Here’s a fun fact: Did you know “Vespa” is the Italian word for “Wasp” ?
Today, I’m happy to share with you a story of one Singaporean’s journey across the globe – on a Vespa.
Here’s a video on her adventure so far…
1) Hey Juvena, share with us who you are and what you’re currently doing right now?
I’m a twenty-nine year old Singaporean, an avid biker and wanderer. On 16th May 2015, I left Singapore on my Vespa scooter to travel world. Twenty-two months, thirteen countries and more than 30,000 kilometres later, I’m still on the road. Right now, I’m taking a hiatus from travelling due to winter. At the same time, I’m also juggling between volunteering in a hostel for free stay and helping at a refugee kitchen.
2) It’s interesting that you chose to travel on your Vespa, how did this idea come about?
I’ve always been a biker first, a traveller second. Naturally, travelling on two wheels is a combination of my two interests. I have a Vespa since I was twenty years old. The idea of travelling was shelved aside as I was caught up in the rat race – working to fund university studies and to pay bills.
3) Why did you choose to embark on this journey and how has it been going for you so far?
A good friend of mine planned to set off on a riding adventure to the border of China. A week before the trip, he passed away in an accident while driving. The brevity and uncertainty of life dawned on me. It got me questioning if I should continue only living a life up to societal expectation or beyond that. Travelling was something I want to do since I was eighteen. I decided to waste no time in turning that into a reality.
From 2008 to 2010, there was another couple from Singapore (Singaporedream) who were travelling around the world on a motorcycle too. They have been a big inspiration.
The world has been great so far. Throughout my travel, many people have shown me generosity and kindness by offering food, opening their homes to me and repairing my scooter. It’s in my times of vulnerability that I rediscovered humanity.
4) What were some of the challenges faced while you were travelling and how did you manage to overcome them?
Challenges usually become the norm and are no longer challenges. Humans being are adaptable. However, one challenge that I still have not gotten used to after two years of travelling is having to saying farewell to new found friends.
5) Share with us some of the greatest life lessons learned while you were on the road.
Learning to let go is one of the toughest and most important lessons. Being overtly attached to expectations and desires make us unhappy and anxious. Being always on the move, I’m constantly learning to recognise and accept the impermanence of situations, relationships and emotions. It may not be so evident when we are settled in one place but impermanence is still prevalent in our daily lives. Nothing is forever, like happy moments and also troubled moments. Travelling has made me a much calmer and rational person in times of adversity.
The luggage I carry during this trip is like a metaphor for the material burdens in our lives. I realised I don’t need many things to survive. The less stuff I carry with me, the less worry I have about keeping them safe or maintaining it. Owning things beyond the necessities are just extra weights to carry and source of anxieties. People tend to associate happiness with the amount of things they own but is that truly the case?
A visit to a secluded village located 1.5 hours trek away from the nearest road redefined poverty. The people here do not have much financially and materialistically. However, the river nearby supplies clean water for our washing, drinking and cooking daily. My host offered me an unripe jackfruit which they just harvested. Their children are healthy because they do not eat junk food and trekked to school half an hour to an hour almost every day.
Their natural surroundings provide well for them as they take care of their environment. A revelation struck me – Poverty is not about the lack of money. It starts when money becomes the only means to get your basic necessities. Probably that’s the reason I see more beggars in cities. The urbanised humans are probably the only species on earth that requires currency to survive.
6) I’m sure safety is a huge concern. How do you ensure the safety of yourself and your friends during these trips?
If you practice common sense, trust your gut instincts and recognise your limitations, usually safety is of lesser concern. Heed the locals’ advice, do as the Romans do. Even so, situations can be uncertain – be it overseas or even at home. Take the examples of terrorist attacks in 2016, it happened in countries you least expected.
7) “Not all who wander are lost”. What you’re doing is very unconventional. How you handle the naysayers and people who try to talk you out of doing what you’re doing?
Naysayers are usually the ones who don’t venture into the unknown and unconventional, imposing their fears and limitations on others. They perceive the world from the comforts of their home and only through media and hearsays. I usually take their advice with a pinch of salt. Their words may stem from their insecurity but they can be well-intended too. I would say listen to yourself and at the same time, respect the elements of travelling.
I do get talked down to because I’m riding a small old scooter and maybe because of my gender. Very often, we are stronger than we think we are. The only limitations are the ones you set on yourself. If you never even try, you’ll never know how much you can achieve. I’m glad that I pay little heed to naysayers. If not, I would have missed out so much on what the world has to offer.
On the contrary, I spoke and met many people who have done trips like this. They’re always very encouraging. So far, I’ve not met anybody who went on an extended travel and regretted it.
8) What advice would you give someone who wants to travel like you do?
I have many people who come to me saying, “I wish I can do what you are doing” or assume that I am very wealthy. I am just a regular middle-class Singaporean.
Turning your dreams of travelling into reality involves action – stop wishing for it and start working for it. It’s not just for travelling but also for other pursuits.
My actions were saving and moonlighting for three and half years, sold things I don’t need and avoiding the life of a consumer. Then, I left the job I had for six years and set off on this trip, only surviving on my savings and donations from followers.
It might sound extreme but I know this is what I want as I recognise that I don’t have infinite time and opportunity on this earth. I’m very fortunate that my parents and I are still healthy and have no liabilities. I want to do this while I can.
You’ll never feel or never be 100% financially, mentally or physically prepared. Even if you feel that you are adequately prepared, you cannot be prepared for the unexpected. The world will surprise you in many ways.
Give yourself a reasonable dateline, prepare the best you can and go. Trust me, you’ll learn and grow so much along the way.
9) What are your travel plans for this year and what do you hope to achieve in 2017?
I hope to explore the rest of Europe in 2017. I have been away for two years and I think it’s also time to head home for some time before resuming the trip again.
10) In your own words, what does it mean to “Love the Life You Live and Live the Life You Love”?
Appreciating and loving the things you have in your life and live a life making the best of it.
Learning to let go, the concept of poverty and handling naysayers are some of the greatest takeaways I’ve learned from Juvena’s adventure on the road.
“The luggage I carry during this trip is like a metaphor for the material burdens in our lives. I realised I don’t need many things to survive. The less stuff I carry with me, the less worry I have about keeping them safe or maintaining it.”
The acceptance of impermanence is a huge lesson all of us can learn as we walk through life and handle all the obstacles and challenges it brings.
“Poverty is not about the lack of money. It starts when money becomes the only means to get your basic necessities.”
Personal development gurus will usually say poverty is a mindset but I like how Juvena puts it because there’s a practical element to it. Differentiating needs from wants is crucial when it comes to tackling poverty. What is it that we really need in order to survive? At what expense does it cost for us to pursue what we want?
Lastly, naysayers. We’ve all experienced them at least once in our lives. You know what you need best and learn to take what these people say with a pinch of salt.
Thanks Juvena for sharing with us your journey and I’m sure this is just a snapshot of what you’ve learned and experienced so far. I wish you all the best for your upcoming travels and continue being the wandering wasp that you are 😉
The Wandering Wasp
A Singaporean world traveller on a Vespa scooter. Free-spirited biker, adventurer, animal lover and yogi. Fuelled by an insatiable curiosity and sudden passing of a friend, Juvena decided to discover the world on her Vespa scooter.
Kilometre by kilometre on two wheels, she has transversed Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Serbia, savouring each country slowly.