Connie Hum is best described – her words- as a equal opportunity traveler. The author of ConnVoyage, Connie left her New York life behind in 2008 and can now be found in Hong Kong. With the stamps of more 30 countries in her passport and a TEFL Cetificate in her pocket, follow her as she explores the globe, one sleeper train at a time.
Where are you right now? And how did you end up there?
I’m currently in Hong Kong. I’m not sure how I ended up here. I guess when I left the States in early 2010 for Asia, I didn’t really have any plans of where I would “end up.” A cousin of mine from California told me he was planning on being in Hong Kong for Christmas and New Year’s so I figured, why not? I’d never been to Hong Kong before, it was in Asia and it would be great to see a familiar face. So here I am!
Where have you traveled to and what was your favorite destination?
I’ve traveled to (in alphabetical order): Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Burma, Cambodia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
I don’t have one particular favorite destination because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time in each of these countries and there’s at least one special memory that makes me consider each place I’ve ever been to as one of my “favorites.” I will say though that out of all the places I have ever been to, Istanbul will always have a special place in my heart. I spent seven months there and really had the chance to get to know the city inside and out. There’s no feeling like getting to a place and feeling completely lost only to leave it some time later feeling more like a local than a tourist and knowing that you made the absolutely most of your time there.
Where are you planning on traveling to next and why did you choose that destination?
Honestly, I usually don’t know my next travel destination in advance. I’m just a bad planner in that respect, but I also like the idea of being open to whatever comes along. At this point, I do have an idea of where I’m going next but I’m keeping that a secret for now until I’m ready to make the big announcement on my blog. Sorry to keep you in suspense for just a little while longer!
Have you been scared while traveling?
I think all travelers experience a bit of a scare at some point in their travels. It’s hard not to when you arrive in a completely foreign country, not speaking the language and without knowing anyone or where anything is. Being scared is just a part of the adventure of traveling. Luckily, the actual fear is the only thing to worry about in most cases. Travel in general has been very safe for me, even as a solo traveler.
What has been you best journey?
I absolutely LOVE taking trains in India! They are so much fun because there’s just so much going on in those trains. I spent many nights traveling throughout India on sleeper trains, playing cards, eating delicious food from the vendors that come up to your window when you make a stop and just chatting with the people I meet. Those were probably some of the best sleepless nights I’ve ever had.
Do you prefer to travel on your own or with friends?
Definitely with friends! It’s nice to be able to reminisce about the past with someone who was there to share it with you. Once in awhile it’s nice to go out on your own and spend some time with yourself but all in all, the best travel experiences I’ve ever had were those shared with friends and those closest to me.
What has been your best and worst travel experience?
Like I said earlier, I don’t necessarily have a best or favorite travel experience but I definitely have a worst experience. I was in Vienna, Austria and late to catch a train out to Croatia. It was a mad dash from my hostel to the Westbanhoff station and I barely made my train. Only my train wasn’t leaving out of Westbanhoff. It was leaving out of Sudbanhoff! I rushed to the ticket counter to see about getting another train and at some point amidst all the rush, confusion, and stress, my backpack was stolen literally right out from underneath my feet! Everything: passport, credit card, ATM card, Eurail passes, camera and 1000 Euros, was gone without a trace. I had to cancel Croatia (couldn’t get there without a passport), file a police report, apply for a rush passport and cancel my credit card and ATM card. It was absolutely horrible!
Where have you always dreamed of traveling to?
Ever since I was a little girl, I had always dreamed of traveling. I never really had a particular place in mind, just any and everywhere. When it comes to traveling, I’m equal opportunity!
Is there anywhere you have been that you wouldn’t revisit?
I had an especially hard time traveling on my own in Egypt. I found the advances from the men very intimidating and uncomfortable, which made me extremely wary of initiating conversation with strangers on the street. It’s not my usual way of travel and I had a hard time dealing with it. In the end, I met up with a good friend and had an amazing time in Egypt. I wouldn’t say that I would never go back to Egypt, but I definitely wouldn’t go back unless my friend was there.
What makes a good traveler?
I would say that a good traveler is flexible. Travel is so much more than just reaching a destination. It’s about the experiences and people you encounter along the way. If a traveler is too concerned with getting to the next major sight or cramming as much as possible into the itinerary, it leaves little room to go with the flow and let the real adventures develop on their own.
What have you learned about yourself while traveling?
The biggest thing I learned about myself is just how competent I really am in taking care of myself. When you’re traveling, you’ve got to figure stuff out constantly and that’s a challenge. I’ve learned that I can rely on myself for whatever comes my way and that’s a really empowering feeling.
What surprised you the most when traveling?
How nice everyone is! Sure, once in awhile you can meet some mean people but for the most part, everyone is genuinely friendly and interested in hearing your stories and sharing their own. I thought that traveling would take me away from my friends because I was leaving them behind but the best surprise is realizing that I was actually making many more friends along the way.
How do you handle difficult situations on the road?
I try my hardest NOT to stress out. It’s sometimes inevitable but staying calm will help you out of a difficult situation much more than stressing out about it will.
How did your friends/family react when you told about your travel plans?
Many of my family members are still shocked! I think my family still thinks of prolonged travel as something strange and unnatural. The biggest question I received from them was “What about settling down? Why quit your job? Don’t you want to get married and have babies?” Yes yes yes, just not right now. Luckily, my friends have been SO supportive! I don’t know if I would have had the courage to take such a huge plunge if I didn’t have people cheering and encouraging me.
Why did you start a blog?
I initially started my blog as a way to keep in touch with my friends and family when I decided to leave my job in New York City for Istanbul in February of 2009. I slowly came to realize that my friends and family weren’t actually reading my blog but other travelers were. They were interested in sharing stories and hearing my travel experiences so I slowly started to write more as a travel blogger. I still write my blog because I enjoy it and it’s a great collection of stories for myself to look back on, but I also hope that it can be of some help to other travelers.
What advice do you have for fellow travelers?
My advice would be to slow down and enjoy the ride! I’ve met a number of travelers who are so intent on crossing off all the major sights in a given country that they hardly have the time to enjoy themselves in the process. When you rush around, you really miss out on the actual experience of travel and instead of leaving with fond memories of your experience, you leave with only photos of places you’ve been to.