Looking Through Zai’s Lenses

On my About Page, I’ve mentioned people who influenced me when it comes to traveling. Writing these is an homage to them. First off is Zai, my backpacking and budget travel guide.

“… it’s not about the destination anymore, it’s for the adventure along the way.”

– Zai

Asaidah Rasmia Batua, or Zai, is a true blue backpacker who has already made South East Asia as her playground, and I’m lucky enough to be her officemate. Initially, she  just wanted to check out the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and never dreamt of becoming a flashpacker herself. But as a child, she remembers her dad always packing his backpack, wearing his usual travel gear – his trainers, jogging pants and white shirt – ready to go. So when her parents brought her along on her first flight abroad to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia after graduating from college, her eyes were opened to a new perspective on traveling. A few months later, she met someone who inspired her to do her first solo trip. Not to let grass grow under her feet, she decided to go big and planned a five-country tour – Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand-Cambodia-Vietnam. It was four months in the making – a lot of research, budget planning and everyday search for budget flights. From then on, her numerous travels commenced.

Lady vendor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Zai Batua.
Petronas Tower, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo courtesy of Zai Batua.
Hongkong Disneyland. Photo courtesy of Zai Batua.

To shed light to clueless people like me when Zai introduced the term, flashpacking is the kind of traveling with the same essence, spirit and adventure of backpacking but with added comfort, style and technology.  On a nutshell, a flashpacker is a backpacker who travels on a similar trail but does it with more cash on hand and little luxury on the road.

Unlike me, she chooses to show the story of her travels through photos of the people and places she’s been. Quoting her answer when I asked her why she travels:

“I love the rawness and reality of the world. What made me fall in love with traveling are the people I meet on the places I visit; my adventures and misadventures while doing so; random conversations on the street; the food – which is an adventure in itself because you’ll never know what you get; getting lost and realizing that you wrongly read the map. But whatever, for me it’s all part of the adventure.”

Siam Paragon, Thailand. Photo courtesy of Zai Batua
On the streets of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Zai Batua.

Zai’s steps in Planning a Trip

  1. Decide where to go, then decide when to go.
  2. Don’t settle for just one location. Make it two or more.
  3. Check what other countries or cities nearby that you can visit via land or sea travel.
  4. Research on travel methods, length of time and cost.
  5. Going solo? Safety should be your main concern.
  6. Start checking for airline tickets – most importantly, BOOK IT!
  7. Check out memberships to several airline companies. The more choices, the better.
  8. Start looking for accommodations.
  9. Research on all things FREE!
  10. For international travel, double check your passport, make sure your ATMs and credit cards are activated for international transactions and be familiar with exchange rates.
  11. Check the local eats and grubs.
  12. Be open to changes. Not everything will go as planned so you have to be flexible all the time.

So basically, a lot of research!

The World is Out There

Zai’s bucket list includes doing the Trans-Siberian railway tour by herself. It won’t be on the most immediate of her plans because it will take a lot of preparation, but as she has initially mentioned, it’s not about the destination anymore, it’s for the adventure along the way. She would like to encourage everyone to travel – to see the world. It will not always be a smooth ride but what the heck, when has life been easy? Savor every minute of your travel, she says. It may sometimes be hard, sometimes it will be smooth sailing. It’s all part of the journey.

Balloon Festival at Clark Airfield, Pampanga, Philippines. Photo courtesy of Zai Batua

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