living the drea

Andrea Wangsanata in Praia da Nazaré, Portugal

photo: Instagram/wangsanata

"I met a lady who once told me, 'You'll second-guess and regret a lot of things in life, but the one thing you'll never regret is traveling,'" Andrea Wangsanata told me over Facebook messenger, once she was able to get Wi-Fi in the middle of Myanmar.

Andrea is actually a friend of mine who I met a few years ago at a networking event for women — back when she still worked her full-time job at a digital agency in New York.

"I loved my previous job, but it could be a grind," she said. So in March of 2015, after a couple of crazy months at work, Andrea quit her job, got on a plane, and hasn't looked back.

Traveling can be expensive, which is why Andrea decided to move back in with her parents for a while to save before her adventure began.

Parque Nacional de Tayrona, Colombia

"I was lucky to have grown up in Queens, which was about a 40-60 minute commute to my office," she said. "I saved about $22,000 for my travels."

Parklife Hostel, Popayan, Colombia

When she first set out, she had a plan, but it quickly changed — which she said is common (and great) when traveling.

Cañon de Chicamocha, Colombia

"Plans are always in flux, which is the best part about long-term traveling."

Essaouira, Morocco 

"You can hear about a place from another fellow traveler, or meet some locals who want to show you something that you would have never otherwise heard about."

Barcelona, Spain

"I originally set out to do 10 months to a year of travel, but now I'm about to hit month 15."

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany

Of course, money only lasts so long. "I was relying on my savings, but I'm at a point where I'm starting to look for freelance work because my funds are running low."

Hamburg, Germany

Andrea's been making her savings last by using websites like Workaway and HelpX, where you can exchange labor for room and board.

Krakow, Poland

"You may not make money that way, but you can get free room and board, AND/OR free food! #winning"

Carpe Diem Island, Hvar, Croatia

And stranger danger? Not for Andrea, who finds it easier to trust people abroad than in the US.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

"I've found that people throughout the rest of the world are much more giving and much more communal," she said.

Kotor, Montenegro

"Locals have often paid for my drinks and meals, even if I'm from the 'richer' country because as a visitor, they feel as though they're a representative of their country and want to show me the best time."

Budapest, Hungary

"I've also been invited to stay at people's homes after meeting them for only a few hours, which I've gladly accepted!"

Jerusalem, Israel

Andrea also uses CouchSurfing to live like a local. "But people should NOT treat it as free lodging because it's really a cultural exchange."

Petra, Jordan

"The traveler gets to share their stories, and the host gets to show off their city — it's a mutually beneficial relationship."

Pinhão, Portugal

"If you can't find a local, try to still eat and drink like one," Andrea said. "Drink local beers/alcohol, and eat at little mom-and-pop shops."

Quilotoa, Ecuador

"Or, shop at local markets. I used to be able to by a huge chunk of tuna from a fisherman for less than $2, which fed me for two days! You'll be supporting the local economy as well :)"

Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos

And go off the beaten track, Andrea said. "There are certain hot spots people want to scratch off their lists, which I understand. But those places will still be there."

Cañon del Colca, Peru

"Go to lesser-known places where there are fewer tourists and selfie sticks, and less chances of feeling like a walking dollar sign."

La Paz, Bolivia

"For instance, Patagonia is breathtaking, but Laguna 69 and the Santa Cruz trek in Huraz, Peru are a fraction of the cost and equally as stunning."

Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

"And while Rio de Janeiro is — well, RIO DE JANEIRO... there are so many other beautiful cities, especially in the northeast of Brazil."

Patagonia, Argentina

You'll still find incredible beaches and the same, warm people, she said.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Andrea doesn't have a single regret when it comes to traveling, "but if I had to do it again, I'd do certain places a LOT slower," she said.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"Traveling slowly allows you to really take in a place, and learn about the local customs and cultures."

Mandalay Hill, Myanmar

Andrea's not worried about what she'll do when she gets back to the US. "You can always get a new job," she said, "but you can't get a new life."

Old Bagan, Myanmar

Follow Andrea as she continues her adventure!

She's on Instagram as @wangsanata, and is documenting her travels on her blog, #LivingtheDrea.