US traveller gets candid about backpacking: 'I've slept on top of a live volcano'
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Travel is in Pamdiana Jones’s blood. Her British grandparents lived in Egypt for 10 years in the 1930s and her mother travelled to Africa in the 1970s, so it was only a matter of time before she followed in their travelling footsteps.
The Laguna Beach backpacker is the author of When in ROAM: A Comedy Travel Adventure Memoir. In the book, she details her backpacking adventures in South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia and other smaller islands.
Her journey began in the mid-1990s, when she and her friend travelled to Cape Town in South Africa.
Unfortunately, her friend had to cut the trip short, leaving her to travel solo for the rest of it.
On her flight back home, she spontaneously deplaned in Malaysia and ventured into the unknown.
The solo traveller explored Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. She later worked in Australia and New Zealand for three years.
“Many people thought I was rich because I was travelling, but in reality, I spent way less than I did at home. I did not have any car or household expenses.
“Instead, I slept in a car and camped, I met new friends and crashed on their couches. I ate rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I washed my clothes by hand in the sink. Many meals and rides were gifted along the way by the kindness of strangers.”
Jones says much of what makes her backpacking jaunts memorable is the people.
“Meet the locals. They are proud of their culture. You’ll get to try new foods, experience ceremonies, wear new styles of clothing and more,” she says.
Of course, for the avid traveller, each place is magical in its own way. As she journeyed from country to country, Jones also found some unusual sleeping spots along the way.
“I’ve slept on top of a live volcano that killed 50 people weeks earlier, stayed in people’s homes and checked into expensive resorts. I am fond of accommodation that combines the cultural style of where I am with the nice touches.”
Jones says her backpacking trips brought many challenges.
“I did feel like I was in danger many times. I had to learn that my safety is important and that I should not compromise to save a few bucks.”
Before having children, Jones travelled spontaneously, but she now ensures she plans at least the first few nights to familiarise herself with the destination.
She usually packs light, only adding a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, a dress, a bathing suit, a pair of flip flops, a towel and hiking boots to her backpack.
As for future trips, she wants to explore the Middle East, Europe, Morocco, Turkey and Greece, among others. Whether she does it solo or takes the family, well, that’s yet to be decided.
Read the latest edition of IOL Travel digital magazine here.