In this edition of Celebrity Travel Addicts, we chat with the self-published fiction author Kay Kingsman, who runs the travel blog The Awkward Traveller. We chat with Kay about how traveling didn’t come naturally to her at first, the most bizarre mishap that has happened to her while traveling, her favorite cuisines and restaurants around the world, and much more. Check out her favorite destinations and find out where she’s off to next!
How did your passion for travel get started?
Travel was a learned passion for me. It didn’t come naturally. I NEVER expected to even travel out of the country, let alone visit multiple new countries every year. Traveling was a slow burn for me. It started with me applying for scholarships in both high school and undergrad for exchange programs. Then, when I was working two minimum wage job after graduating with two degrees (#peakmillenial), I saved $100 a month to take my first “adult” trip all by myself to Mexico. Then again to Canada. Then eventually to Japan. And I haven’t stopped since.
What does travel mean to you? Why do you feel it’s important?
Travel is inspiration. It’s excitement at any level of intensity I desire at the moment. Travel is interactive learning, about myself, about other people, and about the world.
I think travel is important because there are a lot of things you just can’t imagine from hearing about it secondhand. Like the northern lights dancing across the sky. Or the shadows snaking down Chichen Itza during the equinox. Or the deafening roar of Iguazu Falls. You need to experience it.
You run a travel blog called The Awkward Traveller. Can you please tell us a bit about it? How did it come about and what makes it unique?
Ahah…ahh yes…funny story. Well, actually, not really. I was in the middle of writing my first novel and I really wanted something overwhelming to distract me. So I started a blog. Ahahha. In a way, no blog is really all that unique, especially a travel blog. They all want to tell the audience something. My hope, however, is that my blog encourages you to see the world with your own silly, awkward, confused, nervous, or hesitant eyes and take that experience to grow and make yourself and the world just the slightest bit better.
On The Awkward Traveller, you’ve shared several stories about scary mishaps, funny moments, and crazy experiences you’ve had while traveling. Which experience would you say was the scariest or most bizarre?
Ahhh…usually anything involving water is the scariest for me, even if I’m never in any REAL or immediate danger. Water just freaks me out hahah. But my most bizarre travel experience would definitely have to be that one time I realized I was boarded on the wrong plane….and then I proceeded to fly to the wrong destination.
In addition to your work as a travel blogger, you work in technology and are a self-published fiction author. They’re all quite different fields from one another. How do the three intersect, if at all? Does your work in one area influence your work the others?
They literally do not intersect at all. In fact, you would think being a blogger and a fiction author might relate a little bit, but they actually negatively impact each other the most. After my 12-hour shift day job, I only have an hour or two before I need to go to bed and get ready for the day all over again. So I have to choose between fiction writing, or blogging. If I’m blogging, then I’m not fiction writing. If I’m fiction writing, I’m not blogging. And most of the time I do neither and play The Sims.
I think the hardest part about balancing priorities that do not intersect is time management. Since I can’t change the hours of my day job, I try to maximize my weekends and dedicate one day to each of my other passions.
In terms of content though, I do think my day job influences my blogging. I did my thesis on using nanotech to improve malaria detection (in tropical regions), so I am always curious about backgroup economic, social, and political histories and climates of the countries I visit. I also think it’s fascinating, as a traveler, how other travelers view a country’s “culture” based on the “technologically integration and implementation” of the community. For example, I’ve heard travelers say countries like the UAE and Singapore “lack culture” (fake news), but Japan, which has just as much visible technology integrated into its cities, is not.
How many days/weeks do you travel in any given year? What types of places do you like to visit?
Err…I mean including weekend trips and whatnot, I probably visit on average 10-15 destinations a year.
What do you want audiences to gain and learn from your work?
I want audiences to find the motivation and passion to make travel work with their lifestyle. Whether someone works a full time job with limited vacation days, or has a chronic illness, or is in school, or has limited funds, I want my audience to feel like they have someone cheering them on and supporting their dreams to see the world.
I also hope that I encourage others to use travel as a catalyst for their own personal growth. I hope they open their minds to other perspectives and decolonize the methods they intake and process history, culture, mindsets around the world.
What are the top three destinations you’ve visited?
This gets harder every year…hm but currently my top three destinations have been Japan, Mexico, and Greenland!
How many countries have you visited so far?
Uhhhhh…honestly, I don’t know hahah. Especially because I always forget which are “recognized” countries and which are territories or whatever. In the grand scheme of things though, not that many.
What are your top 3 favorite cuisines?
HANDS DOWN, my favorite would have to be Chinese, specifically Sichuan. The food in Chengdu, China BLEW MY ENTIRE MIND. I did zero research on where to eat or what the best restaurants were. I just showed up and randomly walked into places. And I had the best food in my life. Which isn’t easy to do. It IS spicy, but I refuse to eat soy sauce that wasn’t hand-churned in Sichuan province. Once you go Sichuan, you don’t go back.
Second, a CLOSE second at that, would have to be Singaporean food. Hot doggg that food is amazing. I especially love that Singaporean is incredibly diverse and such an integral part of the culture of Singapore. I mean…a trip to Singapore truly doesn’t feel complete until you’ve stuffed yourself at a Hawker Center!
Mm, and third I would honestly have to say American cuisine. It’s delicious. And not just burgers and chicken tenders and hot wings, though I would take a bullet for any of them. American food to me is so comforting. It’s the memory of my grandmother making succotash and attempting, in vain, to teach me how to wash collard greens in the sink. American food can be hearty, or light. It can be sweet, sour, savory, and salty. American cuisine is as diverse as the people and communities that make up the country, and that’s pretty boss to me.
What is your favorite restaurant in the world? What dish do you recommend there?
Mmmmm….my favorite restaurant in the world…that’s tough, because…I like A LOT of them haha. Let’s see, I’d have to say any of the Gordon Ramsay restaurants in Las Vegas. There’s like, 5 of them, but that counts right?? STEAK is a fancy dining atmosphere, and honestly, I would recommend balling out a bit and getting the chef’s table. It’s a delight! But if you order a la carte, you neeeed to at least order the beef wellington! Get the scallops at the Pub & Grill, the risotto at Hell’s Kitchen, and at Fish & Chips you gotta try the dirty chips (aka fries!). Okay, now I’m hungry.
What is your favorite travel movie?
Have you ever seen Jammin’ in Jamaica? WATCH IT.
What is your favorite international airport?
I feel like any answer besides the Singapore Changi Airport is wrong.
Which city had the friendliest people?
Hmm, that’s a tough one because I personally do not go out of my way to talk to people. Interactions with strangers generally makes me nervous and uncomfortable, so I don’t always go out of my way to strike up conversations with random locals. Buuut, some of the places that immediately stand out to me as having outwardly friendly people would be Palestine, Cuba, Costa Rica, and Canada. OR – basically any grocery store in the American south. The cashiers will basically adopt as part of the family in the checkout line.
Who is your favorite travel companion?
Oh, hands down, my (very shy) boyfriend! He’s always down for an adventure and usually doesn’t mind going along with my wild itinerary…as long as he gets enough sleep haha.
What is the best way to kill time while traveling?
My favorite way to kill time while traveling is window shopping. I loveee visiting malls and popular shopping streets. It’s fun finding new big brands that aren’t available in your home country and exploring local boutiques as well.
What is the most exotic place your career has taken you?
Mm well, my actual career involves very little travel. But my unpaid “career” has a travel blogger…hasn’t really taken me anywhere. Mostly because I don’t blog to travel – the blogging is an afterthought of my travels.
What is your best bit of travel advice for someone who wants to, or is about to, embark on a life of travel?
My biggest piece of advice would be for them to ask themselves what they want to get out of travel, and plan realistically and accordingly. I think it is extremely easy to see travel bloggers jetting off everywhere and just try to do the same. For one, a lot of them get paid. But also, because travel bloggers all have different travel styles and preferences. Some travel bloggers are extremely adventurous and want to see all the hidden corners of a place, scaling mountains and trudging through marshland to get there. Others are more interested in food and moving at a slower pace. Or using travel to relax. Or self-reflect. Or hook up. Or learn.
There’s literally a thousand ways to travel, and none of them are necessarily “the right way” to travel, so do what is more enjoyable and enriching to you. Once you figure that out, all you have to do…is DO it. Go travel.
What are 4 things you could never travel without?
- Slim Jim’s
- Nintendo Switch
- My ultra-moisturizing night lip mask cuz ya girl gets chapped on vacation
What is your ultimate dream destination?
I really want to go to Space. So, if Elon Musk needs a travel blogger to cover his SpaceX project, tell him I volunteer as tribute.
What is your favorite travel quote?
“My only rule: Never fall in love at the Jersey Shore.”
Where are you headed next?
To Europe! I’ve been to Asia quite a bit the last few years, so I think this year I’m going to explore a few of the other continents. I haven’t spent much time in Europe since my study abroad in France (2012), and then my passport got stolen so I didn’t get to travel outside of the country. Later in the year though, I’m excited to also visit the continents of Africa and South America!
Kay is a travel blogger who is focused on making travel more relatable, inclusive, and accessible to those wanting to travel. Along with hilarious tourist tales and travel guides, her posts offer travel tips for communities who are frequently under-served in the travel community, such as articles focusing on traveling with chronic illnesses, wheelchair users, and those that are hard of sight or hearing. Kay also uplifts local voices in interviews about their culture so that the audience may gain a deeper understanding of the region from a local’s perspective.