Flight Path: Round the World with Nailah Hayward!
Nailah is on her SECOND round the world trip! How did she do it? Where is she now? Check out our Flight Path interview with this globetrotter and Theres So Much To See blogger!
Where are you going on your trip? How did you decide where to go?
My trip began in Asia (Japan and S. Korea), moved to Australia, then the Middle East (Qatar, Turkey, UAE and Lebanon) then wrapping up in Europe (Cyprus, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, the UK, plus a bunch of countries I’m still deciding on). Initially the trip began with me just spending two months living in Beirut. I visited for the first time in 2010 for two weeks and knew that I wanted to return for a more significant amount of time. Then I realized I could probably get a flight that stopped in Turkey so I added that to the list. From there the trip just started snowballing as I added more stops. I practice the Brazilian Martial Art called Capoeira, so I added some stops like Hungary and Australia so I could attend events related to that sport. There were friends I hadn’t seen in a while that I wanted to reconnect with (Switzerland, the Netherlands and Japan) plus I figured why not hit up the Olympics in London. People kept putting ideas in my head for places to visit and I just kept saying, “OK, let’s do it”!
What is your mode of travel? Would you recommend it to other travelers?
Most times I’m hopping on a plane because my destinations are quite spread out. But once I get to Europe, I am going to incorporate train travel as well. When compared to the European discount airlines, I’m not sure train travel is any cheaper, but at least you get to see more of the countryside from a train and you normally end up right in the middle of the city when you arrive rather than at a far flung airport. For my plane tickets I bought a Round The World ticket with Airtreks. I had a good experience working with them and would recommend them to anyone who’s planning a similar trip. Where are you staying? (Hotels, Hostels, etc). Would you recommend it to others? I am all over the place when it comes to accommodations. I’ve stayed in hostels, boutique hotels and luxury properties. I’ve tried AirBnB, CouchSurfing (unsuccessfully) and here in Beirut I’m renting rooms in apartments which I found via the ‘Apartments in Beirut’ Facebook group. When I go to cities where I have friends, I often stay with them. I personally haven’t had much luck with CouchSurfing, but I’ve heard from many people who swear by it. I liked the experience with Air BnB in Seoul and will try them again in other cities. Of course, if you can swing it, a 5-Star property is the way to go. And although I’m not a huge fan of big hostel dorm rooms, I’ve stayed in some decent ones (Jam Hostel in Kyoto and #bunk hostel in Istanbul come to mind) and they are always a great way to meet fellow travelers if you’re going solo.
You’ve been on this epic trip, how did you make the decision to do it? What was the reaction of family and friends?
I am one of those people who is always planning my next trip. For the last few years, that trip has been limited to about 2 weeks due to work responsibilities, but last year I got the idea in my head that I needed more. Not just to have a longer vacation, but to make a big change. On a whim, I attended Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit in Portland last summer. Being surrounded by so many people who have become successful NOT doing the standard 9-5 made me realize that I had a choice in life. I could stay at a job that I complained about daily or I could make a significant change to the way I was living. The original intent was to request a leave of absence from work for 6 months and then return if I didn’t find another path, but when that leave request was denied, I knew I had to take the risk, step off the cliff and follow my passion for travel and writing. I had to break out of that mold to find a new path and I am very glad that I did. I am blessed to be surrounded by very understanding and encouraging friends and family. Though I’m sure they may have had reservations about what I was doing, I didn’t have one person tell me not to follow my dreams. They all supported me 100% which ultimately helped me get where I am to day. Plus this is my second Round the World trip so they are kind of used to it!
Did you have to save long or are you working on the road?
I did save but probably not as much as I should have. Really I just timed my departure (from work and from the US) to coincide with when I received my work bonus. That gave me a chunk of change to work with. Plus I did make more of an effort to save once I made up my mind what I was going to do. I also tried my best to cut my expenses while I was on the road (e.g. getting someone to sublet my apartment). I wish I could say I’m one of those diligent, thrifty savers who had savings for the next two years – but I’m just not that person. I also am not good at consistently doing the budget thing. I’m good for a few budget meals and a hostel stay or two, but then I need to balance that out with a nicer hotel or an excursion that will allow me to better experience wherever I’m staying. Basically for me, its all about balance.
What have been your favorite stops and why?
I found Cappadocia in Turkey to be very interesting and unique in terms of landscape. Its just a visually stunning place to go. Going back to Japan after 18 years was both amazing and emotional. I think I cried at least 4 or 5 times as I reunited with people and places I hadn’t visited in far too long. And having the chance to just “be” in Beirut is a treasure to me. Something about this city really speaks to me and I’m glad I have the two months to soak it all up and explore at my own pace.
Have you had any moments where you are looking for other Black travelers or female travelers to bond with?
I think I always look for a friendly Black face when I’m on the road. I was a little disappointed in Seoul where I saw many black faces, but none of them would ever nod or smile in my direction. I was surprised to be completely ignored by nearly each person I smiled at. In Beirut, you see plenty of Africans, but they are almost exclusively there as domestic workers or cleaning staff. It is something I definitely have to get used to. There is definitely a tone of racism here that makes me uncomfortable. Its only the Blacks that I’ve met from the US that are here as tourists, students or professionals. As for Female travelers, I feel like they are everywhere so I never really feel like I have to seek them out. In fact I wouldn’t mind meeting more (single, eligible) male travelers!
How has it been interacting with locals on some of your stops?
For the most part it has been extremely positive. People tend to be helpful, welcoming and interested to learn more about me as a single, Black, American traveler. Of course there are exceptions and people I’ve met who have been poor examples of their country’s hospitality, but luckily they are the exception rather than the norm.
What do you miss most about home?
I have to say there’s not a lot I miss on a regular basis. There are so many new things to try and new places to see and new friends to meet. But all that being said, there are definitely times when I miss seeing my friends and family and being around people who know me and “get me”. I miss my Capoeira academy back in LA which is where I spend a good part of my free time…and I miss Crystal Light Lemonade, pretzels and a good quality margarita! OK – I guess I do miss some things!
What have you learned about yourself on this journey?
So far I have learned that even though I am shy by nature, I can be outgoing when I need to be – and when you travel alone, you need to be outgoing on a regular basis. I learned that while I’m getting better, I still have some confidence issues that I need to work on – and no place like “on the road” to work on them. And just last night I learned that when I have absolutely no other option, I can get a half dead mega cockroach out of my room instead of fleeing the premises like I truly wanted to do (hopefully I won’t have to learn THAT lesson ever again).