We met our April Traveler of the Month in Bastimentos, a beautiful and laid back Island in Bocas Del Tora, Panama. We instantly connected, sharing stories about life, relationships and travels. We have met many amazing travelers along the way, but something really stood out about Yan, her positive outlook on life and travels was contagious, so we asked her to be our April traveler of the month in the hopes of inspiring all of you as well .
This extraordinary 58-year-old jet setter grew up in Malaysia and migrated to Australia when she was 18 years old. She has worked in many different jobs, lastly in the Australian public service. She took two years leave of absence to sail around Malaysia and Thailand.
She returned to the office, but only for half a day. She emailed her resignation in the Maldives whilst delivering a 150 feet classic schooner from Thailand to Turkey, effectively resigning. She has sailed for over 20 years helping deliver yachts from Thailand to Western Australia and New South Wales to Malaysia and lived on yachts for 10 of them.
We asked Yan a couple of questions and this is what she had to say:
At what age did you realize that travelling was a passion of yours and what is your most memorable travel experience?
From a young age, I knew I wanted to travel. I had ambitions to be a cabin crew member but did not grow tall enough. I remember arriving in Australia, lost in wonder of the vast open beautiful countryside, Sydney harbour, the amazing beaches and snow in the mountains, so different to Malaysia. The sky seemed higher, clearer blue with more stars, and the Aussies spoke a different language.
They know how to have fun. The only state I haven’t been is South Australia. I travelled around Europe and England for 2 months in 1986 and was truly hooked. I used to take leave of absence every chance I could to travel but never alone.
I used to be envious of the twenty something Aussies working in Britain and jetting off to somewhere in Europe every other weekend. I realise that I haven’t missed out and I’m very fortunate as I have the time and funds. Four and a half years ago, I became single and found myself in the position of being able to live the life I’ve dreamed, travelling and making the world my home. I love being in a different place every week.
There are many memorable experiences. I love wandering around food markets, hopping around the Greek islands on my electric bicycle, spending time and cooking with my wonderful hosts in Israel and Brussels, traipsing around the wonders of Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan, staying and sailing on a catamaran in Bermuda, catching up with cousins living in America that I haven’t seen for over 40 years, visiting my niece in London and friends in Ireland, Wales, Mallorca, France and meeting lots of people and learning heaps.
Which countries have you travelled to?
I’ve travelled to 80 countries. Most of Asia, Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea, Europe and the Balkans, Canada, Alaska, Mexico, 26 Greek islands and the islands in Croatia. Last year, I travelled to London, Wales, Malta, my beloved Greek islands, Poland, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Croatia, Serbia, Budapest, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, France, Morocco, Slovakia, Bermuda, Puerto Rico. I went on a 26 day cruise from Savona to Guadalope stopping at a lot of ports in the Caribbean. This year, I’ve travelled to the United States, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia.
What’s the biggest reward you get from travelling?
Meeting people from all over the world. I get an understanding about the culture, history, geography and people of a country I’d previously had no clue about. I love trying the local food and drinks. I walk, cycle, get on local transport, chat with the locals, other travellers and follow the live music.
What do you think about the common perception out there that anyone who travels long term and isn’t interested in settling down and are trying to escape life?
Of course they’re escaping….from the humdrum and mundane. It’s great to see so many adventurous people travelling. They wish to live, not merely exist. There’s a world out there to explore and 2 to 4 weeks a year leave is not enough. Is there really any need to settle?
Do you think traveling can change a person’s preconceived ideas and discrimination they may have towards other cultures?
Absolutely. When you travel, you’re exposed to other cultures, customs and respect, understand why people are the way they are because of the way they live. I know people who won’t travel because their country is the greatest and they’re bigoted, ignorant and judgemental, fear even their neighbours who are different.
What is your favorite destination and why?
The Greek islands. They’re pristine, stunning, beautiful and I feel I’m feeding my soul when I’m there. I make friends from all over the world there. Many people fall in love and keep going back to their favourite island every year. I’d like to visit all the islands. The Greeks are very hospitable and friendly. I feel comfortable, safe and happy there.
What advice would you give to women who want to include traveling in their lifestyle?
Just go, do it. Most countries are safe. Be aware of your surroundings. Always trust your instincts. It’s the best thing you’ll ever do. Make it a priority. Don’t plan too far ahead nor make too many plans. Be spontaneous.
Where to next ?
I’m flying from Colombia to Barcelona right now, meeting with friends, a couple coming off a cruise from Australia, to do a road trip around Spain, Portugal then to the Greek islands.