Thanks to her love of solo travel everywhere, HakCek now has family everywhere.
“I have so many Indian ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’; we’ve stayed in touch and they really see me as part of their family,” the travel blogger tells Young Post.
She also has a “mother” in Lithuania who cooked her six meals a day and knitted socks for her, and a friend she made in a Kyrgyzstan who invited her to a huge family reunion.
HakCek spent four months travelling by herself across Central Asia. She couchsurfed or stayed in hostels as it gave her the chance to befriend locals. These hosts made her feel at home and often showed her around. HakCek also picks up tips from people she meets along the way, especially for more impromptu trips.
“I only had the chance to read a few blogs and get a rough idea of [the countries I wanted to visit] before I took off in June; I didn’t have a solid plan,” she says of the trip, which she decided to take after graduating from Shue Yan University last year.
She had a guidebook to flip through during her flight, which she’d only booked two weeks before setting off – but she soon ditched it in favour of more unique suggestions from hosts and fellow travellers.
Her trick is to start in the capital city of any country she visits; most of the travellers she meets in these cities are on their last stop in the country, so she can ask them all about it.
“I’d just flag [their recommendations] on a map. It’s important to just be sociable and talk to people; even if you have no phone or no guidebook you’d still be able to make a trip,” says the backpacker.
For four months on the road, HakCek only had a backpack. At some stops, she would send clothes she didn’t need any more back home; at others, she bought fabric from local markets and had a tailor make her a one-of-a-kind dress. But she kept one special item with her at all times: her graduation robes.
“It was worn out even before I wore it to my graduation ceremony,” she jokes.
HakCek wore the gown in 13 countries over the four months, sometimes even when hiking. “Some people thought it was a traditional outfit worn in Hong Kong,” she laughs.
HakCek may be outgoing now, but that wasn’t always the case. She was introverted, she admits; her social circle was limited to just her family and boyfriend. “Any problems I had, I’d just ring up my boyfriend; I never thought of dealing with it myself.”
Once in Sri Lanka on a solo trip in 2015, it was late at night and HakCek couldn’t find her hostel. “I just crouched [down] on the street crying. Crying was my solution back then, but now I’d have so many more options, from borrowing a local phone and calling the hostel to simply finding a new [place to stay],” she says.
It may sound clichéd, but travelling has truly helped HakCek grow as a person. She enjoys being able to challenge her own misconceptions about the places she visits. As a sociology graduate, she’s fascinated by different societies and hopes to study them in more depth.
But for now, she blogs to “inspire people to step outside their comfort zone”.
“There are more interesting destinations outside Europe and Japan,” she adds. “How can we not know what countries there are in Asia and call ourselves Asians?”
Find out more about HakCek's adventures on her Facebook page.