Passport Lifestyle: Gaya Rakhim

Passport Lifestyles is a new Travel Palate series on different people whose jobs or pursuits give them the opportunity to travel. If you’re searching around for jobs that involve travel, let these travelers’ paths inspire you! 

This week’s passport lifestyle traveler is Gaya Rakhim, a close school friend of mine. We’ve gone on trips to Westport, Vancouver, Bali, and Japan. Now she is out of the nest traveling the world with her husband! Read on for more about Gaya’s current journey…

Turkish Rugs

What do you do that allows you to travel or live abroad?
I go to grad school in the Netherlands!

Where do you live or mainly travel to?
I live in Maastricht, which lies in the south of Holland. During my breaks and free time, I’ll take advantage of the discounted rail pass deals and check out other places in the country… or Belgium! I really love Liege because it’s like Maastricht’s rebellious cousin—more chaotic, another kind of beauty.
Studying at Maastricht Library

For how long?
I’m here for a year In Maastricht. I’ve learned it’s not uncommon for European master’s degrees to be only a year long. The catch 22 is the acceleration of the program.

What is the best part about your travel lifestyle?
It’s been an action-packed year, and I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity. Maastricht lies at the heart of Western Europe’s convenient commute line. By bus, it’s less than an hour to nearby cities in Belgium and Germany. Luxembourg and France are just a couple of hours by train. Not to mention, if timing is on your side, Ryan Air flights have killer deals. With location, I’m spoiled. The best part… it’s all relatively affordable on my student budget. And that says a lot.

Gluten Free Creme Brulee in Barcelona

What is the negative side about it?
Three things:

1) The beauty of this city, this country, this continent… can get pretty distracting. As tempting as it is to pack a bag and cross borders, my first and foremost priority here is school.
2) Being gluten-intolerant in Europe is a painful first world punishment. And…
3) I’m a newly-wed in a long distance marriage.

These are all things I shouldn’t really complain about though, Alhamdulilah.

Which country is your favorite to visit?
Thailand, no question. I thrive on boat noodles, jungle trekking, exotic fruits, 24 hour smiles, and humidity.

Which country will you never want to go back to?
Dubai. I’ve never been, but I’m adversarial towards the idea of man-made islands and excessively tall and grandeur buildings. Everyone and everything seems so wealthy there, it’s terrifying.

Paris Cat Cafe

Where is your favorite place to stay (hotel/hostel-wise)?
There was a guesthouse I once stayed at in Chiang Mai with my husband. The owners were the epitome of great customer service, a local market was a block away and their lobby’s accents were happy, lazy, roaming cats! Cats everywhere!

Best travel memory?
Swimming under the moonlight in the sea caves of Krabi with bioluminescent plankton. It was really like that one scene out of Life of Pi where he reaches that magic island with all the meerkats…Later I learned that these plankton were basically sea ants that were not shy to biting.

Worst travel memory?
That feeling of having your wallet or camera stolen on public transportation…even worse is the feeling of having it happen twice. I’m preparing myself for the third time by getting a locked fanny pack and arming myself with the mentality of “guard your wealth and property, but not with your heart.”

Turkish Shisha Pipe

What is your favorite travel souvenir?
A shisha pipe my husband and I got from the Istanbul spice market. My mom absolutely hates shisha, and the fact that I plan on putting it on display in my apartment is exhilarating.

How do you typically remember your trips? (souvenirs, drawings, photos, recordings)
Memories are cool and all, but when you can’t even remember what you had for dinner last night, photos are the way to go. I also keep all the maps I acquire when traveling. I just started learning how to use GIS, so maps get me kind of excited.

Holland Shirt at UW Graduation

Any advice for people seeking your type of travel lifestyle?
Be prepared for the iron fists and red tape of bureaucracy. Living abroad is an amazing experience and I highly recommend anyone to jump on any given opportunity to do it, but the paperwork processes of acquiring visas and filling out applications can feel really discouraging. Don’t let it get to you.

Also, money comes and goes. Jobs come and go. Time ruthlessly does not wait. I’ve got decades before I can claim any rights to wisdom, but if you’re given the youth, the health, the support and the opportunity to expand your knowledge or tickle your curiosity, I say—as a reckless twenty something year old—go for it.

Favorite travel quote?
“Same same, but different.” I notice a lot of Southeast Asian cultures say it. I interpret it as an ode to the human experience. We’re all created as mere humans, but as individuals we each have our own unique normative upbringings, values, and insights to share with the world.

All photos and experiences courtesy of Gaya Rakhim.