Mo riding a bicycle in Okinawa

hey there!

I'm Mo!

I’m so excited that you are here, exploring what is possible for you in solo traveling!

My mission on Travelust 101 is to provide resources, inspiration and everything in between to help you plan and embark on your own solo adventures.  When I first started researching about solo-traveling for my own trip, I remember feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information I had to sort through (what to pack, where to go, how much money to save, etc)! 

Travelust 101 is focused on novice, beginner travelers who can use a bit of guidance, support, and direction with their solo trip planning.  To help you navigate through the enormous amount of information on the web, I am sharing with you a fundamental, yet comprehensive information that I found essential to get you started on your journey.  

Basically, I did all the hard work so that you don’t have to! 

So are you ready to do this thing?   Let’s do it!  

Oh yeah, since you’re here…. let me share with you a bit about me and my journey.

The Beginning of My Travelust

In 2010 my cousin invited me to her wedding in Bali.  I was 32 years-old, the only family member traveling from the US, and had never traveled before on my own.

My family had planned a short 5-day vacation in Bali for the wedding.   But I figured that since I was taking such a big trip across the world, I may as well add on some extra days to see this beautiful island destination.

I spent 5 additional days on Nusa Lembongan (a tiny island off of the eastern coast of Bali), exploring the remote paradise and it was the most exhilarating experience of my life. 

It was during this trip that I tried scuba diving for the first time and saw manta rays cruise over my head.

mantas flying overhead

I mean, can you imagine?  During your first trial dive, this massive 9-foot-wide flying carpet swims over your head?

You can say that I was pretty much hooked after that!

Once I returned home from this amazing experience, planning my vacations around diving became my passion. Over the next few years, I headed to Belize, Puerto Rico and eventually Mexico, which became THE trip that inspired me to quit my job for good.

"THE" Trip That Altered My Life

Mo lying on the beach

It was 2012 and I was in desperate need of a beach get-away.  My 9-5 job had been draining my soul slowly, and I needed to rejuvenate. 

I decided to try solo-traveling again, this time to Mexico to swim with the whale sharks, dive in cenotes, splash around in the ocean then watch the sunset while sipping on a margarita (or two!).  The trip turned out to be everything that I dreamed of and more!

If you have never been to Tulum, it is a paradise out of a postcard. 

Yes, it’s THAT stunning (if you have never been there and are a beach lover, look no further for your next vacation!).  It has the longest stretch of the most pristine, powdery, whitest sand beach I’d ever seen.  Not to mention the clear, turquoise water in multiple shades of blue.   The beach was absolutely breathtaking.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you felt the purest form of euphoria, joy, or elation?  A feeling of, “this is it.  this is what life is about”.   It is the rarest moment, but life altering.

One day, while I was sitting on the beach mesmerized by the stunning horizon in front of me, I was in THE moment.  I said to myself “I want to feel this happy every day.”

It was this moment that I declared I would create a life that I wanted, not a life that was expected of me.  I was done settling for a life that did not fulfill me.

True story: That night, I posted a photo of the beach and posted on Facebook, with a caption “I need this to be my permanent residence.”   If you continue reading below, you will see how this actually became reality (with a slight change in location).   

Be careful what you wish for!

Taking the Leap

After returning from Tulum, I felt inspired to change the course of my life.

I had been surviving in NYC for 12 years on an autopilot and was bored with the routine of work, eat, sleep, and repeat.   I felt like a hamster spinning in the same wheel day in and day out, getting nowhere.  Feelings of joy or happiness were no longer present in my life and I yearned to feel alive!

I wanted to travel the world, discover new places, experience new cultures and feel connected to humanity again.   Since my job only granted 3-weeks of vacation per year, I knew that I would need to quit my job if I wanted to seek such a life-changing experience.

But when I actually faced the reality of leaving a steady paycheck, a 401K plan, a health insurance and a secure future, I felt scared.  It didn’t help that I met resistance from my family and friends who thought I was going through a mid-life crisis. They would ask me things like,

“what are you going to do about your job?”
“what about your future?”
“what about your retirement?”

I’m not going to lie, it was extremely uncomfortable.
I had no plans other than I was going to quit my job and travel.
I questioned whether I was making the “right” choice.
But it was now or never.

So I decided to take a leap of faith and figure out my life along the way.

Once I committed to a new future, I became very diligent about saving money and spent all my free time researching destinations, reading travel magazines and blogs, and planning my exit.

By the end of the year, I submitted my resignation, sold my belongings, bought a one-way ticket to the Philippines and started my backpacking journey in SE Asia.   

ready for solo travel

I chose to stay in SE Asia primarily because I absolutely LOVED everything in this region – the diving was phenomenal, the people were friendly and welcoming, the food…oh don’t get me started on the food! 

SE Asia was also backpacker-friendly with its cheap food and accommodations, ample selection of hostels, accessible public transportation, etc.  My savings allowed me to travel for nearly 10 months in SE Asia.

Towards the end of my trip, I was clear that I was not interested in returning to the US and going back to the 9-5 lifestyle.   After spending 10 eye-opening months of backpacking, I was no longer the person who was willing to settle for what was comfortable.  I was going to live my life on my own terms.

Backpacker Turned Nomad

I had always been a beach lover and said that my dream life would be to “wake up in the morning by the beach and go to work in my bathing suit!” (of course, I never took myself seriously but I secretly wished that I could).

The more I dived and explored the Coral Triangle (if you are not familiar, it is a triangle-shaped region of the Pacific Ocean that is known for the most diverse and healthy coral systems in the world!) the more I felt pulled to the ocean.   I loved everything about diving – the smell of the salty sea, the sound of the crashing waves, the colors and life underwater, soaking in the sun between the dives. 

At that point, it was a natural transition for me to pursue a career in diving.

I spent about 4 months getting trained to become a PADI Divemaster, then a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor.   

Five years later, I have been fortunate to have worked on some of the most beautiful islands in the world.  I am “living the dream,” as some would say.

RIP My First Travel Blog

I was actually keeping a travel blog during my backpacking trip in 2013 through my PADI training in 2014.  I was writing live updates from the road using a platform called Travelpod.  In 2017, Travelpod shut down.   I was able to save all my content, but transferring a year worth of files to WordPress, and make it a functional and attractive website took a lot of time and work.

So….instead of replicating my old blog, I decided to create an entirely new blog with a focus on providing value to YOU, my readers.   

Rather than writing travel diaries (which was what my first blog was), I wanted to write a more reflective, resourceful, and impactful content that will help you with your trip planning.   

I hope you enjoy this site!

Fun Facts about Me

Mo eating a passion fruit at the fruit market in Ubud

♥  I am Japanese-American.   I was born in Japan and raised in the US.  But these days I don’t get recognized as Japanese with my tanned, dark skin color!

♥  I am useless in the morning until I have my dark-roasted coffee with coconut milk…sometimes it requires 2 cups before I am fully functional.

♥  Speaking of coconut I love anything coconut!   Coconut ice cream, coconut oil, coconut shavings, coconut butter, coconut scented moisturizers…edible or not, coconut is simply awesome and one of the reasons I adore SE Asia.

♥  I am a dog lover but allergic to pet hair.  I owned 2 Yorkies in the past – Mason and Darwin – they were the love of my life.

♥  I can really get consumed in great mystery books and crime podcasts.    I majored in Criminal Justice at University of Michigan (Go Blue!), and am still fascinated with topics related to the criminal  justice system (or lack thereof, let’s be honest!)

♥  My favorite food is ice cream (if that counts!).  If it were up to me and not my metabolism, I’d make it my meal 3 times a day.

♥  My parents are professional chefs.   Yup, lucky I am!  They are likely the reason I turned out to be such a foodie.

♥  My favorite underwater creature is the nudibranch!  Oh, they are so fascinating to look at!   Frogfish takes a close second.

♥  There are still many things on my bucket list but my #1 is to swim/dive with the killer whales!

♥  I LOVE roller coasters.  My dream is to one day rent an RV and drive across the US hitting up all the amusement parks in the country!