Photo: Eli Solidum

For Travel Influencer Eli Solidum, Seeing the World Is Like Piecing Together a Limitless Puzzle

by Matador Creators Mar 22, 2023

Twenty-eight-year-old Eli Solidum’s years-long quest to see the world began the way many travel stories begin for young travelers. He graduated from university without having a job lined up and decided to embark on a different kind of adventure. Unlike most post-grad travelers, however, Solidum never stopped.

Seven years, five continents, and some 70 countries later, travel has become the Philippines-born influencer’s job, with his passion for photography serving as a vehicle to share his adventures with the public. Solidum blogs and posts Instagram photos under the name The Partying Traveler, sharing both his social and solo moments abroad.

Matador caught up with Solidum via email to learn more about his trajectory as a full-time traveler, gain insight into his perspective as an eco-minded explorer, and mine his experience for tips and tricks that might benefit other travelers.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Matador Network: What’s your favorite trip that you’ve taken so far, and what made it special?


Photo: Eli Solidum

Eli Solidum: That’s very tough to say, as each trip is so unique and has always left me with so many unforgettable memories and lessons to look back on. If I had to choose, I’d have to go with the time that I overlanded South America for a year, traveling from Colombia down to Argentina just by buses or hitchhiking. South America, in general, remains my favorite continent for long-term backpacking trips.

The vibe is just different than anywhere else I’ve been. It’s a huge continent, which typically attracts longer-term travelers. You end up running into the same people over and over again and naturally become close with them, especially those doing a similar trip as you. It led to some of my best friendships and memories, like hitchhiking across the Ecuador-Peru border in a converted World War II army vehicle with an eccentric old man from Alaska.

And, of course, the natural beauty just goes without saying. As an avid hiker, the Andes — specifically the Cordillera Huayhuash and Cordillera Blanca of Peru and the Cordillera Real of Bolivia — are among my favorite mountain ranges in the world. There are vast deserts, beautiful beaches with amazing surf, rainbow mountains, valleys of towering palm trees, and, of course, the Amazon Rainforest. It’s just an unbelievably beautiful continent with so much to do.

I tried so many new things in South America, learning a lot about myself and pushing myself to so many limits that I didn’t know I could handle. Weeks spent in the mountainous Andean wilderness, camping in the jungle with crocodiles sleeping on our shores, just pure adventure and incredible bonds with the people you share them with.

What’s the one thing you never leave home without?

I can’t think of an honest answer that makes me seem mysterious or artsy. Really just my phone; it does everything. Netflix, reading, TikTok, chess, maps, texting, communicating, taking photos — a one-stop shop.

How do you pick the places that you want to travel to next?

There’s no method to the madness. Sometimes I’ll see a place while scrolling through social media and become hyper-fixated on going there by any means necessary. Other times, I’ll look at a map, see I’m a two-hour bus ride away from Slovenia, and end up there the next day on a whim. I basically pick a few destinations I want to visit in a year and then fill in the rest.

It’s almost like a puzzle where I start with a few things I know I want to do. For example, I’ve got my Philippines and Pakistan group trips from May to July, and I knew I really wanted to focus on the Middle East and Central Asia this year. I start with a few pieces. Morocco at the start of the year, maybe Kyrgyzstan after my Pakistan trips are done, and then just freestyle from there.

Being a full-time nomad, it just really depends on where my body, mind, and bank account are at. I often have to take a gamble when I know I need a change. For example, when I wrapped up my trip in Morocco after six weeks because I was feeling quite lonely and craved a more social atmosphere and livelier nightlife scene, I took the ferry over to Spain, which was exactly what I was craving. Perhaps, too much of it.

Two weeks later, my bank account is telling me it’s about time to head somewhere where hostel dorms are cheaper than $50 a night. Egypt has been a dream destination of mine ever since I grew up on its mythology as a kid, and a quick look at hostels tells me that I can get a private room for $15 a night, so that’s where I’m headed in two weeks. Just slowly putting together the puzzle pieces. Anything goes.

Is there a destination that you’ve found is wildly underrated? What makes it great?


Photo: Eli Solidum

Pakistan. It’s just one of those places where I feel at home and feel like I have a family there. For me, the way I feel in a country is often much more important than what I do, and going back to Pakistan every year with a new group of travelers always feels like a homecoming. It’s a country that can seem so overwhelming and chaotic at first, but the people are so friendly and welcoming. They do everything they can to make sure that you leave the country having only positive things to say, and year after year, I only always have positive things to say.

On top of that, Pakistan is just breathtakingly beautiful. Its landscapes are rugged, raw, and untamed. It truly feels like it’s just you and nature when you’re out trekking in those remote, unforgiving landscapes. It’s a rewarding thrill for those willing to venture out of their comfort zones. Every year, I stay with a family on their apricot farm in a small village nestled in the Karakoram Mountain Range, and multiple times a year, I have to convince myself not to drop my entire life to move in with them. Hiking during the days, volunteering at the schools from time to time, and then coming home to some homemade yak stew… I don’t think it’ll ever get old.

Where have you always wanted to go but haven’t made it to yet? Why?

If there’s a reason I haven’t made it somewhere yet, it’s probably because of money, if I’m being honest. Traveling full-time while not having the desire to also work full-time kind of means I have to make some sacrifices on the budget side of things.

If I had unlimited money, then I would immediately go to Iceland, Australia, and most of the African continent. My dream adventure is to buy a Jeep or a bakkie (a small van or truck) in South Africa and just do a loop around the continent. I’d head up along the east coast up to Egypt and then back down along the west coast. I was absolutely dead set on this and still have a huge Google doc from back in 2019 when I was in South Africa planning the entire route — pitches to potential sponsors, potential road trip buddies, and so on.

Logistically, I’m pretty sure it’s impossible with all of the post-pandemic restrictions and political complexities, but maybe someday. For now, I’m more than happy to settle for road-tripping Iceland or Australia, with countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar being high on the to-do list for Africa.

Where’s your next trip and what are you most excited to experience?

I’m constantly on the road, so I’ve got quite a few destinations coming up, but I’ve decided to go all-out on the adventure for this year. After two more weeks of taking it easy in Europe, I’ll be off to Egypt and Jordan for the first time. Afterwards, I’m off to the Philippines to host my first group trip in my home country, then hightailing it to Pakistan to guide back-to-back group expeditions in the mountainous north of the country. Will I have anything left in the tank after then? Hopefully, because from Pakistan, I’ll head to Uzbekistan, followed by a two-week trekking trip in Tajikistan, before closing things out in Kyrgyzstan. After that, who knows? I promised a friend I’d surprise her in Kenya for her birthday in October, so that might be another puzzle piece.

I’m mostly excited to dive into these countries with relatively little idea of what to expect. Aside from the Philippines and Pakistan, it will be my first time in all of those countries. I know so little about Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, and I’m going into Egypt and Jordan with a focus on exploring destinations outside of their world wonders. Not knowing what to expect, rolling with the punches, and leaping out of the comfort zone are my favorite types of adventures.

How does your love of photography inform where you travel? And what’s your go-to camera to bring on trips?


Photo: Eli Solidum

Photography doesn’t really dictate where I decide to travel. I think every place has a unique beauty of its own, and photography is more of a result of hoping to capture that unique beauty however you can. I don’t think I’ve ever chosen a destination simply because I wanted to take some photos. I’ve been to many popular Instagram spots and have often found myself disappointed, so I just do my thing, have fun, and take photos if an opportunity comes up.

One example is the popular photo spot known as the Gates of Heaven in Bali. A photographer holds up a mirror under you to create the reflection effect, yet there was a massive line of tourists waiting for that same exact inauthentic and curated photo. In the meantime, there was a religious procession going on at the same temple. It was so fascinating and so beautiful, with dancers and throngs of worshippers, and most people didn’t even bat an eye as they waited in line for their “acoustic photoshop” Insta pic.

Those were some of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. I shot them with my trusty (but now mostly broken) Nikon D5600. I still carry it around, but I can’t adjust the settings because the touchscreen is broken, and I can’t even see the photos until I plug the memory card into the computer. It’s been like that for over two years now, and ya know, I don’t think my career has really taken a plunge from moving to my iPhone. I shoot mostly with an iPhone 14 Pro now, but I mostly shot with an iPhone even when I had the iPhone 4, which are the photos that made me Instagram famous in the first place.

Any tips for eco-minded travelers like yourself who want to see the world as sustainably as possible?

This is my biggest dilemma about travel. I try to travel overland or by sea unless absolutely necessary. I’ll usually only take a flight if I’m switching continents entirely, but after that, I’ll take buses, trains, ferries, hitchhike, or however else I can get from Point A to Point B. I’ve traveled the entirety of South America just by overlanding, same with mainland Southeast Asia. My friends took the 45-minute flight from Vientiane, Laos, to Hanoi, Vietnam. I spent 38 hours on a bus. I watched them check out of our hostel in Hanoi by the time I rolled the shell of my body into the hostel lobby.

It sounds like a nightmare, but I promise there are a lot of perks to it. It’s often cheaper, which is great if you’re traveling on a budget and want to stretch out your money. I find that slow travel where you live like a local is often much more sustainable, from taking public transportation, cooking your own meals, and minimizing flights to embedding yourself in a community long enough to see how climate change and other issues impact the world.

It’s hard, though. Ignorance is bliss, but traveling makes you see the big picture. It often feels very hopeless, and it’s difficult not to be cynical about the environment sometimes. I just remind myself that the little things might not seem to add up, but eventually, when everyone collectively starts adopting those practices, they do — things like avoiding single-use plastics, picking up trash on a hike or beach walk, taking public transport when possible, and so on.

What recommendations do you have for travelers who might be headed to your hometown of Ibajay, Philippines, or the Philippines at large?

Photo: Eli Solidum

Ibajay itself is very unknown with not too much to do aside from our weeklong Ati-Ati Festival every January. However, we are close to perhaps the Philippines’ most famous beach, Boracay. They recently built an airport across from Boracay Island, but before that, every traveler flying in would have to pass by my little home town and right past my Lola’s (grandma’s) house where we have the only 7-Eleven in town. I remember spending a month in Ibajay right before I visited Bali, and my first impressions upon landing in Bali were that my island had everything that Bali has, minus the marketing. We’ve got waterfalls, beautiful beaches, long stretches of beautiful rice fields, and if you know where to find it, great food.

Ibajay, and many other towns in the Philippines, are far from tourist destinations. You won’t find anything on Google Maps or travel blogs, but ask a local and they’ll take you into the middle of an overgrown jungle in their flip-flops to a magnificent waterfall and a pristine turquoise swimming pool. I’d hop into my cousin’s tuk-tuk and cruise the rice fields, dive into beaches with no one around, find hidden waterfalls, and hike up beautiful mountains.

For the Philippines as a whole, outside of the main tourist spots like Boracay and Palawan, it’s very similar. There are hidden gems everywhere, but few travelers really know where to look, or to even start looking in the first place. It lacks the sexiness and convenience that places like Bali and Thailand may have, but for those up for a little extra adventure, the Philippines is unbeatable.

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