Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler is Kimi Sugiyama of Wandering Souldier. Kimi is a girl with one foot in multiple worlds. She is a Detroit native that has been traveling the world since June 2012 looking for big adventures on a small budget. After quitting her job, she is now the chief comfort zone demolisher at Wandering Souldier, working her way towards a location independent lifestyle, attempting to learn Japanese, and sharing all of her adventures along the way.
1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
Someone who uses their internal compass to wander at their own accord, in an attempt to satiate a relentless curiosity for the inner workings of the world. Based on the textbook definition of a traveler, I would consider myself one simply because a good chunk of my time is spent in transit. Though, more than anything, I feel like a global citizen and observer. Despite any walls of separation such as religious differences or language barriers, my friendships and relationships have formed over shared basic needs and hobbies like food, travel, and best interests for loved ones.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
Oy vey, that’s difficult to pinpoint. The memory that sticks out the most was taking a tour in Istanbul where I got to have dinner with a local family and let loose with all of my questions about life in Turkey. I felt so humbled that these strangers were not only willing to welcome me into their home, but cook a meal and answer my questions too. It ended up being a private tour, and afterwards, my guide, Salih, and I went to a local café to play backgammon. I won 3 times in a row, although I’m still convinced he let me win. We continued our conversation from dinner over apple tea, and before I knew it, it was 11 p.m. and time to bid him adieu. To use a cliché quote here, it’s incredible how the most ordinary experiences become extraordinary simply by doing them with the right people.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
This is going to sound really bizarre considering all of the amazing things there are to experience in the world, but I recently had a long haul from NYC to Shanghai where I slept for 10/14 hours. I started out watching a movie then completely zonked out for 10 hours straight. To me, this is a huge victory because (a) I always have a hard time falling asleep on planes, and (b) the flight was full of Chinese people who are not necessarily known for their orderly and respectful flying etiquette.
4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?
An ATM at a train station in Moscow ate my debit card, and never in my life have I known such horrible anxiety. Russia is the last place on Earth I needed something like that to happen. I managed to flag down an attendant and explain my situation in broken Russian and English to which he simply responded “one minute” and walked away. I was sure he wasn’t coming back, but he did, opened the machine to get the card out, and asked for my passport to verify my identity. After consulting with his boss, he gave them back and motioned me on my way. I had to sit down for a few minutes after that to compose myself.
This particular incident didn’t have any major impact on my overall impression of Russia, but yes, I would go back with friends, a tour group, or to ride the Trans-Siberian across the country. Traveling solo throughout Russia is one hefty challenge I wouldn’t take on again, primarily because of how difficult it is to navigate without a hint of English in major transportation stations. It can feel a bit lonely and isolating at times.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
A deck of cards. They make for a good icebreaker with new friends, and it’s a way to pass the time in transit aka solitaire.
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
Laptop and iphone. I wish I could just leave that extra weight at home, but I admit to feeling distressed when I’m not connected to social media. Recently though, I’ve made a good habit of leaving my electronics back at the hostel and not letting them interfere with my day-to-day activities and interactions.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
People are much kinder and more willing to help than we’re led to believe, and the world is well equipped for travel more so than we give it credit for.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’ve developed an unhealthy fascination for the Asia-Pacific region. I’d love to go live in Japan or Taiwan for a couple of years to learn the respective languages, consume copious amounts of delicious foods, and dig as deep as I can into their cultures.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
This is a difficult question to answer. I’d go everywhere and anywhere, but at the moment, I have my eyes set on North Korea. Just to be able to understand the psychology behind the regime and do an off-camera interview with a defector to try and comprehend what’s really going on inside DPRK borders.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
How strong the addiction is to travel, once you’ve done it. Like a box of Pringles, once you pop, you can’t stop.