“Travelling the world with very little money, but with a lot of heart.” These are the words that sprawl across the homepage of Krysten Kaladkarin, the blog of 21-year-old Filipina solo traveller Krysten Boado.
Now on her 11th month on the road, Krysten has been travelling across several countries around the world. She lives off a humble salary that comes from her freelance writing and photography gigs. “I’m a full-time traveller,” she quips, adding that getting to say this makes her ecstatic. “(People think) it’s not possible to just go around the world and live off a backpack. It is!”
To prove this, here’s a glimpse into Krysten’s life: she hitchhikes her way to all her destinations. (Fun fact: she’s hitchhiked a boat in Myanmar). If there’s no one to give her a ride, she walks her way through. (Another fun fact: she’s walked 73 kilometres in one trip). She spends her nights in the homes of locals she meets along the way. If she can’t find a place to stay, she camps out in the wild. She’s also worked odd jobs in hostels and hotels in exchange for accommodation.
As of writing, Krysten is in an airport in China, where she spent the night to charge her gadgets. Packing her bags to hitchhike her way to Zhangjiajie, she tells us, “I’m about to do the longest border cross of my life soon.” She has plans to go to Kyrgyzstan in the near future, entailing a trip of at least 4,000 kilometres. “After Kyrgyzstan, I want to travel around the Stan countries. Let’s just say everything works out, I’ll finally get to Europe.”
Starting her journey
Fresh out of college, Krysten wanted to search for what life can offer her. She declined a job offer and skipped the opportunity to take up law. “Both opportunities just didn’t feel right. I was looking for something more,” she says matter-of-factly.
Krysten graduated from the College of Mass Communication in the University of the Philippines Diliman. She believes her education plays a significant role in the way she travels today. “I’ve always been taught back in college to step down the ivory tower, which is why I view this travel experience as more than just a leisurely trip.”
Right after graduation, Krysten planned to go on a month-long travel in Cambodia and Vietnam. Alas, a month later, she found herself heading to Thailand instead of flying back to the Philippines.
Outside of university, Krysten still brings her background in journalism wherever she goes. More than sightseeing, Krysten educates herself on the struggles of people from the different countries she visits. “We normally don’t see (this) in travel guides, travel blogs or travel videos.”
Added to this, Krysten shares that her status as a traveller from a third world country has affected her travel style too. But, she tells us that this struggle has helped her gain perspective.
“I’ve harnessed this minority status,” she explains. “Coming from a third world country makes you realise that this lifestyle is a privilege. Most things in life are.”
Falling in love
There’s a popular saying about the greatness of love and how it can conquer all your fears. Being a solo female traveller, Krysten has lots of reasons to be afraid.
“It’s true that the world is so much easier for men,” she shares. “I realised that we need to all work together to level the same sense of security for women.” Krysten isn’t a stranger to the fear of sexual predators. In fact, she gets paranoid when she hears noises outside her tent at night. She’s gotten hit on during her trips. She wears a wedding ring and sometimes pretends to be pregnant to turn people off.
“I’ve encountered a lot of women who want to do the same trip (I do),” Krysten confides. “They don’t have the guts to do so because they don’t think it’s safe. They worry about the dangers of men. It’s very alarming. It makes me very angry at the same time. Women have always, always had it worse. We need to act on it not just for us but for the generations to come.”
Surprisingly, travelling has restored Krysten’s faith in humanity. She admits that she’s still a work in progress in fully trusting the world. But, many men she’s encountered during her trips have helped her see the inherent good in people. With this, Krysten shares what ultimately made her fall in love with travelling.
“A country can be beautiful and (accessible), but if the people are cold and unwilling to share their culture, then there is no happiness in being in that country. The highlights of my trips do not involve the sights, the occasional tours or even the food. It’s always with the people — everyone who has welcomed me in their homes, hearts and hitchhikes.”
Like many travellers, Krysten ended up travelling because she was searching for a home in other places. Instead, she realised that it was okay not to belong anywhere. “That could also mean belonging everywhere.”
Having a home anywhere in the world, Krysten has become more confident to live her life. “Everything I ever need is in my 20-kilogram backpack,” she tells us. “All I need is a roof above my head, a good and nourishing meal, and my two feet to walk the rest of the world.”
This doesn’t mean Krysten has forgotten about her family back in the Philippines. She knows her family worries about her a lot, especially because she’s made it a habit to put her fate in the hands of strangers as she hitchhikes and spends her nights over at different homes.
“They still want me to come home,” Krysten says, sharing that her parents are slowly learning to accept that this is the life that makes their daughter happy. ”I don’t expect them to accept this lifestyle completely right away. After all, it’s too much to take in, even for me sometimes. I hope one day, they will.”
“To travel is to live,” Hans Christian Andersen once said, and Krysten’s story is a hard evidence to this. Asked how travelling changed her, Krysten tells us: “From wanting to end my life to actually living every day as if it were my last — that’s the biggest change.”
Before finding travelling, Krysten was battling with clinical depression. “It’s the first time that I saw myself growing old and getting past 25. This is the first time I’ve envisioned myself with kids and telling all these crazy adventures to my grandchildren.”
Across the screen, I hear Krysten give a long sigh of relief. “(This is) the first time I actually want to keep living. And I think that’s very nice. I think, in a way, I’ve already achieved that peace and contentment I was looking for.”
Furthermore, Krysten tells us the many forms of her healing, all of which, she found through travelling. “I no longer take meds. When I have those negative thoughts, I hike up a mountain to clear my head. I listen to the song of the sea outside my tent. I think about all the families and lives that I’ve touched on this trip and all the lives who have touched me. I think about tomorrow’s sunrise and today’s sunset. And I live another day.”
Many of us have travel goals, but for a girl who has already travelled so much, Krysten still has a big travel goal for herself. “I want to hitchhike half of the world! I want to do a complete overland path from Asia to Europe and then continue my journey to Africa. I’ve been obsessing about it in the past weeks and I really, really believe I can do it.”
She knows that there may be bumps along her journey, what with the struggles Filipinos face in securing visas. “There are no guarantees, but for now, I really wish I could do it!”
And for those who want to follow her path? Krysten has a few more words to say:
“You need to have a strong heart and you need to believe that people are good and people will help. What you see in my photos seem to be all happy, but there are a lot of hard times coming your way. Your tent will take in some rain. You won’t get picked up in the night. You’ll have a couple of run-ins with authorities. You’ll encounter impolite drivers and possible thieves. You’ll have days where you’ll break down and want to just quit on your journey. But don’t. Don’t book that flight and return home if you know you’re happier on the road. Trust in yourself. Trust in the universe. Everything works out in the end. And if you have a dream, hold on and do everything you can to fulfill that dream.”