Lash World Tour: Digging Deeply into Global Cultures

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Aug 01, 2011 / 0 comments

Ever dream of reframing your life and traveling? Living, working, learning around the world? (well, to be honest, who hasn't?). Let me share the extraordinary journey of one American expat, Lash, who has done just that for many years. On her site, Lash World Tour, you'll find a plethora of insider's travel tips, inspiration for travel, gorgeous photos, adventures, and more. Truly, Lash has done it all - and I especially love her adventurousness and love of the world.


Lash in Australia

Lash in Bali


diving in Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

Lash diving in Phi Phi Islands, Thailand



WE:  Please tell us about your site, Lash World Tour...

Lash: Sure. LashWorldTour, in its current travel blog form, went online in late 2010. I started with a large collection of my travel stories and photo galleries, mostly from 2008 when I got my first digital camera. Since then I've begun adding more stories, travel tips and weekly travelers' interviews. I will be adding a lot more travel tips, advice, and books on travel. After my '10 Free Things to do in...' Series, I have another series in store.

I aim to inspire people to follow their dreams, to entertain people with stories and photos, and to give practical advice to encourage people to get out there and travel the world.

I'll be traveling and blogging another 10-15 years, so there's still lots ahead for the site.


Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka



WE:  What was the genesis of Lash World Tour?

Lash: I started my world travels in 1998 in SE Asia. In 2005, while beginning my career as a PADI Dive Instructor, I started meeting travelers who had blogs, mainly to keep friends and family updated on their travels. I thought, “Wow, that's a cool idea. Maybe I should do that.” I also had a twinge of 'that's not fair' syndrome. I'd been on the road 7 years, but nobody on the internet knew about my travels. In great contrast, here were these newbie travelers with their adventures, photos and stories plastered all over the internet. Hmph! Well, of course it was fair. They wrote a travel blog and I didn't. Simple.

Over the next few years, I was busily immersed in teaching scuba diving and traveling. Quite unfortunately, it gradually dawned on me that the diving gig's low pay for fun but hard work wasn't sustainable. Most professional divers seem to max out and drop out within four years. I began looking for other ways to earn a living that would allow me to continue traveling. I met a few web designers who were location independent. Hmm... In 2008, I temporarily moved to Shanghai. While there I chanced upon a Web Design Course taught by a Dutch man. I took his private lessons- building websites with Dream Weaver. Great fun!

I immediately began designing and building websites. LashWorldTour (its' first format) was the first, followed by LashDiveWorld. I wrote loads of stories, took lots of photos, offered online resources, etc. I designed many other websites and tried building sites for small businesses and dive shops, but found that  most small shops and acquaintances wanted sites built for free or next to nothing. Drag! I would have pursued web design more, but in 2009-2010 I got side-tracked managing a rock climbing shop then opening my own cafe/restaurant/bakery in Thailand... My first business! That's its own story...

Finally, late last year I got around to creating the current blog LashWorldTour, shifting all my stories and photos from my previous 2 websites over. Presto, instant 100+ story blog. At the same time I discovered this vast world of travel blogging already in full swing. Wowie! I had no clue! In February I began working on developing the blog more seriously.

I intend to travel another 10-15 years, so LashWorldTour will be around for a long time to come. I have lots of developmental plans in the wings, which have been on hold until I finish publishing my 2 guidebooks. (next week) In addition to travel stories and photo galleries, I will begin posting a lot more travel tips and advice. I have a couple other books coming  up next year.


Trains in Sri Lanka

Trains in Sri Lanka






WE:  You've been traveling for 12 years now - what have been your biggest challenges - and rewards?

Lash: The biggest, and really only, challenge has been figuring out how to earn enough money to keep traveling. I started out fine: I'd lived in Japan 6 years, specifically to save money to travel the world. I invested the money and started traveling by living off the interest. That was perfect. Ahh, if only that had continued! Instead, I ran right into the 2000 stock market crash. Ouch. So.. since 2001 I've been trying out all sorts of jobs and enterprises. (see Q6)

Besides funding, I don't find long-term nomadic traveling 'challenging', in terms of struggles or difficulties or hardships. I don't really get it when travelers write about the 'difficulties of travel'. What's difficult?! From my perspective: I rarely get lonely. It's sooo easy to meet people. I rarely get bored. There's sooo much to do in the world! I rarely get homesick. Can always call, skype, email, write a letter. I love flying, taking trains, long-distance road trips. I love planning, scheduling, preparing, learning about the next places. I always find delicious and plentiful food. If I get sick, I rest, take some meds, see a doctor. Easy. If I get tired of continually moving or find a place I really like, I just stop and stay a while. For me long-term nomadic travel is simply fantastic and wonderful.

Greatest rewards: Freedom! It's amazing to have such freedom - unrestricted by dumb 9-5 jobs, social rules, obligations. Every day is my own- to get up when I want, go where I want, do what I want. I'm so busy exploring the earth, learning, staying fit, immersing myself in nature, traveling to the next exciting spot, that I often wonder how I'd ever had time to work. My only restrictions are visa regulations ( how long I can stay, when I have to cross the border) and funds. But there's a LOT to do on the earth without money! I can fill entire days, weeks, months with enjoyable, exciting, fulfilling, educational activities without spending much more than what I need to eat, cloth, and groom myself. That's true regardless of the location: beach, island, rural countryside, towns or cities.


Eccentric Benelmadena Castle clings to the steep hillside of southern Spain, overlooking the stunning Costa del Sol near Malaga.

Eccentric Benelmadena Castle clings to the steep hillside of southern Spain, overlooking the stunning Costa del Sol near Malaga.



WE:   What's it like, traveling by bike, around the world?

Lash: Traveling by bike is fantastic. You're independent of public transportation schedules and routes. You can go where you want, when you want. You can reach places that otherwise would be very difficult. Consequently, you get off the beaten tourist track and are immersed in the real country, culture and nature. You travel at a much slower pace than you would by standard transportation, therefore you see and experience a lot more. You can stop whenever, wherever you want. You can alter your plans if you desire.

Inside a vehicle, you're completely cut off from the places you travel through. It's like being inside a space ship, whizzing past everything. On a bike you're in the place. You hear, smell and see so much more: in nature, fragrant trees, blossoming flowers. You see details: signs, shops, peoples' activities, markets, flowers, animals, insects, birds, trees.

You stay fit. You're taking care of your body while you travel! Your body's energized and continually cleaned out of toxins via sweat. Your circulatory and respiratory systems are in prime condition. Consequently, you feel great.

Traveling through foreign countries is great. People are surprised, impressed, open, friendly. They meet and interact with you as a person, not so much as a 'tourist'. You meet a lot of people who aren't generally connected to the tourist industry, without a mindset of 'sell to the rich tourist'.

I've never felt threatened or endangered, even in remote rural areas or in the biggest cities in Asia, even alone at night. People have been friendly, respectful and helpful.


Beach at Similans

Beach at Similans


Lash teaching diving in Thailand

Lash teaching diving in Thailand



WE:  You worked on Survivor - can you share anything about that? Do they truly learn about the culture where they are, or is it too internally focused?

Lash: Working crew on Survivor was an amazing experience and a lot of fun. I wish I could have crewed more of them! But I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to work on 2 episodes.

The contestants really are put out in the wilderness to survive on their own. If you've ever watched any Survivor episodes, you've seen how much weight they lose and how frazzled they get. It's a physically, emotionally and psychologically intense ordeal. I wouldn't want to do it!

Camera crews are filming the contestants 24-7, but the cameramen are not allowed to talk to contestants or interfere in their camps in any way. During the Amazon production, one contestant group accidentally left a fire burning when they left camp to join the contestant games. The cameramen stationed at the camp watched the entire camp burn up, including the contestants' meager possessions, food and shelter. I heard that during the Australia Survivor one group of contestants set up their camp in a dry riverbed. While they were out one day, a flash flood raced through and demolished their camp.

In addition to camera crew, no member of the Survivor crew can have any contact with the contestants whatsoever. It's kinda nuts that the contestants are actually near an entire film crew but have no personal contact with them. The crew film the contestants at their camps, the games and Tribal Councils. That's it.

The only time any Survivor crew would interfere with a camp is if the contestants' lives were in danger. During the Amazon production, professional jungle trackers hired by the show found large jungle cat paw tracks near one of the camps. They increased their surveillance and the company considered moving the camp, but no more cat tracks were found, so they left the camp as it was.

As for learning about the countries' cultures, everyone involved, including the crew and contestants, does end up learning some things about the culture as things are incorporated into the show. Examples: architecture of Tribal Councils, décor on games and sets, foods used, and so on. But the entire production is very internally focused, intense, and busy. The crew get a few days off, during which time they can go out to explore. But mostly everyone's busy working.



WE:  What have you been working on, while exploring other countries?

Lash: Some jobs I've had are:

* crew on 'Survivor' Thailand and Amazon
* hair designer in Shanghai (Hair Design was my 1st profession, when I was in University in USA)
* assistant manager of a rock climbing shop in Thailand
* running my own bakery/ restaurant in Thailand
* scuba diving Dive Master and Instructor
* imports/ exports. I exported stuff from Bali and Thailand to Japan, where I sold them at festivals and temple markets

In terms of volunteer work, I've done 3 WWOOFing stints in Australia. All were fantastic experiences. I really enjoy the exchange of people helping each other out. Volunteers help by giving their time and talents. In exchange, they get room and board.  It's also a great way to live with and get to know locals. They take you to places and events you wouldn't have known about simply as a traveler. I plan to do some more. (but avoid bad volunteer gigs like I had last week. Story coming soon on that)

In terms of giving back, I guess my main contribution to the countries I visit has been spending all my money on locally owned businesses, from guest houses to street stalls and restaurants to getting massages and services.

Now I'm also sharing my stories, photos, travel tips and advice to help inspire people to travel.


Singapore city scape

Singapore cityscape


Singapore's Marina Bay

Singapore's Marina Bay



WE:  How do you suggest travelers dig deep into a culture, when they are visiting?

Lash: Here are some things I do to really get immersed in the cultures I visit:

* Hang out mainly with locals, rather than other travelers.
* Stay at guest houses, small hotels, homestays that are owned by locals.
* Chat with, get to know, hang out with the owners and staff of places I stay.
* Eat only at local restaurants and street stalls where locals eat.
* Avoid eating at tourist restaurants and the restaurants at my hostels, hotels, etc, which usually serve over-priced, westernized versions of local foods and 'travelers food' like banana pancakes, french fries and chicken sandwiches.
* Visit as many art and handicraft 'factories', workshops, etc. as I can. I get to learn how so many different arts are made and, once again, interact with locals.
* Visit museums about the country/culture/arts of that country. History museums, specialty museums.
* Seek out traditional performances like music, dance, drama, puppet shows.
* Cycle.
* Use the locals' public transportation, including buses, trains, tuk-tuks, ferries, etc. Avoid transportation made specifically for foreign travelers. It's really fun to ride city and long-distance buses and trains with the locals!
* Speak the language! I speak Thai, Malaysian, Bahasa Indonesian and Japanese. That's because I've spent a lot of time in those countries. It really helps to get around, get info, and get along with people. More recently, I've stopped learning the language of countries that I expect to visit only once for a short time. But event then, I learn basic phrases, like 'hello' 'good bye' 'thank you' 'where is...' and how to order food. Local people really appreciate it if you at least try to speak their language! They automatically feel warmer towards you. And it's fun!
* On the other hand, NOT learning the language, while living with locals, can be fun,too. It's a different kind of immersion in the culture. Figuring out how to communicate.
* Join locals in games like beach volleyball or soccer, singing and playing music, telling jokes, etc.
* Smile a lot and generally be friendly.
* Shop at little ma-and-pa shops rather than big chain stores, convenience stores, and big pharmacies.
* Go to bars, clubs, night spots where locals go, not where tourists go.

Basically, hang out with locals more than western travelers, patronize locally-owned businesses of all sorts, and learn at least a bit of the language.





night diving

night diving



WE:  Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

Lash: Each of us only lives once on this earth. How do you want to spend your hours, days, years? Are you doing what you really want to? What you believe is meaningful? Enjoyable? Worthwhile? Think about it! I encourage everyone to follow their dreams, whatever those dreams are. To me, success is following and achieving your dreams. Who cares what other people term success?! Determine your own idea of success then go out and reach for that! I like Napolean Hill's comment:

“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, he can achieve”


Lash Skydiving

Lash Skydiving


WE:   Thanks so very much, Lash - your journeys are inspiring!

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All photos courtesy and copyright Lash World Tour