekly twitter chat (every Wednesday, 6 p.m. GMT) founded by me and two other passionate responsible tourism bloggers, hopefully will make it even a more talked about issue as we continually recruit some of the best and brightest in the industry to help shed light on best practices and provide tips for travelers wanting to do good.
5. Please share the ups and downs of life as an expat?
Being an expat in Chiang Mai is as easy as it is hard. I have good days, I have terrible, awful days. Chiang Mai is a wonderful city and great for digital nomads, but it is transient. I have best friends come and go all of the time, and it is hard to feel a sense of permanency here because of it. Nothing stays the same. At times, the comings and goings of good friends is very difficult. It is like starting a new social life every few months and it can get lonely and it can get exhausting. I don’t really date here, either, largely because the western men are mostly interested in Thai women and the Thai men are interested in Thai women. Language and culture can weigh on me at times, but I have learned a lot about the Buddhist lifestyle and the Thai way of thinking.
But, there is so much in regards to the “ups” of living here. The price of living is cheap. I have met some incredible people here — both western and local. I have realized how incredibly privileged I am to be American, to have the ability to travel and experience things. I get to work with my hero, Lek Chailert, daily, and there is nothing that can beat that in my mind. And, the animals. I can’t forget how wonderful it is to be around all of the animals.
6. What would you like to say to people who really want to travel solo, but are not?
There is nothing to be afraid of, other than yourself. Travel. Go. Do. It. Now.
7. Any advice for everyone at Tripoto?
Don’t travel because you are looking for something or searching for a sign. Travel because you want to see the world and learn about you. Travel does not solve your problems; it does not make you happy. So, figure out what it is you want from traveling before you embark on that trip.