What I really like about this blog is how it is introducing me to the people – travellers, locals, professionals, neighbours – who are sharing their stories with me. I have not met Rocio in person, but I really loved her blog. It is a mix of travel stories, personal shares and inspiring talks to people I would really love to meet in real life. Rocio Cadena herself is a Mexican-American writer and editor currently living in South Korea (via Chicago). After two years of eating unending kimchi and bibimbap in Korea, she’s gearing up for a 6-month backpacking adventure that will take her to the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, to name a few. Afterward, she’ll make her way to the US and seek out a place to call home that is warmer than Chicago.
And before she goes on her next trip, she agreed to talk a bit more about her first travels, favourite writings, tastiest ramen and culture shock. And with that I give the floor to Rocio.
What is the first trip you remember taking? How old were you?
I don’t remember vacation trips per se as I grew up in a very humble household in rural Mexico and my family couldn’t afford to travel for leisure. But I frequently went to a nearby city called Torreon to visit doctors, as I was a sickly child. These trips don’t sound fun at all and they kind of weren’t [laughs] but it did expose me to a city setting, which provided great contrast to the tiny village I lived in – with a population of about 100 people – and looking back, I cherish these excursions because they instilled a curiosity for movement and exploration. The first memory I have of these trips is when I was 5.
What kind of trips do you prefer?
I find this to be a tricky question because I like a mix of things and it all depends on my mood. But the overarching theme of my travels is that I like to do it slowly and really soak up whatever I choose to do or see. My ideal trip consists of getting an early start by having a delicious local breakfast, sightseeing/doing the main activity of the day and then kicking back in the evenings with drinks and good company. I like to travel slowly because even if I don’t check 20 items off a list, I gain a rich and valuable experience from 1 or 2 things I did on my own time.
What is your favourite place in the world?
I’d say Barcelona. The vibe of that place meshed beautifully with my personal energy.
And what is the worst place you have been to? Why?
Honestly, I’m at a blank. I don’t think I’ve ever walked away from any place and thought this is the worst city/town ever! I’m sure I’ve found certain places to be subpar but clearly, they haven’t left a profound impression on me since I can’t recall any!
Have you been anywhere which turned out to be totally different to how you imagined?
Yes, Yangshuo comes to mind as I visited this Chinese town over the summer. It is a stunning town full of karst formations that are out of this world. I thought it was going to be small and I’d be able to bike the whole of it in a few hours. Wrong. It’s big and spread out. I wish I spent a few days exploring rather than mere hours.
What have been the biggest culture shock you have ever experienced during your travels?
Moving from my rural village in the northern Mexican state of Durango to a suburban town near Chicago, in the US. I didn’t speak any English and had never seen snow so… it was quite a dramatic and somewhat traumatizing adjustment I underwent.
What are the places you dream of visiting the most?
In March I’ll go backpacking through Southeast Asia for 6 months and I cannot contain my excitement. I’m starting off in The Philippines and going from there. I want to plan minimally and really go with the flow. I definitely want to visit Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. This trip has been on my mind for a long time and I’m bursting with joy that it’s about to unfold but… I daydream the most about traveling through – and maybe even living in – South America.
What was the most important lesson that you learnt during your travels?
Things will go wrong or in unexpected ways. Trust that it’s all going to get figured out and that the only thing we control is our outlook and attitude.
Why do you travel? What forces you to leave your comfort zone?
Traveling is a bit like tough love. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies but it usually has our best interests in mind. It’s sometimes painful, uncomfortable and humbling. It enables growth. It can be challenging, exhausting, frustrating, rewarding, exhilarating. Traveling shows us that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. It lets us laugh at our own self-importance and self-obsessions. Traveling widens our horizons while forming connections with kindred spirits.
What is one thing (or more) you don’t like about travelling?
How physically and mentally exhausting it can be! I often find myself wondering why I’m so tired if all I’ve been doing is having fun [laughs] but I guess a leisurely existence can also be taxing.
On your blog, what has been your favourite article to write? Or which one is for some reason particularly special to you?
I visited Japan in October and I was so wowed. I’d been fantasizing about this country since my university days and everything I expected was easily exceeded. I recommend everyone visit Japan – it’s an amazing country.
And for the end, a round of quick “best of”. What is for you the…
Ramen in Osaka, Japan.
South Korea. My adopted country has one of the coolest café cultures I’ve ever experienced. For example, this one.
Victoria Peak in Hong Kong.
The mid century airbnb of my dreams nestled away in the lush mountains of Vancouver, Canada.
best transport experience
Japan, again. From the buses to the trams to the trains, they know what they’re doing.
best city in China
Chengdu. See the pandas and eat the hot pot.
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