Lynn Conway was fired by IBM in 1968 as she began her transition (Screenshot: YouTube)
It’s taken 52 years, but IBM has finally issued a full apology for firing the pioneering computer scientist Lynn Conway because she was transgender.
In 1964 Lynn Conway joined IBM Research, where she made major innovations in Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) chip systems. She is credited with several key discoveries that would go on to power smartphones, the internet, and national defence.
Despite her many foundational contributions to computer architecture, she lost it all in 1968 when IBM’s medical director outed her to the CEO, who fired her on the spot.
Conway struggled to support her family as a result, and the situation worsened when California’s Social Services threatened a restraining order if she attempted to see her children post-divorce.
But it wasn’t the end. Conway overcame the adversity IBM threw at her and worked as a computer architect at Memorex Corporation before moving to Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre. In the 70s and 80s she pioneered new VLSI technology that now underpins current microprocessor chip design.
Later in 1985, the University of Michigan hired her as a professor of computer science and electrical engineering and associate dean of its engineering school. She eventually retired in 1998 with the honorary title of professor emerita.
Now an 82-year-old trans activist, Conway has finally got the vindication she deserves after IBM apologised for its actions, having avoided the issue for decades.
“We deeply regret the hardship Lynn encountered,” the business giant told Forbes, admitting full responsibility for Conway’s firing all those years ago.
IMB agreed a formal resolution with Conway, and in early October the company emailed its employees an invitation to attend a virtual event titled “Tech Trailblazer and Transgender Pioneer Lynn Conway in conversation with Diane Gherson”, IBM’s senior vice president of human resources.
The event began with a heartfelt apology for Conway’s mistreatment, in front of 1,200 people.
“Diane delivered the apology with such grace, sincerity, and humility. Lynn was visibly moved,” said Anna Nguyen, a software engineer who attended the session. “I struggled to hold back tears.”
Conway was also awarded the rare IBM Lifetime Achievement Award, given to individuals who have changed the world through technology inventions.
But it pales in comparison to the long-awaited apology, which finally gave Conway closure to an event that shaped her life.
The COVID pandemic’s impact on businesses continues to rage on. The most recent gay casualty is Chicago’s Manhandler Saloon, at 1948 N. Halsted.
Manhandler Saloon first opened its doors in 1980. As its name suggest, it was a place you could in the hope of being manhandled in the back room area! It marked its 40th anniversary in September. However, the COVID pandemic of recent months has taken its toll. Chicago is a city that has seen a resurgence in cases in recent weeks.
2020 has seen a deluge of LGBTQ bars closing across the US. This is partly due to landlords increasing rents or leases expiring, but has also been greatly accelerated by the COVID pandemic. Other sex venues to have closed this year include the legendary Blow Buddies in San Francisco and The Crew Club Sauna – the last remaining bathhouse in Washington DC.
Bars to have closed include The Stud (San Francisco), Parliament House (Orlando), and Flaming Saddles (West Hollywood). Check out a fuller list here.
Newly updated, first North American edition — a paperback original — “Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love” by Naomi Wolf.
From New York Times bestselling author Naomi Wolf, “Outrages” explores the history of state-sponsored censorship and violations of personal freedoms through the inspiring, forgotten history of one writer’s refusal to stay silenced.
I never thought I’d be a professional feminist as a career choice; I certainly didn’t intend to be. Growing up in the Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, at the height of various social justice movements in the 1970s including the fight for LGBTQ rights and the agitation of the “second wave” of feminism, I thought that by the time I was an adult, all of these battles would surely be won.
Sadly they weren’t. When I wrote “The Beauty Myth” at 26, which happened to be published when a new generation was seeking a way out of the torpor and “backlash” of the evil 1980s, I named in the book, and engaged with, what became known as the “Third Wave” of feminism. (Writer Rebecca Walker coined the phrase at the same time).
This led me to an unusual life opportunity: I happened to have a seat as an observer of (and at times a participant in) the drama of Western feminism for the next thirty years.
The headline is that the women’s movement has gotten smarter and better, and that we are in what I’ve called elsewhere, a Renaissance moment for feminism.
This is hard at first, I am sure, to believe since mainstream media, which is still reactionary when it comes to women, rarely documents our vast successes. News outlets still like to feature the battle for women’s rights in a few stereotypical ways. At best a story will run about women’s systematic victimization – which is all too real; but the huge efforts that go into our effectively pushing back — landmark court cases, giant settlements against employers, rapists put in prison, traffickers undone by good legislation, even gradual transfers of larger shares of wealth to women as they open businesses, drive companies’ profits and fight for equal pay – are downplayed or ignored. So women don’t see reflected in the news, many benchmarks of how very effective we are being accruing decades of revolutionary victories.
A reason that we are being so very effective as what is basically the most sweeping revolution in history also has to do with how feminism has grown and gotten smarter since the 1970s.
When I was in my twenties, a painful fact was that feminists of my generation had to start all over again simply explaining (and learning) what equity issues were; simply re-teaching and reiterating what most students who take gender studies today, see as Feminism 101; basic theory. In the 1990s, things were a mess: the first insight of feminism – it’s not my personal problem, it’s systemic, it’s Patriarchy – was hard for many women to achieve, as the analysis had been swept away and they were being told that their problems were personal, not political. The accomplishments and analysis of my mom’s generation, the Second Wave, had been erased in a very short time. This left younger women to grope in the dark, figuring out the basics of body image issues, pay inequity, work/family balance struggles, sexual and domestic violence traumas. But when Third Wave feminism arrived, with books such as Susan Faludi’s Backlash and Rebecca Walker’s collection To be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, younger women joined forces with enthusiasm.
Western feminism at the end of the 20th century, and into the 21st, had flaws. One central flaw was the fact that at first, white women’s issues and issues relating to women of more affluent economic classes, were often seen (or portrayed) as being central. An example of how simply bad a situation this created, from my own experience, is the fact that for a decade, I was invited onto panels – often made up only of white women – that were asked about “the conflict between mothers who worked and mothers who stayed home”, as if that was “feminism” – as if that the biggest problem that women of all backgrounds, faced.
A needed critique from women of color and women across the economic spectrum, forced a welcome upheaval in the form of a call for “intersectionality.” This critique was made easier by the fact that women’s (and later gender) studies programs had been established at many universities, thus giving feminist ideas institutional continuity that had eluded the Second Wave. One hugely positive result of this critique is that the image of the leadership of the women’s movement shifted, and more people became aware that women’s issues were diverse depending on whom you were, and that feminism was global; and that the most exciting advances and most important theory were being spearheaded by women in the Global South, and often presented by leaders of color.
Another problem in the past was divisiveness. During the Second Wave, sexual identity could be a battleground. Earlier feminism could be extremely Puritanical and judgmental about other women’s choices. Straight women such as Betty Friedan criticized lesbians, as in her famous 1969 warning about the “lavender menace.” https://www.thoughtco.com/lavender-menace-feminism-definition-3528970 Some groups, such as Radicalesbians, organized a reaction to this, and developed influential theories of “woman-identified women” that were exciting, but that also seemed to critique straight women for false consciousness. [https://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/wlmpc_wlmms01011/]. Women who identified as bisexual faced criticism too, for “not making up their minds.” This judgmental approach endured into the 1980s and early 1990s. Critique often turned women against each other.
Third Wave feminism was a huge step forward in that this group rejected the rigidity, divisiveness and judgmental tone of our moms’ era, creating a more inclusive discourse that was more open to the fact that women made different life choices and had different political agendas, and that there was space for all.
Fast forward to today. There’s never been a better time to be a young feminist, or a better feminism. The young women I meet today have rejected a lot of stupid binaries that have held people in thrall for the duration of history. They usually aren’t wedded to the idea that there are only two genders; they often celebrate the fact that gender is a spectrum, as they see it, and that it can be chosen. They have the important language and concept that sexuality can be a specific identity and/or it can be what they call “fluid” – a word and acceptance that could have liberated so many people in the past, had it been in usage. They are self-aware about white privilege, very often, and scan their own positions for unintended (or intended) racism or class blindness – a self-awareness that is often mocked by the right wing, but that is so much better than the obtuse omissions caused by the narcissism of privilege that often afflicted my own generation.
Younger feminists today have little fear of power or of making a scene in a good way; they are rarely burdened with spectres of what “nice girls don’t do”; they use social media, take to the streets, start blogs and businesses, out their harassers and rapists, choose their own body positivity, make their own family structures, decide their own fates, form their own alliances. I’ve never met a generation less impressed with others telling them what to do and whom to be. The world they are making for women – however you or they define that word – is going to be a world of radical freedom — if only pandemics and oligarchs don’t stand in their way.
Feminism has grown up, in my view, with this generation; and become as fluid and inclusive and diverse as is the human family.
Dr Naomi Wolf received a D Phil Degree in English Literature from the University of Oxford in 2015. Dr. Wolf taught Victorian Studies as a Visiting Professor at SUNY Stony Brook, received a Barnard College Research Fellowship at the Center for Women and Gender, was recipient of a Rothermere American Institute Research Fellowship for her work on John Addington Symonds at the University of Oxford, and taught English Literature at George Washington University as a visiting lecturer. She’s lectured widely on the themes in Outrages: Sex, Censorship and the Criminalization of Love, presenting lectures on Symonds and the themes in Outrages at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, at Balliol College, Oxford, and to the undergraduates in the English Faculty at the University of Oxford. She lectured about Symonds and Outrages for the first LGBTQ Colloquium at Rhodes House. Dr Wolf was a Rhodes Scholar and a Yale graduate. She’s written eight nonfiction bestsellers, about women’s issues and civil liberties, and is the CEO of DailyClout.io, a news site and legislative database in which actual US state and Federal legislation is shared digitally and read and explained weekly. She holds an honorary doctorate from Sweet Briar College. She and her family live in New York City.
Today marks 15 years since PinkNews founder Benjamin Cohen put the very first rudimentary version of this website live. He’s been reflecting on the past 15 years in this Twitter thread.
Incredibly, it’s 15 years, to the day, since I first started work on @PinkNews. It’s been a labour of love! We will celebrate later in the year, but I wanted to share a few memories about the journey from zero to tens of millions of users plus some of our achievements (1/22) pic.twitter.com/qSL0I3VGFB
I founded @PinkNews because I was unhappy with the way that gay media was run (the term LGBT+ didn’t really exist). Back then all of the media was effectively subsidised by porn and escort ads and news wasn’t well covered at all (2/22) pic.twitter.com/UJPzsraJee
There had been some proper newspapers: the Gay News, Capital Gay and the Pink Paper. But in 2005, just Pink Paper survived but was published monthly as a magazine and didn’t cover enough news and didn’t have a proper website (3/22) pic.twitter.com/utdMoqrgO6
I wanted @PinkNews to be different. No sex ads, constantly updating and with an accessible archive online. I registered the name and put a basic website online in July and formed the company in December of 2005, when we hired our first employee (4/22) pic.twitter.com/VnJ19tOJ8q
Our first foray into politics was a ground-breaking interview with Francis Maude, then Chair of the Conservatives, saying the party’s previous stance was morally wrong. It was the first @PinkNews mention by the BBC (5/22) pic.twitter.com/InZJpGri1z
Beyond politics, @PinkNews was ‘put on the map’ by publishing this story, which would ultimately lead to Ashley Cole reaching a settlement with the News of the World. Incidentally, my co-author and first PN employee @marcshoffman would later become my brother-in-law! (6/22) pic.twitter.com/ZqTx68FPMs
2006 was a special year: @SimonHughes came out as bisexual on @PinkNews and we won plaudits for our coverage of Ruth Kelly being appointed ‘Minister for Gays’, despite always abstaining on equality votes. (7/22) pic.twitter.com/fLJ0hWQkUS
It was also 2006, when we briefly tried and failed to be in print with ‘The PinkNews’. It was also when I was recruited to join @Channel4News as a correspondent and @PinkNews would be a side-project for the next six years. (8/22) pic.twitter.com/Sr4aA3niXl
In 2008, I was in California for the election of @BarackObama and Prop 8, the voter initiative to ban same-sex marriage in the state. When Prop 8 was passed, and I attended vigils, I became convinced that I needed to use @PinkNews to fight for same-sex marriage in the UK (9/22) pic.twitter.com/Y3MhEfDsBo
This interview with the then @stonewalluk CEO Ben Summerskill, convinced us that we would need to use the power of the @PinkNews audience to directly call for marriage equality from our political leaders as Stonewall didn’t look like it would under Ben’s leadership (10/22) pic.twitter.com/sgUMkhQMnO
When my friend @lfeatherstone became Minister for Equalities under @theresa_may in the Home Office, she was able to use these words to @PinkNews to help boost her case for the Coalition backing equal marriage. She documented this in her definitive book ‘Equal Ever After’ (12/22) pic.twitter.com/X8KcYTesje
By the end of last year, we had grown the @PinkNews team hugely, better representing our community in all its diversity. I wrote about what had been achieved 2010-2019 in this post on Medium. (20/22) https://t.co/vowZXDJF7W
This year has been pretty extraordinary. We’re working from home, but still growing. Three new full-time @PinkNews team members have started since March plus contractors & more to come. We’ve gone live with a new iOS entirely developed in lockdown (21/22) https://t.co/wTYX4iPRen
Finally, we have soft-launched @MyPinkNews, where we ask our loyal users to fund our investigative journalism, get special access to features & services. If you value what we’ve done over the past 15 years, now is the time to support @PinkNews (ENDS) https://t.co/7fhsm7G6Cj
A place for discussions for and by cis and trans lesbians, bisexual girls, chicks who like chicks, bi-curious folks, dykes, butches, femmes, girls who kiss girls, birls, bois, aces, LGBT allies, and anyone else interested! Our subreddit is named r/actuallesbians because r/lesbians is not really for or by lesbians–it was meant to be a joke. We’re not a militant or exclusive group, so feel free to join up!
Five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that marriage should be open to all couples, no matter their gender—and one of the strongest arguments in the case was the best interests of children. Yet even five years after marriage equality, we are still struggling towards full equality for our families.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion of Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that won marriage equality nationwide:
Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated to a more difficult and uncertain family life. The marriage laws at issue thus harm and humiliate the children of same-sex couples. This does not mean that the right to marry is less meaningful for those who do not or cannot have children. Precedent protects the right of a married couple not to procreate, so the right to marry cannot be conditioned on the capacity or commitment to procreate.
Marriage equality advocates had worked hard to transform “think of the children” from an argument against marriage for same-sex couples into one for it. Back in 2008, during the Proposition 8 battle in California, marriage equality opponents tried to scare people by saying that marriage equality would require that students learn about homosexuality in schools (as if that were a bad thing). Prop 8 passed, and same-sex couples were blocked from marriage. By 2013, however, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Windsor, the case that tore down part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA): “[DOMA] humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples…. [and] makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” Variations of that argument were then used to win every other federal decision on marriage equality, except for the one in the 6th Circuit, which ruled against marriage equality and thus precipitated its hearing before the Supreme Court in Obergefell.
Most of the plaintiffs in Obergefell were parents (though not lead plaintiff Jim Obergefell), as I detailed here. Additionally, many children of same-sex parents contributed to the Voices of Children amicus (“friend of the court”) brief in Obergefell, organized by Family Equality Council, COLAGE, and Kentucky youth Kinsey Morrison. Many others spoke out in public forums, in their classrooms, or on the playground to stand up for their families. (The most well-known of these is perhaps Zach Wahls, who in 2011 spoke at an Iowa House hearing about a bill to ban marriage for same-sex couples, and is now an Iowa state senator himself.)
Marriage is an important institution for both practical and symbolic reasons, and the impact of Obergefell was positive and resounding. Marital rights and parental rights have a complicated and not coterminous relationship, though, and nonbiological mothers have had to bring lawsuits in many states, even after Obergefell, in order to gain legal rights to their children and be put on their birth certificates. (A short and probably incomplete list: Arkansas and Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Indiana.) And just last week, as I recently wrote, Indiana has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to deny the right of married nonbiological mothers in same-sex couples to be put on their children’s birth certificates without second-parent adoptions, thus denying the children the security of having two legal parents from birth. (The Supreme Court has yet to say whether it will take the case.)
Additionally, the U.S. State Department is continuing to deny some children of married same-sex couples equal rights to citizenship—although a federal court last week said they were wrong to do so in one instance.
Furthermore, marriage is not the solution to all of our inequalities. The Supreme Court ruled last week that people cannot be fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which is another huge milestone; yet the Trump administration has also finalized a rule that says health care anti-discrimination protections don’t cover discrimination based on LGBTQ identities. More and more states and the federal government are permitting religiously based discrimination in adoption and foster care. And transgender people continue to face discrimination in many other areas, including military service.
Many LGBTQ rights organizations are pushing for the passage of the Equality Act, which would offer broad protections to LGBTQ people and our children throughout our daily lives. That seems a good idea, but will likely depend heavily on the results of the November election. Even as we look back with pride on the progress we’ve made over the past five years, then, let us also recommit to the work we still need to be doing.
Hello from Vietnam! It’s been a while since I wrote a personal update, and what better occasion to do exactly that than my first solo trip in two years.
“Two years since my last solo trip, can this really be?”, I thought to myself as I tried to figure out the last time I’d traveled on my own. But yes, the last time I set off on a solo adventure was in February 2017, when I headed to Ecuador, the second-to-last country on the South American continent I wanted to visit (I have only been to Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru and Colombia – but Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname are currently not high on my list – the big one left there is Brazil).
Technically, I set off on a solo trip in September 2017, when I flew from Germany to France to walk the Camino de Santiago, but since I quickly learned on that journey that is actually pretty difficult to get some alone time on this famous pilgrimage across Spain and ended up walking over three weeks of the Camino with someone, I feel like that one doesn’t count. And all the other trips I’ve taken since were with other people. I felt like it another solo trip was long overdue.
So, why Vietnam? Some friends were surprised by the country I chose for my ‘Winter Escape’, but to be honest, Vietnam has been on my travel wish list for a long time. In 2011, when I traveled to Asia for the very first time, I was sure that Vietnam would be part of that trip, but back then, my travels were much more on the fly than they are now. I’d follow the path as it appeared in front of me, without much planning. I lingered in Thailand because it was convenient and easy, I spent more time in Malaysia than I needed to, and before I knew it, I had only three weeks left before I was flying to India for what would be a life changing experience.
Three weeks to squeeze in all of Vietnam, all while working remotely? No way. I didn’t have any interest in rushing through the country, and decided I’d rather leave it for my next trip to Asia, along with the other countries I ran out out of time for (the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia). And then, upon returning to Asia three years later, life happened once again, leading me to different places I had anticipated, ticking off only one of the countries on my list (the Philippines).
In the fall of 2016, I planned to return to Asia for the winter, and this time I would start in Vietnam. Yet again, however, destiny had other plans for me, this time in the form of US Immigration, informing me that my final visa interview and Green Card decision would happen in early January in Germany, and not in April or May, as they had previously indicated. Once again, I had to scrap my plans to finally visit Vietnam. And that’s why, when I made the decision to take a big trip this winter, I didn’t have to think about my destination for too long. I would finally visit Vietnam!
Hitting The Reset Button On Life
So how does it feel to be on the road again by myself? The last time I traveled to South East Asia by myself was in 2015, exactly four years ago. I had gotten over a bad breakup not long before that trip, I was happily in love, and I wanted to escape the New York winter. Not much about my situation has changed, I guess, only that I haven’t had to get over any heartaches recently.
The big difference between my last solo trips and this one: I am not nomadic anymore. I packed stuff I thought I’d need for the duration of the trip, and that’s it. For all my precious solo trips, I was carrying everything I owned on my back, in a giant 65-liter backpack.To commemorate the start of this new era of my travel life I decided to treat myself to a new backpack and retire the one I’d used ever since I took up the vagabond life in 2010. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I still can’t pack light – I tried hard to go for a 40-liter pack that I’d be able to carry on in airplanes, but I was quick to admit to myself that this just wouldn’t happen. (This is the backpack I eventually opted for – and so far, I am loving it).
As I prepared for this trip, I realized how much I needed it. I was hemming and hawing over going at all, now that I am more settled in New York and have a home, I find it harder to leave for long trips. There were also worries about money (I never had to pay rent before for a place I wasn’t using while I was on the road, and I’d already paid rent for two months while I was traveling in November and in December/January – a lot of rent for a place to sit empty) and taking too much time off, but then I remembered that I used to be location independent and that I’m still lucky enough to be able to make money while I’m traveling. So I finally clicked the ‘book’ button after having hovered over it for too long. And of course I am glad I did!
This wasn’t just about a ‘winter escape’ though – and the ever-present urge to explore a new country – it was just as much about hitting the ‘Reset’ button and getting away from my busy New York schedule where I rarely get the chance to spend time with myself, to think about what’s happening in my life, about relationships and successes and failures of the past year, and to simply be. After traveling without much of a schedule for the better part of the last decade, I am still surprised how quickly I adapted to city life again, booked up weeks in advance. I felt the same urge to hit ‘pause’ on my busy life when I left to walk the Camino de Santiago in 2017 – and that was after only having been in New York for three months. You can imagine how much I was craving a slower pace now, after having been in New York for a while (even though, admittedly, I hadn’t spent much time there since last October.)
Until 2015, I had never traveled alone. I was already in my thirties when I set off on my first solo adventure, always thinking that I was a person who needed someone to travel with. Well, as it turned out, I did not need anyone to enjoy myself. I treasure my alone time, being able to do exactly what I want, when I want, what to eat, when to eat, when to sight see, what to see, when to have a lazy day, when to socialize. I don’t mind eating by myself, I enjoy my own company, and these days I never even get the chance to feel lonely because I am always connected. I usually wake up to a number of Whatsup notifications, which I sometimes even find overwhelming. But I also have yet to go on a solo trip and not make new friends along the way.
Speaking of family and friends afar: Feeling so connected to people all over the world is definitely something that I didn’t experience on my first trip to Asia in 2011, which happened before Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram and all the other ways we have these days to stay connected with our loved ones back home. Back then, people had to wait for me to post a photo on Facebook to see where I was. I had to wait for an email from them to see how they were doing.
These days, I turn on the camera on my phone and take them on a tour of the beach I’m lazing on, while chatting on a chat app. The first time I went to Asia, I didn’t even have a phone (although admittedly, my iPodTouch was pretty much like a smartphone, just without the call function) and had to find a decent enough WiFi connection to make a Skype call back home. These days, the WiFi is so good that it even reached from a restaurant all the way out into the ocean, where I was chatting with someone back in New York while enjoying a relaxed morning as she was getting ready for bed. Oh, the joys of modern technology. While I appreciate many aspects of it, part of me wishes I wouldn’t just be able to pull up GoogleMaps on my phone to look up directions, to just get lost, to randomly stumble on a remote beach instead of just following travel guides that tell much which beaches are the prettiest.
South East Asia Is Changing
Not just the way most of us travel has changed – Asia has also changed. Remote beaches aren’t all that remote anymore, since roads have been paved and more tourists are coming, particularly noteworthy: Chinese tourists. Making beaches more accessible of course also means more crowds, and in places where you would have not found much beyond a few palm trees six to ten years ago, there are now makeshift restaurants and beach chairs. The roaring sound of jet skis breaks into the calming repetitive sound of the clashing waves.
But it is not just off-the-beaten-path islands that now have been discovered by mass tourism: Life in general is changing here, too. The last time I was in Asia, the people you’d see with a smartphone in their hand were usually tourists, but now it seems like everyone has a smartphone, from the fishermen I see in the ports to the children I see play video games on their phones in small villages.
And then there are the cities – Saigon for example, where more and more of the old French-colonial buildings are being torn down to make room for new shiny skyscrapers which spring up like mushrooms everywhere. Most places I’ve visited on this trip feel like giant construction sites, with jackhammers and stone saws and creating a steady background soundtrack from early morning till long after the sun sets.It’s not just Asia who has evolved: So have I. The bright-eyed backpacker who looked at everything in awe when she first came to Asia almost eight years ago – that’s not me anymore. And not only have I turned into a seasoned traveler, I also have a bigger budget now. The $10 room off of Bangkok’s Kao San Road I stayed in during my first Asia stint resembled the room Richard (Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Beach) was staying in when he arrived in Bangkok, more than I am willing to admit. But back then, I was traveling on a tiny budget, following the South East Asia On A Shoestring guidebook religiously, trying to make my money last as long as possible. Did I have less of a great time back then? Certainly not! But I wouldn’t put myself in a room like that anymore only to save a few dollars.
That said, I still consider myself a frugal traveler, and see it as a waste of money to spend tons of cash on a place for just me. When I am traveling with someone – different story. Especially when traveling with a partner, I want it to feel special. And no question: I do appreciate being able to afford the occasional splurge, and I know that it’ll be a completely different feel to sail through Halong Bay (one of the places I’m most excited to visit) on a luxury boat rather than a backpacker barge filled with roaches and mice. I guess I am now what they call a flashpacker, even though I dislike this term.
Getting My Travel Mojo Back
One thing that hasn’t changed is my ability to quickly fall back into a traveler’s life, a life on the road as I lived it for so many years. I fall back into the routine of unpacking my backpack when I arrive in a new place (read: I turn my room into a huge mess in two minutes), laying down on the bed and researching vegetarian restaurants and the best coffee shops in town. Then I head out for a first exploration of the town I am in and plan how many days I want to spend there and how I want to spend them. A few days later, I move on to the next place, rinse, repeat.
Even though I have almost two months to explore this country, which is longer than most people have, I have to admit that I am feeling a bit rushed. Having an end date looming over my trip is something that I am still not used to, and traveling at a rather rapid pace is something I find hard to adjust to. It has happened a few times on this trip already that I found myself in places where I wished I had more time, but had already booked a hotel in the next city, eager to see as much of Vietnam as possible.When I arrived in New York at the end of 2017 after an exhausting year of travel, all I wanted was to take a break from being on the road, and not travel anywhere. Well, I am glad I gave myself this break because leading up to the trip, I could feel my excitement grow each day, consulting my guidebook every night before I went to bed to figure out which places in this huge country I wanted to see, and to map out a route.
I remember that during the last few months of my nomadic life trip planning had started to feel like a chore, and I dreaded the long hours of researching places to stay, things I wanted to see, and finding good food options. When I began to prepare my Vietnam trip, everything got me more stoked for the journey: picking out a new backpack, buying a new bathing suit, making sure all my gear was still in good shape, trying to decide which clothes and tech to bring.
And then, finally arriving in Vietnam, a country I’ve wanted to visit for so many years, felt like a dream come true, as corny as this might sound. I don’t take it for granted that I am able to go travel for such a long time – especially now after meeting so many people in New York who have a very limited amount of vacation days – and in the case of Vietnam, which I’ve been wanting to explore for such a long time, I feel even more grateful that my lifestyle allows me to do this.Expect more Vietnam articles shortly – in the meantime, you can follow my journey on Instagram.