Vivian Lee, otherwise known as Miss Happy Feet, is a twenty three year old medical student who manages to work as both a freelance writer and magazine columnist in her free time. As if that weren’t remarkable enough, she also calls the middle of Earth’s largest country her home: Volgograd, Russia. “But exactly one year from now,” she shares, “I’ll be back in my beloved Penang, Malaysia.”
Vivian has been traveling her entire life, taking her first trip abroad at the ripe age of six years old. It was then that she traveled to Bali, Indonesia with a corporate trip by her dad’s company.
She may be young in age, but she’s many years older than I or you in wisdom. Listen to her words. Let them resonate. Heed her advice – and go for it!
MM: Where is your favorite destination?
VL: This is a tough one. I’ll have to say Turkey.
MM: What place is on top of your bucket list?
VL: It used to be America, but since I’ve been there last year, I guess the next destination moves up to the top, that is, Lake Baikal.
MM: Who is your favorite travel companion? What makes him/her so great?
VL: My favorite companion is my boyfriend. He is caring, very tolerable and understanding. Due to my lack of ability to recognize streets, he will be the GPS every time we travel.
MM: What is your favorite destination? What makes it special to you?
VL: Turkey definitely. Due to a series of positive events: The locals are really friendly towards us foreigners. When I was in Turkey, the locals were really chatty, offering us free teas, free desserts, free upgrades, free X-rated advices (which is kinda awkward but it was really funny!) and so on. Then I asked them to take my photo, they don’t just boringly do what I asked them to do, they taught me cool poses, commented on shutter speed and exposure, complimented on my dress and so on. When we were walking on the street, locals would slow down their vehicles asking us if we need a ride. I even received flower from a random person. Although I love Americans too, they are really lovely people, Turkish Hospitality is hard to surpass.
MM: What destination would you recommend for other females to visit? Sell it to us!
VL: Although I think Turkey is the best destination for female travelers, I need to sell Penang to all of you. Okay, I admit that I might be in some way bias towards my hometown but I am sure, you would love Penang too! Firstly, it is a gastronomic heaven. I remember Penang being featured in various major media for being the 2nd best city in the world to retire in, the best gastronomic destination and ranked 4th in Lonely Planet’s best cities to visit. There are some good reasons behind all these: food, culture, heritage….. Penang is a big melting pot for various cultures, and it shows up in our cuisine. If you were in Penang, do not miss slurping assam laksa in Air Itam, treating yourself to a Penang Street Cendol and waiting in a line for Lorong Selamat Char Koey Teow… the list can go on for 3 hours. But in short, come and experience it yourself.
MM: Sold! When can I come?!
MM: What advice would you like to share with other female travelers? It can be your own advice, something someone else has shared with you, or a quote which speaks to you.
VL: I am a nobody to give advices. Perhaps I will tell you about someone that really inspires me and I hope her story inspires you as well. Jodi Ettenberg from Legal Nomads is someone I really look up to. She is a former lawyer currently eating and blogging her way around the world. The main reason I like her the most is, she engages with her readers and inspires/ encourage them. Almost a year ago I commented on one of her Instagram photos about how empowering is the story of her quitting a stable high-paid job to see the world and eventually came out with a brilliant food and travel business idea. To my surprise, I got a personal reply from her minutes later encouraging me to pursue my own dreams. Although I won’t give up on medicine, I heeded her advice and start to re-cultivate my long lost passion in writing. Here I would like to extend this advice to all, that is : Stay true to yourself and never be afraid to pursue your own dreams.
MM: What destination is on your radar? What about it attracts you?
VL: For now I really want to see Iceland. I am a nature person and the landscapes in Iceland fascinate me.
MM: Have you travelled alone? If so, how did you find the experience? What were the highs or the lows? Anything you would recommend for others looking to travel alone for the first time?
VL: Yes, I’ve traveled alone to Dubai, UK, Ireland and a part of USA.
I think despite what others may think, solo traveling is not as intimidating as it seems to female travelers. Although you have to understand that you gotta have good common sense to keep out of troubles. My first solo backpacking trip was in Dubai. Although it did not turn out too well, where I was proposed to and it was quite a scary experience to me, I still loved the experience and celebrate my “Growth” in traveling.
During my first trip, I learnt how to handle situations like above and how to manage the stress of traveling alone. During my 2nd trip to the UK, I discovered something really astonishing about myself: All these years I’ve labelled myself as a city person, but I discovered that I actually prefer pristine nature over skyscrapers. The 3rd trip was overwhelming as it was my first big trip across 15 states in the USA within 50 days. I guess this trip served to be the turning point in my life. I remember sitting on the empty pavement in Athens, Georgia at midnight waiting for my bus to Atlanta while casually chatting with a 20-something ex-prisoner. Who would have thought that he would inspire me to start writing and hence the launch of my travel blog in September 2015? I learnt that everyone can be your teacher no matter how impossible it seems to be. Never judge.
For those who are looking forward to their first solo trip, I’d recommend them to start small. Wet your feet with a 2 days getaway, perhaps somewhere nearby. Get a hang of it before you start planning longer trips: 10 days, then move up to 1 month…etc.
MM: What type of traveler are you? Budget? Luxury? Adventurous?
VL: I guess a combination of budget and adventurous best describe my traveling style. However, I am going into a bit of “luxury” this coming summer in Europe. I am thinking of taking my mum along sometime so I am testing out things to do.
MM: Any thoughts about relationships and travel? Relationships can mean with friends, family, romantic – anything!
VL: I think traveling is a double-edged-sword. It can either tighten ties or entirely break them. There is a Chinese saying that goes like this “It’s easier to meet than to get along” (does it make sense to you?) I mean in everyday life we meet our friends, chill out together, having good times but we never really see how are they acting back home. Well, unless he/she is your roommate!
When you travel together, its a whole new different story. Imperfections start to surface. Sometimes its overwhelming, that is why we see a lot of friendship ruined after a long trip. However, if you think of it maturely, it actually depends on how is your attitude towards those revelations. We all have to know (and I believe most adults knew it too well) that nothing in this world is perfect. Everyone have their flaws and so do you yourself. Toleration is the key.
MM: :What is your most memorable travel moment?
VL: Encountering a bear in Kaibab National Forest and went totally paranoid about seeing bears every single second in Yosemite.
MM: Anything else you’d like to share?
VL: I am a person of few words. In order to get me talking, I need questions so probably not. Thank you for the interview, I am truly honored.
Vivian, thank you so much for delighting us with this interview. Your words may be few but they are powerful. Best of luck on future travels – and we can’t wait to learn of your summer trip with Mum in tow!