Trisha Velarmino is the founder and author of the popular blog, P.S. I’m On My Way, which chronicles her journey around the world over the past seven years. We caught up with her to chat about her experience with long-term travel and about what’s on the horizon for her — and for her passport.
When did the idea of long-term travel occur to you?
This journey was accidental. I didn’t leave home and plan to be away for seven years. The year I left was sort of a “yes year” for me: I was 22, and I wasn’t afraid of anything. I planned to move to Buenos Aires with my boyfriend at the time. Prior to that, I had traveled, but not for any long period of time.
I thought I was going to marry that boyfriend and move to Argentina, but then we broke up. I was far from my family and friends, and didn’t know what to do. I could have gone home, but I knew what other people would have thought. I wanted to be somewhere where no one would tell me what to do. I wanted to heal by myself. So I went to Brazil and Colombia and ended up there for three and a half years.
What was your family’s reaction?
They let me go freely. I grew up in the Philippines, which is very conservative and very Catholic, but I was brought up differently.
I was always encouraged to do what I really wanted — my mother was so supportive. In traditional families, my decision to travel wouldn’t have been accepted, so I’m pretty lucky to have had that support.
You live in Tel Aviv, Israel, now. How did you decide on your home base?
I was initially invited by the tourism board on a media trip, which happened to coincide with the wedding of a good friend of mine, so I decided to stay for a month. I planned to leave Israel and head to Mexico City, but the day I was supposed to leave, I didn’t want to. I told myself I’d stay for another month. That happened over and over. It’s been a year now.
I don’t have a residency visa, so I’ve been leaving Israel every three months, and staying in a different country for a month before returning. I’ve been able to travel to Georgia, Armenia, and Morocco. It’s the best of both worlds, because I get to travel and have a base to call home.
You mentioned that your travels started in South America — where did you go from there?
In South America, visas are valid for 90 days. I traveled there from Mexico, so I’d also been through Central America. I hopscotched through Bolivia, Uruguay, and Argentina, and spent a lot of time in Peru. But in 2015, I felt like I was caught in a cycle, and I wanted to re-evaluate my life. So, after three and a half years, when a tourism board invited me to visit Indonesia, I decided to leave South America completely.
That was a fresh start for me. I went home to the Philippines, and then to Hong Kong for a few months. I traveled to Cambodia, too. It’s funny because, though I grew up in Asia, I traveled there last.
I’ve also spent time in Northern Africa with an ambassadorship for Girl Rising, which is part of the Malala Fund.
What is a benefit to living on the road?
I can speak five different languages, fluently. That’s very useful. Living on the road also allows you the freedom to be yourself. When you are in the same setting, you are the same person, but the more you travel, the more fluid your personality becomes. You can reinvent yourself as you go, and no one will tell you whether it’s right or wrong.
How did you plan for your travels financially? How do you support them now?
When I was first starting out, I didn’t plan financially at all. I took it day-by-day, and after three months, I realized I was running out of money. I worked in a bar in Peru, and throughout South America, I did a lot of work-exchange programs. I was young, so I could sleep anywhere and not care. I worked in a lot of hostel bars and would make friends that way. I also worked very hard over the years on the blog to get it to where it is now.
Currently, I’m supporting my travels through blogging and freelance work. It’s mostly writing but also social media management, which is a skill I taught myself.
What advice would you give to someone embarking on long-term travel?
My attitude is so different now than when I first started traveling. For example, I just moved to a very nice apartment in Tel Aviv and have a more established life. But if I didn’t do all of the backpacking journeys first, I don’t think I would be where I am now.
I’m no longer the “quit your job to travel” ambassador anymore. There are more travel blogs, freelancers, and remote workers than ever before. So I think it’s beneficial to keep your job, but create a schedule that will accommodate travel. I have a reader who told her boss that she was planning to go on a three-month trip, and they actually allowed her to do so and keep her job. In my eyes, it’s all about how you approach integrating travel with work. You just have to convince yourself that you can. Your boss will notice that confidence.
If you believe in long-term travel, go for it. Know that what you’re doing is important.
What’s next for you in terms of travel?
I need to leave the country next month because my visa is expiring, but I don’t have any plans. I really want to go to eastern Europe: Estonia, the Balkans, Kosovo, Bosnia, Montenegro, Albania. I’m so curious about that part of the world.