Rocio is a Mexican-American freelance editor (The Daegu Compass) and writer (Sounds&Colours, Groove Magazine, and [b]racket magazine), currently living in South Korea by way of Chicago. She was raised in Mexico and moved to the US at age 11. Growing up in Mexico she always dreamed of traveling and living a full life. She’s a driven, ambitious, goal-oriented, curious and free-spirited person. She has realized that a rich existence entails exposing herself to different countries, cultures, and people from diverse backgrounds while pursuing her creative aspirations. Rocio founded This is Rocio, a digital space where she writes about the Latinx experience, travel, lifestyle, and interviews fellow creatives. Her blog aims to provide thoughtful, insightful commentary on US Latinx culture and to inspire others to embrace deep traveling, cultural exploration and personal fulfillment. She’s also self-published a book about the life of her grandfather – her idol, role model, and inspiration. He inspired her to pursue her dreams and live her own life. Now, she applies this inquisitive and observant life outlook to traveling.
Let’s hear what Rocio has to say about life, travel, and authentic travels.
What’s your concept of life? Do you have a life motto? How do you integrate it into your present life?
I have a lot of life concepts. Live truthfully and courageously. Constantly challenge yourself. Nourish your mind and body. Self-care is king. Write it down. Make lists. Use it or lose it. Keep learning. Always look for inspiration. Death is the only guarantee – use it as fuel. The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our life. Take action in spite of fear. Don’t compare your insides to others’ outsides. Easy choices, hard life. Hard choices, easy life. The stories we tell ourselves shape us. Design the life you want to live. Let yourself feel it all. Say no often. Relentlessly guard your time. Make time for daydreaming. Work smart, not hard.
I am all of these concepts, not just one. Practicing our values isn’t as easy as professing them. Constant reminding of my beliefs through quotes, daily affirmations, and journaling help a lot. Also, it helps to reflect and ponder my actions and decisions, always checking in with myself to see where I’m at and how I’m feeling.
When did you begin traveling or start traveling seriously? Is traveling a constant part of your life?
There have been periods of extended travels and other times where my traveling looks more like holidays. My international travel began when I moved from Mexico to Chicago and all the trips back and forth marked my childhood and adolescence. We would take buses from Chicago to Mexico or drive (about a three-day journey) with my nuclear family. We returned to Mexico because it was home, because it was near and because it was familiar. If one is uprooted and the possibility to revisit home is available, one will make the pilgrimage. These trips showed me the relentlessness with which time passes. Each year we returned, things in my village were different – kids growing up, technological advances, etc. – and I was also different. I was acculturating to American culture and it became ever more difficult to relate to the friends I had left behind and so on. These trips showed me that the notion of ‘home’ transcended a physical space to become feelings, emotions, people, and experiences. My home was no longer Mexico or even Chicago but a quilt of the experiences I had in both of these places along with my family.
In university, where I studied Business Administration and Economics, I spent a semester in Italy and traveled through parts of Europe including Spain, the Netherlands, and France. This time cemented what I already knew: that I wanted to travel and explore for extended periods of time. Upon graduation, I went on a three months trip through the US West coast and for the past two years I’ve lived in Korea, I’ve visited Taiwan, China, and Japan, as well as gone to Chicago twice.
It’s safe to say that traveling will be a lifelong pursuit of mine.
Why are you traveling? What does traveling bring to your life?
For me, traveling is a bit like tough love and it enables personal growth. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies but it usually has our best interests in mind. It’s sometimes painful, uncomfortable and humbling. It can be challenging, exhausting, frustrating, rewarding, exhilarating. This past summer, after two wonderful weeks exploring China, my holiday ended on a very sour note: a 12-hour flight delay in Hong Kong due to a cyclone, which resulted in getting stranded in Jeju Korean island, where I was forced to purchase an entirely, very expensive new flight, book a hotel for the night (the airport shut down at 11 pm), miss work and not get paid the following day. I arrived to my home city a full 24 hours later than intended and was responsible for the costs, all because of adverse weather conditions. This was by far the worst traveling experience I’ve ever had and had the potential to ruin my entire trip. It surely felt as such while I was experiencing it but these things happen and we learn to adapt to them, to accept them, and to affect us less. If anything it makes me appreciate my time in China even more, and now I have a crazy travel story to tell.
Traveling shows us that we are not, in fact, the center of the universe. It lets us laugh at our own self-importance and self-obsessions. Traveling widens our horizons while facilitating connections with kindred spirits. I travel to discover new places, experience different outlooks and ways of living, and all this absorbing and processing triggers learning about myself – about who I am, what I want, what I like, etc. Traveling is an external but also internal process.
Did you travel when you were a child with your parents? Did you like it? Has this affected you somehow?
I didn’t go on vacations trips per se as I grew up in a very humble household in rural Mexico and my family couldn’t afford to travel for leisure. But I frequently went to a nearby city called Torreon to visit doctors, as I was a sickly child. These trips don’t sound fun at all and they kind of weren’t but it did expose me to a city setting, which provided great contrast to the tiny village I lived in – with a population of about 100 people. Looking back, I cherish these excursions because they instilled a curiosity for movement and exploration.
How do you feel when you’re traveling? What’s different when you are traveling than when you’re staying at home?
Traveling makes me feel lighter, freer, more confident and liberated. Something clicks in my brain about the fact that I have nothing to lose given that I may never again see the people I’m around or even visit the place I find myself in. The combination of these make me feel less inhibited than my usual nature and thus I’m bolder and riskier. I’m in my element while traveling. There is something powerful about traveling that allows interactions to be a blank canvas of sorts. The people we meet have no preconceived notions or expectations of us and so we can be whoever we want to be, hopefully, a genuine and authentic version of ourselves emerges that we can carry over to our normal lives at home.
By the contrary, where I am living in Korea, my daily routine consists of going to work, from 8-4pm. I teach until lunchtime then have the afternoons open to write. In the evenings, I usually write some more, exercise, cook and unwind. I like to meet up at cafes with friends a couple times during the week. The weekends are spontaneous and don’t follow any structure.
Where have you been traveling in the world so far?
I grew up in Mexico and then moved to the US. When I studied abroad in Italy, I visited Spain, the Netherlands, and France. During University, I also visited Canada and Costa Rica. During my office working life, I went to see my best friend in Bermuda. And since living in South Korea, I’ve visited Taiwan, China, and Japan.
What’s your traveling style or your traveling pace? How often do you travel and for how long?
I prefer backpacking slowly to soak up whatever I choose to do or see. If I have an office job that only allows 2-week holidays, then that’s what I’ll work with. But I rather travel for at least a month to truly get a feel for a place and establish connections with locals. I was able to do this after studying abroad when I spent a month in Spain.
Which places do you choose to go? How do you select the destinations?
This depends on many factors. For example, where I’m living in Korea at the moment, I travel to what countries are nearby, what kind of job I have, how much money I can spend, if I have friends that live in certain cities, if travelers have recommended certain locales and so on. I’ve gone to Taiwan, China, and Japan while living in Korea because they are the nearest countries and it made sense for me to visit these now since I will explore SE Asia when my contract is over.
It really all boils down to geography and finance e.g. logic. If I live in Korea, why would I go to Colombia when the long-haul flight will be expensive and lengthy? This kind of hopping around continents type of travel isn’t for me. If I’m living in a region, as is the case currently with South Korea, I’ll travel to nearby countries (unless I’m visiting family in the US), hence my upcoming travels to SE Asia. Besides, I’d like to live in South America next year. If this pans out, I’ll travel in the region because I’m already there and this pertains to long-term backpacking travel. If I’m doing more a holiday kind of trip or if I’m specifically visiting a friend, then these parameters don’t apply.
What’s the difference between ‘authentic travels’ and ‘simple travels’ in your opinion?
For me, authentic travels mean backpacking with minimal planning while simple travels mean planned vacations dictated by time constraints. Minimal planning and flexibility lead to surrendering to uncertainty and embracing whatever is meant to unfold. I try to really let my travels happen rather than try to control for everything which usually only leads to disappointment. An important note is that this is aspirational, my travels don’t always involve me embracing challenging situations. It’s more like I resist it, freak out, freak out some more, go into problem-solving, start to feel calm about the circumstance, feel proud it’s getting sorted out and later on, when I have perspective, I can appreciate it. That’s why I consider that it’s important to travel in your own, authentic way, to learn something.
Do you travel in your own authentic way or not at this moment?
The good news is that I’m about to travel in my own, authentic way soon. I’m going on a six-month solo backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, starting at the end of February. I’ve wanted to do this ever since studying abroad in University but I needed to fund these travels first, hence moving to Korea to work as a teacher and save up to travel after. It’s thrilling to finally make this goal happen after so many years of wanting to but it’s possible if you really want to.
Do you give up your dreams of traveling in a certain way for the sake of something or somebody else?
Not at all, I never give up my dreams of traveling for the sake of something or somebody. If anything, I’m designing my life to accommodate lifelong travel. Also, if traveling with others, it’s crucial to find people with the same or complementary travel style. I’ve learned that traveling compatibility is crucial otherwise you’ll find yourself compromising, settling and feeling frustrated often.
For instance, during my trip to China, my friend had never really gone backpacking and she was behaving more as if we were on holiday – sleeping in late, splurging on meals, etc. – while I was on backpacking mode. Had we both talked about how we wanted to travel prior to our trip, things could have been clearer. Our trip was wonderful but there was initial surprise on both parts because we didn’t know what the other person was trying to get out of our trip.
Personally, I’ve learned that solo travel is my favorite way to do extended travels. I’ve learned this through many trials and errors. It’s okay to travel and have bad or not-so-great experiences – be open and receptive and whatever you do, don’t let one ‘bad’ experience taint your idea of traveling.
Are you planning to travel the same way from now on or you want to change something? You wish you’d travel in a different way?
As with anything in life, I believe my traveling style will surely evolve as I evolve. Currently, I love budget backpacking and slow travel. I think I’ll always enjoy slow travel because of my curious and free-spirited personality. However, I can’t say I’ll want to stay in a hostel full of young 20-somethings in my mid or late 30s. I’ll simply be in a different stage of life where Airbnb’s and hotel stays will be more appealing and maybe I’ll focus more on slow travel than backpacking. Travel is something I’ll always do but I believe budget travel is best enjoyed while we’re young and don’t have too many responsibilities and obligations.
I’m also open each trip I go on to change my mind, incorporate things I learn or do away with things that no longer serve me. Also, I don’t have absolutes about travel. For instance, I don’t love resort vacations but my family enjoys them. If they invite me to go on one, of course, I’ll join and have a good time despite not doing it ‘my way’.
What plans do you have in the future?
I will be backpacking Southeast Asia for six months or so. I’m starting off in The Philippines where I’ll spend a month and a half. Then, I’ll hit up Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia. I want to plan minimally and really go with the flow which means I may not visit all of these places, though.
After my SEA travels, I’ll return to Chicago to spend time with family and friends for a few months. I’ll do some domestic US travel as I have friends in California and New York. I’d like to spend a month or so in each place. I’m also planning to visit my village in Mexico in December 2019 since it’s been five years that I went.
Further ahead, I want to live in South America – perhaps Colombia or Chile – for about six months, then travel around the region for another six months. In essence, I’m going to focus on backpack style travel for the rest of my 20s and focus on my writing career and settled life at 30 and beyond.
This is what Rocio has to say for us about her traveling style. Let’s wish her all the best for their upcoming trip and follow her on the This is Rocio. Good luck Rocio.