Saturday, March 22, 2014

Interview (24) - Agness

Agness is a Polish travel blogger who has been travelling and living in different Asian countries since 2011. She is well known for travelling the world for less than $25 per day and she shares her tricks and tips with the readers of her blog called Moreover, she is a food lover obsessed with Chinese cuisine, yoga passionate, life enthusiast and photography freak. If you would like to read more about China, you can check out our new ebook Add the Brick to the Great Wall: Experience-based Advice for China from Expats which sums up our two-year experience in the Land of Dragons, and serves as a guide for anyone interested in working, teaching, living and / or travelling in China.

Hey ho! It’s Agness and Cez – best friends and travel companions, bloggers and world explorers from Poland who call ourselves tramps as we have been living without permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011. One day we decided to leave our comfort zones and start a nomadic life. The whole adventure has started in China and then spread across Asia. While travelling the world, working and living in different countries in the world, we still find the time to write about it, share the tricks to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same on our blog called eTramping.

What was your inspiration or the event/idea that made you want to travel?
Travelling has been always in our blood I guess, but one of the biggest inspirations was our Polish friend Barbara, who took a gap year and set off for a solo backpacking trip across South-East Asia. She spent there over 3 months (as far as I remember) travelling from Laos, through Vietnam to Thailand and Cambodia. We were jealous yet envious of her photos which she was posting at that time on her Facebook. When she came back home, we met all together to listen to her awesome stories from the road.

What was your first travel experience?
My journey started in August 2011 when I decided to move to China to teach English and discover Chinese culture and customs for 12 months.

Have you ever felt lonely travelling solo?
That’s the questions most of my friends and family members ask me on a regular basis and the answer yes and no. There are days when I do miss home and my loved ones and I wish I was with them, but most of my days are filled with happiness and I’m surrounded by locals who treat me like a family and never let me feel neither lonely nor bored. Besides, with my hectic travel schedule, there is no time to feel lonely!

Do you have any fun stories of things that happened to you that you realized even at the time, “This never would have happened if I had been traveling with someone else?”
Me and Cez have many fun stories to share. One of the most hilarious happened in China when I was asked to sing a Chinese song in public during the national holiday celebration. I totally forgot the lyrics and I was singing half-Chinese, half-Polish and half-English making so much fun of myself. At the end of my performance, everyone was cheering and I got some many great compliments on my fluent Chinese!

What was your best travel experience?
For me it’s been every minute spent in Lhasa, the capital city in Tibet. When people heard the first sentence, they always ask “What was so special about Lhasa?” During my whole stay in Lhasa I felt like it was my place on Earth. I felt so connected with everything surrounding me and really would like to settle down here in the future when Tibet eventually gets entirely free. I am interested in Buddhism religion, the scenery was just incredible and people are so hospitable.
Is there anything you would have done differently/ any regrets, if you could do it over again?
I would have gone travelling much earlier, most likely right after my high school!(I started my first journey when I was 22).

What was your worst travel experience?
It happened during my stay in China. I was bitten by a spider. My whole neck and face were infected and it took me a long time to recover (about two months as far as I remember). I was pretty scared and looked like a monster.

What’s the strangest situation you have found yourself in?
Not being able to freely cross the Lhasa border. It took us weeks to receive the travel permit in Tibet, although Chinese claimed Tibet to be a part of their country.

Where will you never return to?
I didn’t enjoy Vietnam at all. We spent over two months cycling across the country, visiting local villages and bigger cities. Although I think Vietnam is so beautiful and charming, I didn’t enjoy my stay that much. Locals tried to rip us off all the time and people never smiled.

What advice would you give women traveling solo to your home country?
You had better get your stomach ready for Polish vodka and pierogi (traditional Polish dumplings).

What are your future travel plans?
We are flying to the Philippines in February from where we are planning to move to Indonesia though Singapore.

What are your top three tips for women traveling solo?
  1. Always pack lite.
  2. Don’t plan too many things in advance, enjoy the moment and be spontaneous.
  3. Open your hear to locals!
What would you tell women who are looking to travel alone but worry about their safety?
Start your travels in a safe country, somewhere in Europe and once you get more experience you can go further to Asia or South America. Don’t trust people and make sure there is someone with you when it gets dark.

Couchsurfing..what do you think about that?
I was couchsurfing a lot when backpacking Europe in winter 2012. After being hosted by male hosts who offered me sex for the hospitality, I am not sure if it is the best and safest option for solo female travelers. I wrote a blog post summarizing up my bad experience titled Couchsurfing or Sexsurfing? What’s the difference nowadays? Which quickly spead around the Internet. Within a few days, there were more than 150 different responses in which our readers shared their opinions/experience on this issue.

How do you pay for a life of travel?
We work very hard on our travels. In each place we travel to, we try to  find a job and save some money to travel further and longer. We are currently kindergarten teachers in China, having a lot of fun teaching English to Chinese students. This job allows us to save up to $18.000 a year still travelling around China and Asia. In the past, we were web  designers in Cambodia and social media consultants in Thailand. Thanks to travelling we discovered our teaching and photography passions we could  easily turn into our source of income!

Tell us about the best food you have ever eaten on your travels?
We both love Chinese dumplings called baozi. They go with various fillings, can be steamed or fried. They are usually stuffed with pork, beef and vegetables, and in addition provides a variety of Asian sauces such as soy-based sauce, chili, vinegar and sesame oil. Real yum!

What is the most breathtaking view you have ever witnessed on your travels?
The Floating Hallelujah Mountains in Zhangjiajie, China. This is an extraordinary heritage site, Avatar was filmed. The mountains do not float above the ground, but they do rocket to the sky, and on a foggy day you can’t tell if they touch earth. I visited Zhangjiajie by chance, together with my fellow teachers in a Chinese high school. I was shocked as much by the sights as by the lack of tourists. Despite it’s natural beauty, and being listed as UNESCO World Heritage site, foreign travelers are rare.

What do you miss about your home when you go traveling?
Polish dumplings!

What item will you always carry in your backpack?
Not much! My camera, diary, laptop and some fruits!

Who was the kindest or most generous person you met on your travels, and what did they do?
There was one Tibetan man whose name I can’t recall right now. He was our travel guide. After a day of exploring Lhasa, we became good friends. He took us to some off the beaten path places and intoduced to his family. He was polite and so generous sharing plenty of interesting stories about Tibet with us. On the last day we wanted to give me some cash to return the favor, but he refused and said „Friendship does not cost anything!”

What have you learned from travelling?
  1. Impossible is nothing.
  2. People can give you more than they have.
  3. If plan A doesn’t work, stay cool, the alphabeth has another 25 letters.
Who inspires you? What other travellers do you look up to?
A few months ago we had a chance to meet two amazing and inspiring travel bloggers - Sam of Nomadic Samuel and Audrey of ThatBackpacker. They made a great impression on us. We love their travel style and videos they make together while traveling. We have so much in common – not only a travel and blogging passion, but we are also such foodies! They are our inspiration! 

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