To many, travelling is a dream to pursue, but it’s a reality that only few could take on. From a teenage girl scared of the world outside of her home, Montol Kasantikul aka “Mint I Roam Alone” has become one of Thailand’s most popular travel   bloggers. Along with facing the changes each country comes with, she has challenged the Thai mindset of female    vulnerability, having backpacked by herself across seven continents around the globe.  As a solo Thai female   backpacker, she’s often called ‘brave’ and ‘independent’. Truth is, it was not until the age of 16 that she was sent to England   for a three week language course. “I cried the whole time,” Mint writes on her blog. Then again before university, did she   take on her first real journey alone to Spain for a three month language course. “I remember crying for the entire first   week.”  “It was difficult, having to take charge of things myself without the help of my mother – she had no control over the   country of Spain.” Despite her difficulty of being far away from home,she pushed through.

she roams-mountain ice

My mother would always tell me it was alright to return home if I wanted to – but she knew I wouldn’t.

However, it gave me a sense of assurance, knowing she’d be there for me if I were to return.”  “Either you   prepare  your child to be strong and responsible enough to get through it, or you don’t and your child comes home with   broken wings and damaged self-esteem.This type of change doesn’t all happen in one day. In the end, it roots back to how your were raised.” When asked about her  mother’s influence on her as a traveller, Mint replies, “I think my mother and   I are the same person. She loved mountain  climbing, now I love mountain climbing. She likes reading, I like writing. She’s  a  strong woman, I’m a strong woman.” In  contrary to what many may think, being a female traveller doesn’t only come  with  cons. “Men can be more adventurous  on their trips, but women are more helped. Everyone is much more loving – I  meet  grannies who want to adopt me,” Mint  justifies. “Because it is easier for women to approach anyone, our experiences   are often more hearty and warm.

she roams-with penguin

I think my mother and I are the same person. She loved mountain climbing, now I love mountain climbing. She likes reading, I like writing.

But at the same time, the downside is not being able to travel unexplored routes or roam around at night alone,” explains   Mint. Travelling can be more dangerous for women than it is for men, especially in the views of Thai society. The idea of   women wandering alone may not seem new for Western countries, or even oriental ones like Korea and Japan. But  regardless of a the increasing gender equality in Thailand, many women are still discouraged from travelling alone.  “Our society views women as those to be taken care of, those who are supposed to be sweet and vulnerable.

Being so, travelling is perceived to put us out there, unprotected from any unknown danger. That paranoia is instilled in  our minds,  making us afraid. And when society tries to keep us away from exploring, we tend to feel that it’s okay to stay  inside our  comfort zones.”

she roams-alone in somewhere

 

Fear isn’t a bad thing. Fear is what prevents us from death.

Although Mint has jumped the Devil’s Pool in Zambia and caught an Anaconda in Venezuela, worry and unease still   presents itself in each of her trips. “Fear isn’t a bad thing. Fear is what prevents us from death,” she says. In her case, some   threats are common merely due to her gender. “Beauty is a curse,” she mentions before describing her worst trip:     being stuck in Nepal after the earthquake with a rather vulgar and invasive tour guide, of whom was the one she     depended on to return home safely. “Well, travelling always has a bitter side to it.

There’s the sweetness, then there’s the bitterness to remind you how nice the sweetness is.” Another advice she has  for fellow female travellers is   confidence. Unlike many other Thai women, Mint isn’t considered to be very reserved, shy,  or indirect. “I think it’s lovely, but after travelling so much, I know those qualities won’t help me survive a trip.” Her blog,  in contrast to many other travel  blogs, concentrate on the stories of people she encounters along the way. Being “addicted  to human conversation”, she  avoids staying in hotels and using private means of transportation in order to truly absorb  each culture by engaging with locals. “It’s a learning process. We travel to grow, and we grow through other humans, from  what we see and what we  receive.”

To do so, she recommends basic phrases, compliments, and banters, explaining how it  “breaks down   boundaries between people”. Again, being able to approach strangers and form a conversation is easier said  than done. It  requires somecharisma, as well as self-confidence, which many of us lack. To put into words the mentality  she carries with her on each journey, Mint says, “Real confidence is knowing who you are and loving it. For me, travelling  alone has  definitely helped. When we travel alone.

We know what we like and what we don’t because it’s just us and the world around  us. There’s nothing that’s pushing us to    doing something or pulling us from doing something. We learn to live with our  strengths and weaknesses, accepting them    as part of our complete selves. Then when social trends tell us what to be or not to be, it no longer affects us, because we   are complete. This is the confidence that people, especially women, should have in order to stand tall in a society   without falling victim to criticisms that would otherwise bring us down.” However, there is shown to be an increasing trend    in Thai backpacking culture. With technology’s help in a more connected world, more and more people are able to travel   overseas with ease and convenience. But when it comes to social interaction, the 28 year old travel blogger believes that    “there is a fine line between outgoingness and rudeness.” She subtly addresses touring  teenagers and their unpredictable    behaviours.

she roams-mountain climbing

“We need to be careful, because we carry our country’s name with us.”  Jokes and teases are great ways to create   friendships, but a sense of politeness should always be present. The job of a travel  blogger may seem like a career  path of  paradise. Although exciting, combining work and leisure together can be stressful. “Travelling is to pack your bags   andcontinuing to go places that can make you uncomfortable,” says Mint about her 8 month non-stop journey   from Mexico, across South America, all the way to Antarctica. Being flexible to change is essential – with a single backpack,   she has gone from country to country, from temperatures of a sweating 40 degrees celsius to a freezing -15. “It was all   great fun, but after a while, I felt like I wanted to return to somewhere I’d be comfortable. It’s wanting to to be able to let   go of everything, to unpack and leave everything cluttered.” To the solo female nomad, adapting to changes may  be mandatory, but being homesick is optional. Having globetrotted to more than 70 countries, she has had to leave her   birthplace for fairly long periods of time. But when asked where her home truly is, she responds, “I have realised that one  half of home was with me. Wherever I go, I consider home. The other half is with my mother.

she roams-mountain

As long as I could talk to her, I  would be home.” But of course, that is emotional and internal. Like many other long  term travellers, Mint lingers for the  comfort to come with the end of her voyage. “Maybe after eight months of sleeping on  couches and tolerating  snoring roommates, we might feel the need to come back to what we’re familiar with.” With travel,  many things once taken  for granted – whether electricity, sunshine, pillows, or air conditioning – then become appreciated  more fully. From the  pampered only daughter she was as a child, the now internet icon of solo female backpacking  has learned to carry her own  bags, and also climb a volcano in Nicaragua. “What stops us from our potential is our own  fear. Like courage, fear is  made out of two things: fear of what you know and fear of what you don’t. So to conquer that fear, we need to know more.  Then you’d have to build courage. It’s a leap of faith, but not that kind where you blindly step with no knowledge of what’s  ahead. You should be scared and brave of what you know. Once you get past the first step, the second one becomes easier.

The fear doesn’t so much disappear, but the courage grows.” After deciding to share her experiences online as a hobby, her blog “I Roam Alone”, of which she posts personal stories, travel tips, and life lessons,  has gained more than 100,000  followers. Adding to her success, she has written two books about her adventures through  Siberia and South America.  “What I do is who I am. If you stick to your true self, you can never run out of content. But  If you try to be like others, it’s  like you’re always chasing and comparing. Eventually it will all disappear.” Many travel  bloggers face the dilemma of  commercial opportunities like advertising and reviews, which of course, is normal for anyone  trying to make a living out of  what they do best. But while some are able to sustain and satisfy their audience, others lose  their hard earned fanbase.  “Don’t let them slap money in your face. In the end, what are you left with? Emptiness. It won’t  satisfy you or your viewers.  You need to ask yourself why you do what you do.” Mint “I Roam Alone” will be working with  her film crew to produce a travel series “We Roam Alone” to share their travel stories in Thailand on TV this August.

Source: https://expatlifeinthailand.com/featured/roams-alone-mint-monthon-kasantikul/

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