Suffering from a writer’s block now ever since my return from back-to-back travels in Vietnam (April), Australia (May) and Vietnam again (June), so I thought I would share a quick update and recent musings.

Not sure if it’s the distraction from meeting people, the piling overdue deliverables, the fact that I’ll be leaving in a week to isolate myself and fully throw myself into work in Japan, or the general tiredness that’s causing me to procrastinate, lose focus and escape from work.

Meeting up with people ain’t all that bad though. Sometimes it lets me be a different person for awhile (like my virgin Thai disco experience) and meet like-minded people and discuss thought-provoking questions.

One of my favourite encounters are with such people that I meet on the road. They come from different countries, nationalities and cultures, and we sit together to discuss our views on culture, differences, stereotypes, choices and life directions. All because of one shared interest – travel.

girl photography tallinn, estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

Over the last week I met someone like that (hey Donna love!), and she kept singing praises of me. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of jitters when I meet an idol in person, but this was my first time hearing someone feel that way about meeting me for the first time. She completes my stories (she’s done her homework on my blog hey ;)), and tells me how much she respects me for the work that I do.

As someone who’s been always behind the screen learning the strategies to grow a website, to do branding, social media marketing, email marketing and PR, I’ve never stopped and stood from the peripheral to think I would finally be respected for the work that I do.

The toxicity of comparison

More often than not, as travel bloggers, we have to be active on the online and social platforms so as to improve ourselves. How to value add more, be better at writing, at photo-taking, at videos, how to reach more people, how to convince and convert… As much as I claim to be learning from the best, I sometimes fall into the trap of comparing with the more successful bloggers/ school mates/ Instagrammers out there, chasing numbers, and finding myself falling short.

salt farm baanya local lunch seafood, Day-trips-from-Bangkok,-Thailand

“No one gets to come near the table!”

So, having my work being recognised from others just makes me burst with pride at myself. I’m far from perfect, I have plenty of shortcomings, and I’m still working on being a better person, but I have to constantly to remind myself that I’m more capable than I think I am.

You’re better than you think

This is especially so if you knew how I started from nothing. Everyone assumes I can travel because of funding from my parents.

bel around the world interview today paper singapore travel budget studentWhile I haven’t followed the conventional way to carve a career earning 5-digit salary through extensive (and often heart-wrenching) corporate job experiences, I’ve been financially independent since I was 19.

I worked all through my break before university, once juggling 3 jobs at one go. In university, I worked part-time at the gym while completing my studies. I won’t get into the details, but it’s possible to save up and travel while still as a student. Find out how here.

Then I went for my school exchange in France, travelling around central and West Europe for 6 months. I spent over $10,000, and I paid it off. How? I used my savings and worked some more to pay it off.

I graduated from university after 4 years, $44,000 in debt. I paid it off within the first 3 months of work. How? Savings again.

I was never a big spender. Coming from an average income household, being wise with spending was inculcated to us. Having nails, hair, face, spa and massages done were all considered frivolous. I never treated or dyed my hair (still haven’t!). Going to movies were a treat, eating out was a treat. I used to budget only $5 for meals each day. Drinks suck up your inheritance, so I never was one to go for late-night drinks. I’ve never watched a movie at a cinema in 2 years now (well, partly because I’m travelling, but you get the point). Instead of paying to go up the hot-air balloon in Cappadocia, Turkey, I watched from the bottom as the sky lit up at dawn with the myriad of coloured balloons dot the cloudless skies.

sunrise hot air balloon, things to do in Cappadocia, TurkeyMy budget per night for accommodation is $25, and I would take the overnight bus (even if it means my back suffering later). I didn’t take a dive cert because it’s an expensive hobby I choose not to indulge in. I never paid for any online course while improving my website and online branding. I learned everything from scratch. I believe that if you can dig it, you can find what you’re looking for. Information is free in this world wide web.

(After hearing my travelling style, you’d think I’m a difficult travel buddy. Ha!)

Sometimes I scroll through Instagram or meet successful people, and I can’t help but wonder what it took for them to get where they are. Through connections? Through aesthetic appeal? Parental support? Then I stop and remind myself that it doesn’t matter. What matters is how you’re bettering yourself.

Support fuels the soul

Sometimes all it takes is one kind soul to remind you of how far you’ve come, and the achievements you’ve made, to reaffirm your work and yourself.

Or a panel talk that I was invited to speak and discuss about in Hoi An, Vietnam as the position of a travel blogger to the rest of the travel industry.

I wouldn’t have been able to go on sponsored trips, get paid to run a blog and work from anywhere I want, anytime I want, as a digital nomad, had I not have the support of the others who’ve helped me along the journey.

Thank you to the friends that I’ve met and supported me along the way. To Phil, Sean, Vanessa, Donna, Anthony and Daniela it is my honour to have met and crossed paths with you guys. ❤️There are some people you have never met in person but it feels like you’re bosom friends waiting to blossom when you finally meet.

See what Anthony has to say:

Isabel has been fantastic to work with as an SEO consultant and has helped improve my organic traffic by up to nearly 500% in the space of twelve months. Her professionalism and communication in that time has been incredible, and I couldn’t be any happier with the work she has done.
– Fair Dinkum Traveller

So what’s next?

I’m going to keep discovering new places, go to places I fear but am dying to go, smash my 2019 new year resolutions, connect more with like-minded people and be inspired by them, and through this site, keep inspiring others to live out their best lives, whether through travelling or personal growth!

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Isabel Leong

Isabel Leong

An explorer at heart, the world is Isabel's playground. She enjoys seizing every moment exploring every hideout and doing the unimaginable, like bungee jumping in Phuket and couchsurfing in Europe. If she had wings, she’d definitely be soaring right now. Also a fitness trainer, if she’s not at the gym, you can find her doing yoga or rock climbing! Read more about her on belaroundtheworld.com/about.