When I used to see people travel a lot, I used to wonder how the hell did people have so much money to travel.
Flora Toth, 24 years, Traveler, Hungary
Interviewed by Joseph Colin
Why did you decide to speak on travel?
Travel is my greatest passion. It is a passion to the extent that I don’t really care about career, having lots of money or anything like that. I have traveled when I was homeless, I have traveled with zero money, and there were bad times when I didn’t have anything to eat but I still wouldn’t go home. I just wanted to keep travelling. I don’t really know what makes travelling special, but I think it’s the fact that I love to learn and I am an extremely curious person and I want to know everything. Travel gives you the biggest personal growth you can ever get. It’s the experience. It’s not about learning or memorizing facts, it’s about actually living it.
What was a turning point in your life as a traveler?
When I went to Japan.
I had been to several European countries for holidays with my family, but it was my first time outside Europe, and away from family. It was also my first long-term trip. I was just 17. I didn’t speak the language and it was such a culture shock. I went there through a student exchange program by Rotary International for a year. And that changed my life completely. I got a taste of real travel. That means not going on holidays or being a tourist and taking photos at touristic places, but actually living in a place, getting to know a culture and learning the language.
Do you speak Japanese?
Yeah I do…I was living with local families who couldn’t speak English, and nobody speaks English there, so I was pretty much forced to learn the language. But I was happy to be forced because otherwise I wouldn’t have learnt a new language. So that was the first time I fell in love with travel, fell in love with Asia and learning new cultures.
Which countries have you traveled to other than Japan?
When I was in university, I took a year’s break and went to Indonesia on a scholarship for six months. Then I went to Australia for two months. I was doing online work during that period and also visiting a friend. Then I went to Thailand for a month and a half where I was volunteering in a hostel and travelling. Many people might think how I have the money to do this…
I was about to ask you that…
The thing is I really don’t have as much money as you think I have. If you really want something, you will find a way. See, I went to Indonesia and Japan on a scholarship. In Australia, I was managing from the little money I got from my online work. It was really a small amount, but I managed. I used to go from place to place hitchhiking. I found volunteering work in the countries I went to. Volunteering work means you work with an organization and in exchange you get free food and accommodation. It can be farming, or taking care of children, animals, rescuing animals…it can mean anything.
How did you find out about the volunteering options?
I was really determined to travel the cheapest way possible because I wasn’t willing to accept the fact that travel has to be expensive. I also had this misconception before. When I used to see people travel a lot, I used to wonder how the hell did people have so much money to travel. Most of us work the entire year, and go for a holiday a few days in a year, and of course during the holidays we want to make the best out of it. So we stay and eat in the fanciest hotels we can afford, and spend a lot of money on these things.
The thing is when you are a long-term traveler, it is a completely different story. When you travel long-term and decide to settle in one place for a month or two, you can actually rent an apartment. And I thought travelling would probably be way more adventurous if I travel around with very little money so I started looking for volunteering work.
In which countries have you volunteered?
In Nepal, Thailand and Cambodia. The volunteering I did in Thailand and Cambodia were not for a good cause or anything, I just did it for the free accommodation. In Thailand I worked for a hostel as a receptionist. In Cambodia I worked as a party promoter at a beach club in Sihanoukville and my job was just to party with people. I had to make friends, give them flyers and get them to come to the parties, and in exchange I got my own room and bathroom, unlimited food and alcohol. In Nepal, I worked in a children’s home and a day care for differently-abled children, and that was definitely a more special experience.
Tell me about your experience in India.
The thing is I have only been to Sikkim, and India is so large, and every city has its own culture so I can’t really generalize based on my experience in Sikkim. Sikkim is a very special place. I think it is underrated but I would like it to stay that way. I don’t want it to be over-flooded with tourists. I love the fact that Sikkim is completely organic, they don’t use plastic bags, and the people are very nice…
That I can vouch for. I have seen almost the entire country, but I think in Sikkim the people are one of the most special…
My friend told me many Indians are not even aware of Sikkim.
What does love mean to you?
Umm…for me love can only exist in the purest form. I think anything that is not unconditional love is not real love. One may say there are different kinds of love – possessive love, selfish love, toxic love, abusive love…but that’s not love. I think love can only be pure and unconditional. You don’t expect anything from the other person. You can love an animal, an object, or a country or whatever you want to love, but it has to be unconditional without any expectations. As soon as you expect something, you are letting your ego interfere with love and you make it toxic. We all crave to be in love and be loved.