Disillusioned from their daily routine, partners Yang (pronounced young) and Alyssa picked up and left their North American lives behind to see what things would be like living in life for a year outside of their comfort zones. Alyssa was working in retail, but was also pursuing finding work as an artist. Yang was a full-time writer for Sharp magazine. They had no plan, no expectations, but they knew they needed a change and a chance to see the world.
Although many of us want to take the risk, so few of us listen to our gut and get to explore much outside of our home and native land. Even when we do leave for a vacation, we often do not trek out of the concessions of an all inclusive resort, with unlimited alcohol, and Americanized food choices. Alyssa and Yang lived like the locals, experienced traveling through Asia first-hand through Singapore, Maldives, Bali, Hong Kong, and More all while chronicling what they saw, what they ate, and what they wore on their popular blog 2packs.
Tell me about what you are doing now?
For the last eight months, we have been trekking across Southeast Asia and working on our blog, 2.Packs. 2. Packs is a fashion- and travel-focused Instagram and blog, though to be honest it’s mostly been a photo log lately as we have been a bit lazy in our written updates! Yang is a writer and I am a visual artist, so traveling has never interfered with our work. Yang has written travel pieces for the likes of SHARP, S/Style & Fashion and FLARE, which have taken us everywhere from the Maldives to Myanmar. While Yang has been writing, I’ve worked on a new series of collages, painted murals for local businesses and even had a show on Singapore’s Orchard Road.
After spending one too many winters in the cold and misery of the 6ix, we decided to call it quits and break up with our parkas. Beyond the appeal of warmer weather, though, we were anxious to explore a new part of the world, experience different cultures and, of course, eat tons of incredible food.
How did you get started?
Once we decided to leave our apartment, job, bills, and friends behind for a year, we had a long discussion about where we should head and which places we wanted to see the most. We have both spent significant amounts of time in Europe and the Americas, so Asia seemed like a natural choice. Yang has extended family in Singapore, so it was a good jumping off point. I have to say, cutting back and saving money before our trip was not our strong suit, but we did buckle down as much as we could.
What keeps you going? How do you stay motivated?
Staying motivated hasn’t been too difficult—we want to keep traveling, so it’s pushed us both to work hard to earn enough for flights, accommodations and food. We’ve kept a checklist of all the places we want to see during this year abroad, and it feels amazing every time we’re able to cross another one off.
3 things that someone who wants to be a successful artist/writer should keep at top of mind:
1. Determine what you need to achieve to be proud of yourself or feel fulfilled
2. Figure out how to accomplish those goals
3. Never lose sight of those ambitions or take the easy way out
What were you doing before?
Before our trip Yang was the fashion editor of SHARP Magazine in Toronto, and I was a fine art student at OCAD.
What are some struggles that made it difficult to get from that to this?
Having to say goodbye to all of our friends and family for a full year was difficult on both of us.
For Yang, committing to career in a freelance writing was difficult, because it meant having to leave behind the security of a full-time job.
For me, leaving school for a year was a little easier, but working as an artist and actually having to make money off my trade for the first time ever was very, very scary. Putting myself out there and getting people to notice my work was hard. But being trusted with commissioned work and having to show my portfolio to new people forced me to do my very best work. In the end, I think I really came out on top, with a new style and confidence in my art and myself.
Tell us a point in your life when you didn’t ever think you would make it
We had a difficult moment in Singapore a few months into our trip. Yang hadn’t sold an article in a while, and a few galleries had just rejected my art. We were broke as ever, in a foreign country, and it was a struggle to keep our confidence up and continue working with so much uncertainty.
Who told you no?
A lot of people in our lines of work will tell us no. Whether it’s a magazine that doesn’t want to buy a story Yang really cares about, or a friend or gallery who just doesn’t see anything special in my work, art and journalism are difficult markets!
What was your turn-around point?
Getting a positive reaction to something we’ve created always gives us a boost. And when a magazine buys one of Yang’s stories, or someone purchases one of my paintings, it sends us over the moon and gives us something of a runner’s high.
Did you always have a dream to become what you are now?
To us, we are living the dream. This is exactly what we wanted, so yes, we did. There are places we still want to go with our careers, but we are so very happy with where we are right now. Travel writing has taken us to so many interesting places and opens so many doors. And for me, creating art is what I’m most passionate about, and I can do it anywhere on Earth, so our jobs are linked in a perfect way right now.
What inspired you to start on this journey?
What inspired us was actually what we found so uninspiring about life before we left. We’d leave the house every morning on a grey day with no sun, and come home after the sun was down. The misery of the daily grind was what really got us. We both love traveling, and I think after we realized how unhappy we really were, it was such a natural choice to leave and start something we were passionate about. With 2.Packs, in particular, we also wanted to prove to people that you don’t need to dress like a backpacker when you are traveling.
What was your yes supply moment?
Basically every day before we left for the trip was our yes supply moment. Struggling to save up, leave our apartment, jobs, school, and family. It was really hard to commit to just taking everything you have and uprooting yourself. There were people close to us saying, “Don’t leave your job, don’t leave school, just continue on this path and everything will be easy.” But hands down this has been the best decision we have ever made, and I am still proud of us for following through on it.
To see more of 2packs, visit their blog at www.2packs.com / images sourced from 2packs.com