YOUNG WOMAN TRAVELER holding an INDIAN PASSPORT exploring the world on HER OWN for more than a YEAR. That’s me!!
World traveler, experience collector, adventure seeker, culture vulture, foodie, budget traveler and believer of serendipity and happy endings. Ah well! that’s me again.
A big Hello! I am Leena Bansal aka Miss Walking Shoes. I quit my job in April 2014 and since then I am on the journey of my life. I have traveled to 32 countries across three continents in this time. All this while, I have traveled 79,827 kilometers (49604 miles) – this distance is roughly equivalent to circling the Earth twice!
Trekking up the Himalayas, deep sea diving in Atlantic Ocean, climbing Mayan Pyramids to paragliding up in the air, camping on roadside with gypsies, bumping into my look – alike in Berlin (really!!!), losing my camera lens, almost dying of snake bite twice, climbing active volcano in Indonesia, and witnessing two natural disasters – cyclone in Gili Islands and Nepal earthquake were just a few of things that had happened to me in the last twelve months.
All these travels were self-funded and self-organized. I traveled on the budget using overland transportation when traveling within a continent, shared rooms with unknown travelers in the dormitories (YES!! Queen Style), and cooked my meals (wherever possible). You will find it really interesting that I’m a vegetarian and I managed to stay that way all this while.
How it all started?
As far as I remember, I always wanted to travel and see all that is wonderful and not so wonderful in the world. My 9-year-old self, told my teacher that my dream is to go to Antarctica when most of my classmates told about dreams of becoming doctors, engineers, and astronauts. She laughed off by saying that you can’t go there, no human being can go there. To which I said, “that’s why I want to go there and also I want to go to the moon and also travel in space.” After the class, many of my curious classmates asked me about my plans, how I will go there and what will I do there etc etc. Since then most discussions with my friends are about travels and places.
I traveled overseas for the first time when I was nineteen and I found the travel to be too expensive and my dream quite unaffordable. The only way I figured out was to study hard, get high paying job and travel.
I started working as an advertising professional and was quite happy with it until I did my first backpacking trip to Singapore and Malaysia in 2011. There I was introduced to backpacking lifestyle and I met many long-term travelers. I realized that if one can cut on little luxuries, it is not exactly unaffordable to travel around the world. I started saving and finally last year, I quit my job to travel around the world solo.
Where all did I go?
I started with Europe. I did a round circle starting from Paris covering Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Vatican City (not in the same order).
Then I flew to New York covering USA, Canada, and Mexico.
Post which I came back to India to get a fresh passport booklet (ah! the downside of traveling on Indian passport) and then I started my voyage to Asian countries of Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Nepal.
Before this trip, I had traveled to USA, Bhutan, Singapore and Malaysia so as of now I have traveled to 32 countries in total including India.
How I planned the trip?
I planned my RTW trip horribly or to say by not planning much. You may disagree, but I always feel that planning kills the fun. But when I was on the road, I did realize that little planning could have been helpful. To quote an example, it took me four hours to reach my hostel from the train station for a distance that could be covered in 10 minutes. Reason – the hostel name was listed in the English language on the site; well if you know France – you know they don’t speak or write English. And it was this time around, that I realized that most countries I intend to visit do not have English speaking natives.
To tell you about what I exactly planned was – targeted amount to be saved, how to save or earn more, deciding on the year to quit, drawing a list of countries to visit and getting a couple of visas beforehand.
I left my home with a one-way ticket to Paris, one-day accommodation in the city, 1-way ticket to the USA, 3 visa stamps – Schengen, USA and Canada, a backpack and a camera. And what I came back with – is what Money can’t buy.
How I managed the trip?
By not micro – managing anything. As is life, so is road – unpredictable and uncertain – a mix of both happy and not so happy encounters. The train you are supposed to take doesn’t turn up but the one you are sure to miss arrives 2 hours late. The rule of the road is either to QUIT or to ADAPT.
I was quick to adapt and none of the factors like – traveling solo, being a woman, tight budget and safety bothered me much during travels. In fact, all these contributed to making my journeys even more enriching experience. There are not many solo travelers on the road. And the small fraction that makes this class is usually welcomed by all. Everyone wants to know the plans and stories of solo travelers.
As far as safety issues are concerned, I was born and raised in Delhi – one of the most unsafe places for the woman, so frankly I felt safe everywhere.
Is it worth it?
I’ve lived a life that’s full.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more,much more than this,
I did it my way.”
I hope you get from these lines what I feel about my journey of last year.
Not only did I experience different perspectives and lived the joy and nervousness of new latitudes but I rose above dissimilarities to making lifelong friends, and in all this exploring, discovering, challenging, embracing, learning and unlearning; in this last one year of traveling, I have graduated from being ignorant of my ignorance to being aware and truly alive.
I lived more – much more than all my other years put together. And so it was totally worth it.
So if you are interested in reading about all these stories and want to know the tricks and tips for world travel, this page is for you. Hope to see you here often. 🙂