Sole Sister Spotlight: Glampacker Anna Zalazar

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Have you ever stumbled on someone online and you feel like you already know them? 

You have so much in common that you just might be long lost sisters in a past life. That's what I felt when I got an email from Anna Zalazar asking about the 21 Day Pilipinas Challenge. She was also born and raised in the Philippines, had moved to New York, quit her job to travel starting with Southeast Asia. Sounds familar?

Sole Sister Anna Zalazar2

I met up with Anna last month while she was traveling around the Philippines for an impromptu photo shoot as well as travel exchange. She seemed shy at first but later opened up about traveling the world as a young, single female, her death defying moments and how she handles relationships while on the road. Here are snippets from our conversation:

Describe the story of your "old" life, how you started to travel and why?

I had a job that I liked, a company that I'm proud to have worked at, and a hefty paycheck at the end of the month. Compared to other companies in America, I was getting more vacation time- about 33 days of paid leave. And though I was in finance, I was working about 35-40 hours a week, tops. But there was a point when it hit me and had that feeling of "Is this it?". You know the whole life after college: work 40+ hours a week, live for the weekends, travel for a few days in a year, get married, buy a house, have kids, work til you're 60 then retire and do the things you love doing.

Sole Sister Anna Zalazar
I knew there's got to be more to life than that. 

I also felt that my learning curve started to get stable so I read up on personal development blogs while at work. I stumbled upon travel blogs of people who were vagabonding and doing solo travel for long periods of time. It got me so curious and so I set a goal to do it myself too. I thought if they can do it, so can I!

Who and what inspired you to travel?

There were a lot of people mostly writers whose work inspired me to hit the road. They are: Tim Ferris, Chris Guillebeau, Karol Gajda, Jodi Ettenberg, Pauline Frommer and The Lost Girls: Jennifer, Holly and Amanda. I personally met all of them while I was living in New York, with the exception of Karol Gajda and Tim Ferris whom I also want to meet in the future.

My main inspiration for traveling is for personal development. 

I believe that learning is a continuous process. You're either continuously evolving as a person or dying due to lack of desire to learn or lack of opportunities for learning. I was working at a good place at the time and doing things that I've been told to do to make it in the world. But the avenues for growth are limited in the constraints of an office. I've also seen so many people who are on auto-pilot with their lives and didn't want to be one of them.

So I set a date, packed my bags and hit the road.

How long have you been traveling for and how long do you think you will continue to travel?

I've been traveling for about 9 months now. My plan is to travel for a whole year but there were a lot of opportunities that opened up for me since I started traveling. I'm still unsure how long I will continue to travel. I take it one day at a time and just enjoy being in the present where I am right now in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Describe your best moment while traveling.

Sole Sister Anna Zalazar3There's been a lot but it has always been when I get surprised by a beautiful sunset. I love sunsets and I've seen the most beautiful sunsets during my travels. I never time the sunset but I always happen to be at the right place at the right time and with the right people. For me it's a constant reminder to slow down and appreciate the simple things in life.

Describe your worst.

Every travel experience I've had, good or bad, make up my whole story. And once I'm out of that "bad" situation, it always becomes a great story to share. If there was one worst experience I had, it was when I came to the airport not realizing that I missed my flight back to the Philippines because it was actually 1:00 AM and not 1:00 PM. The airline didn't even send me any notification to remind me that this was a red eye flight. Eventually I flipped the whole bad experience and ended up burning my frequent flyer miles and was able to get a first class flight for free at another airline.

Ever had a holyshitimgonna die moment?

Yes! I had two and while I was traveling in Laos. I had a quick change of plans to skip Vietnam and fly from Cambodia to Laos. There is only one airline that flies from Siem Reap to Vientiane and that was Laos Airlines, the worst airline I've ever flown. The flight was just like a roller coaster ride! It was a big plane carrying only 10 people.

I literally saw my coffee jump out of my cup and back!

The other time was when I took the bus to travel from Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang. There was a huge landslide on the way. We were told that it would take 3 days before we can cross to the other side of the mountain.

So we went down the bus and crossed the mountains with our backpacks- on foot! 

It was very slippery and I was shaking badly. One false step meant I could slip and that would be the end of me! Well, we survived, hitchhiked and made it to Luang Prabang before midnight. It was quite an adventure and made a great story to share.

Sole Sister Anna Zalazar5

How do you deter unwanted male attention while on the road?

Aside from dressing appropriately in conservative countries, I always had that "back off" look in my face when need be. It's a mix of an obnoxious New Yorker face with a twist of snobbish Filipina look. It's simple but it works for me. All the time!

Best pick up line you got while on the road?

Tu es belle. ("You're beautiful" in French)

What's your daily budget like?

Sole Sister Anna Zalazar4My ideal budget is $30 a day but South East Asia is so cheap and can be done with a $15-$20 a day budget. I normally go under my budget.

What are your secret glampacker expenditures?

Foot and body massage and body scrubs! Spas in South East Asia are a bargain! I do it at least once a month. If I had to do it in New York, I'll have to pay at least 5 times more of the cost of what I'm getting in Asia. I really do take advantage of it.

Ever fallen in love while travelling? Share.

I'm not the type to fall in love so easily but as much as I'd like to keep my travel life less complicated, there will always be that one person who will be an exception to the rule.

There was this one guy I met and really connected with. 

He was the tall, tanned and handsome. But he was also a good conversationalist and had a great sense of humor. He made me laugh so hard and that got me totally smitten. I met him while I was on a detour in an unplanned destination.

Life really happens when you're busy making other plans.

Most obscure travel item in your backpack?

Shu Uemura eyelash curler and an organic Morrocan oil. Just because!

If you weren't traveling solo, who would you like to travel with?

Angelina Jolie. One because I love her and two because I want to know all her travel secrets!

Ever had a "travel fatigue" moment?

Yes, I was traveling to Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai. I was always on the go, taking tours and meeting ups with other travelers everyday. Eventually I got sick. It's hard getting sick when traveling especially when you are alone. That was the first time that I felt really homesick too. I decided to slow travel in Chiang Mai instead of moving again to another new destination.

Sole Sister Anna Zalazar6

Anna Zalazar used to be a cubicle dweller working in corporate America before she embarked on the biggest adventure of her life. In 2011 she saved money, sold most of her possessions and in May that same year, she quit her job and went on a one woman adventure that took her back to Asia. Since then, she has been traveling around Asia as a solo female traveler. Follow her quest to explore the world on Annz Ventures.

For the next Sole Sister Spotlight: Surfista Elaine Abonal

Do you know of any female traveler who conquers the world one country at a time? It doesn't matter if they prefer luxurious lodging in Park City or cheap holidays on the beach. Sole Sisters are fearless women travelers who find ways to travel within their means and have a lot of fun along the way! I would love to interview them for Sole Sister Spotlight. Please send me an email at solesisters (dot) weare(at)gmail(dot)com. I look forward to your suggestions!

Seeking other itchy soled sisters,
Sole Sister Lois
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17 sole trails

  1. "I had a job that I liked, a company that I'm proud to have worked at, and a hefty paycheck at the end of the month." - I can relate to this. I'm also one who thought that there was more to life than being in the office and doing things that people expect you to do. We only have one life to live, might as well do something weird and worth it. Keep on travelling Anna! I hope to meet you on the road. :)

  2. ...and she is in Chiang Mai.. I can relate to that! ^_^

  3. Anna! I'm drooling over your adventures. You're truly one fearless, inspiring Pinay! (no bias here) Now I know your secret- 
    Shu Uemura eyelash curler and an organic Morrocan oil. I gotta buy me some of that :) Lois, you should have taken a picture of the "back off" look would have been helpful. lol 

  4. beautiful story, Ana! really inspiring! do you have a blog? :D

  5. i would say that travelers are among the most interesting people to meet. stories of their own experience of places and people gives them a lot of value.

  6. :-) She's a pretty Sole sister :-)

  7. ei Josiah, she's a pretty sole sister :-)...Hi Anna hope to meet you as well.

  8.  Thank you! :) See you on the road Paula :)

  9. Yup! Chiang Mai is my 2nd favorite city in the world ;)

  10.  Hahahaha Flo! You've already seen the look way back in college! ;)

  11.  Thank you. Yes-

  12. I totally agree Dong! That's why I love to interview interesting travelers.

  13. hi dear... how do you manage your expenses? I mean you dont have work at all and you can still travel? I wanna know your secret ... :) share it naman

  14. Mc Pol Androuse CruzApril 13, 2012 at 5:33 PM

    Inspiring story Anna! I will also do this when I grow up. I'll start here in the Philippines while I'm still studying.  haha!  

  15. How do you take these risks guys? I am so inspired.. I wanna be a traveller too.. :)


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