Ingrid Kirita, a former corporate employee from Bucharest, who has been living in Hong Kong for almost one year, decided to “seize the day” by traveling around the globe. She set up a travel blog
several years ago, IngridZenMoments, and she has been taking avid travelers through this blog ever since, exploring almost all corners of Europe.
Ingrid also studied in Italy, a country that she fell deeply in love with and where she came back many times, before getting passionate about “the crazy mixture” of Hong Kong, where she relocated before the pandemic.
Ingrid plans to move to Seoul early next year, thus strengthening her love for the Asian culture, for the Asian desire for performance, mindfulness, but also for wellness and skincare. Therefore, out of a newly developed passion, she founded Asianskincare, an online shop that aims at bringing “all Asian secrets” to Romania.
Ingrid, tell our readers your story, a little bit of personal and professional info, how did you decide to leave your job and become a travel digital nomad?
In my case it wasn’t as much a decision I took, but more the way things fell into place and lead me to this. I had started my blog a few years back, with the thought of making it my “job” in the back of my mind. Being part of many blogging groups, I knew it was possible, but I couldn’t really focus all my efforts in this direction while I was working full-time and also traveling as much as I could.
When in 2019 my husband got a role in Hong Kong, I knew that was my chance and chose not to look for a job (even though I worked in finance and I was in Asia’s financial hub), but focus all my efforts towards building up the blog. Which I did and I’m still doing, despite the state the travel industry is in currently.
How was the switch from a corporate 9 to 5 job to the one of full-time traveler and blogger? What were the pros and cons that really made an impact?
As I’ve started working exclusively on my own, I thought I would miss the social aspect of a 9 to 5 job, not having anyone to interact with, exchange ideas with, or the possibility to make friends on the job (most of my friends I’ve met during different jobs I had in the past). However, I’ve realized that’s not the only way of finding people, and the online world, especially in the blogging area, can be really fun.
Another expectation was I would have so much more time to do whatever I feel like doing, which is not completely true – I now have days when I work much more than I used to, no matter the day of the week. Even though I was always a hard worker, I started putting a lot more pressure on myself once I made the transition to the blogging world.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have many travel opportunities since Asia closed down at the beginning of 2020 and many countries don’t accept foreigners. But I am surely looking forward for things to change.
You said you are currently an expat in Hong Kong. Why did you choose HK, for how long have you been living here? How’s life here on a regular basis?
As with many things in our lives, we weren’t the ones to choose Hong Kong, but it was more the other way around.
Ever since I met my husband, we both wanted to live the expat life and to spend at least a few months in another country (we both had that experience separately, as I’ve studied in Italy and he lived in Hungary for a period). But this time we were dreaming big: Africa or Asia.
Fast forward to some 7 years later, and he got a job in Hong Kong. It wasn’t a choice, but a fact. So we packed our bags and moved here in the second part of 2019.
We fell in love with the city from the first moment, and I think it has been the perfect choice for us. Hong Kong is an incredible mix of east and west, concrete jungle and lush nature, Asian cuisines, and much more.
Because of the way people reacted to the pandemic and really followed some simple rules, life here hasn’t been as disrupted as it was in other parts of the world. That meant that we got the chance to explore beaches, waterfalls, islands, but also try out a whole lot of restaurants and coffee places. There was never lockdown, just stricter rules people really respected.
You said you had studied in Italy. Please, share with us the experience in Italy, where did you live in Italy, which destinations “settled in your veins”?
My “love affair” with Italy started ever since I was a child and the only foreign TV stations we had were Rai Uno and Canale 5. I was passionate about the language and dreamt to get there someday.
Thus, during my master’s studies I applied for an Erasmus Scholarship in Italy. I had to choose between a university in one of the most southerners towns (Lecce) and one in the very north, steps away from the border with Slovenia – Trieste.
I chose the latter and had the chance to live by a castle, up the hill. I made lots of friends from all over Europe and from there we had so many travel options: Venice is only a few hours away by train, some of the most beautiful mountains in Italy are easily reached, we spent weekends in Slovenia, had parties by the sea, drove around Croatia, and made a ton of memories. It is an experience anyone should have!
Once I came back home, I found a job at a big corporation and went back for a few months to Rome, where I had the chance to explore the central part of Italy as well.
Ever since, I’ve returned to Italy at least once every year and was planning to move there once our Hong Kong adventure ends.
You also told me that you preparing to relocate to South Korea and that there is also a project in store, an online shop with Asian products? Please, tell us more….
Yes! Precisely one year ago, I went for a long weekend trip with a friend in Seoul, South Korea.
And that’s how the passion for skincare in general, and Korean products in particular, started for me. I think any women would be blown away by the thousands of options and knowledge found on this market.
As I came back with my suitcase filled with products I tried, tested, loved and sent to friends back home, I thought I shouldn’t keep this to myself. That’s why, together with a good friend who is a makeup artist and is also passionate about everything skincare and make-up related, we have decided to use the advantage of location and knowledge and open a small online store: Asianskincare.ro
We have started with a small range of products, but are working at bringing much more of the Asian skincare secrets on to the Romanian market, especially once I’ll move there in early January.
How many destinations have you ticked so far? What is your “top ten”?
I’ve been to over 100 destinations and have explored as much as I could. My husband and friends often joke that I’m best at creating the longest “things to do and see” in a place lists and they know there won’t be much relaxation when they travel with me.
Also, I was lucky to always have jobs that would allow and also offer me the chance to travel. For example, I’ve spent a few months in Rome, I’ve traveled back and forth to Munich for some years and thus got the chance to explore a lot of Bavaria.
I love traveling so much and I always try to find good things everywhere I go. This being said, there are of course some destinations that will forever be in my heart and that I would recommend to anyone: Zanzibar and a safari in Tanzania – the place I couldn’t believe I had to leave, Hong Kong – so underrated and a hidden gem especially for people traveling from Romania, the Puglia region in Italy where I would love to go back and spend at least a few months, the romantic road in Germany with its many colorful small towns and castles, the Alsace region in France, but also some of the small villages in Provence.
Your blog is named ingridzenmoments. Is traveling about reaching a certain state of mind, of peace and tranquility? Is travel the new religion in terms of leisure?
For me that holds true. As I was looking for a name for my blog, I wanted something that wouldn’t be so common to the travel area.
I asked myself: “what is travel for me? What does it bring me?” And the answer was zen. Through travel I could not only discover new places and cultures, grow as a person, but I could also find the peace and relaxation I was longing for. Simply by planning a trip or knowing I have something coming up, my state of mind would change and I would find my motivation.
The tourism industry, although on an incredible upward trend in the past year, has been turned upside down since March this year, when the coronavirus pandemic has hit the world. How has that impacted you as a digital nomad, have you been financially affected?
The start of the pandemic coincided somewhat with the beginning of my full-time blogger journey, and I would lie if I would say that it wasn’t hard. However, I’m a very stubborn person and I don’t take rejection or failure easy, and that’s why I continued to work maybe even more than before.
I kept telling myself that the hard work will pay off later on, and at some point started looking at adapting to the current situation. Many bloggers have taken the time to create new websites, online shops, doing something they were maybe scared to do before or didn’t have the time to.
In my case, I don’t think I would have ever considered starting Asianskincare in a different global situation.
Can you give us some forecast for the upcoming year in terms of traveling? How do you think 2021 will look like? Will tourism regain part of its strength? Will people regain courage to travel under the new sanitary safety measures?
With discussions about a vaccine and its deployment somewhat “around the corner”, I think that 2021 will be a better year for travel than 2020 has been.
However, this doesn’t mean the industry will get close to its trend before the pandemic. There will still be many rules and regulations in place, I’m even certain many countries will make it mandatory for tourists to provide a vaccination proof – only by looking at the states in this part of the world and how they have dealt with the situation so far (most of the Asian countries have been closed ever since March or April, and only residents could enter the country).
I really think that the people who will really want to travel, will find ways of doing it. And I also think there are plenty out there looking forward to that moment – in Hong Kong as soon as there were discussions about a travel bubble with Singapore, plane tickets were sold out months in advance.
On the other hand, I think people will continue to look for safer ways of travel, will choose more remote destinations, and will go for natural settings rather than crowded towns.
What are your medium-term plans? What destinations are on your bucket list?
For now, we are preparing for the move to South Korea and I’m very excited to have a whole country to discover. Strangely, even though I absolutely love the mild temperatures in Hong Kong during winter, I miss seeing trees in bloom and autumn foliage – and Korea has lots of that.
Of course, I’m keeping my hopes up that Asia will start opening once the vaccine reaches us, and Japan is top of my bucket list, shortly followed by Taiwan, Northern Vietnam, Bali, and a trip back to Thailand – the last destination visited before the pandemic.