I’m Karina. Happiness Engineer & World Explorer (75 countries so far!). Also a bubbly, compassionate, driven, honest, dancing, singing health nut. Originally from California, I studied Psychology at Harvard, then worked for a few years at Inflection as their Happiness Engineer before embarking in October 2015 to explore the world!

Why did I travel around the world solo? 

Exponential growth is one of the most crucial elements to being alive for me. I’m an information sponge, always seeking to grow and become a better version of myself. August 2014, I asked myself, “Karina, if you’re being completely honest with yourself, are you doing the most you can with your life? Are you growing enough? If this were your last day on Earth, would you be content with what you’ve done? With who you are?” My brutally honest answer was “No”. Even though I really enjoyed my life as my Startup’s “Happiness Engineer” and could make my colleagues’ day-to-day lives more comfortable, I knew I could be making a greater impact in the world. Somehow. I decided I had to change my life to shift my answers to “Yes”.

Travel was my answer. I’d always wanted to travel for a year. My parents had ingrained in us that it wasn’t material goods, but experiences, that were most important in life. Thus, starting at a very early age, my brother and I were exposed to a large array of countries to widen our perspectives and increase our appreciation for other cultures. My parents taught me to be frugal, and I started saving for my future at 8 years old. I studied abroad for 6 months in London my Junior Spring in college, and had the best time of my life. From then on, the travel bug stuck. I knew that I would have to set a date for my year-long travels, otherwise it would never happen. I could always procrastinate traveling, saying that I’d do it in the future, but the future would never come. The older I became, the more responsibilities I’d have, and the harder it would be to disentangle myself from my cushy life here. However, I knew I couldn’t live my life with any regrets or “what ifs”. As a woman, I never thought I could travel for a year, let alone travel solo, with only a backpack, but I wouldn’t let fear stop me. For me, if I’m scared of something, I’m going in the right direction for maximum growth. Thus, I decided in August 2014 that in a year I’d start traveling, take the terrifying leap from my comfortable life in San Francisco, and plunge into the unknown. I’d leap off the precipice to discover how I could make the greatest impact in the world, become my best self and ultimately be satisfied with my life at the end of the day.

In October 2015, I packed a 30 lb backpack with clothes to last me for a week. I chose to follow the sun to guide my travels (i.e. traveling wherever it would be summer cuz I’m a Cali girl ;)). I stayed mostly in Hostels and Airbnbs, and luckily got to crash on some friend’s couches along the way to save some cash. Overall, I spent <$23,000 USD for 18 months (<$16,000/year!), and that included all of my food, travel, accommodation, excursion expenses, everything. I had initially budgeted $20,000 for a year, with an extra $10,000 buffer for emergency purposes. I was actually shocked that I spent less in a 1 1/2 years of travel than I had in ONE year of rent in SF (even back in 2015!). So backpacking CAN be affordable and doable if you travel smartly, buying plane tickets in advance, staying in hostels or airbnbs, cooking your own food, etc. It is one of the most incredible experiences I have EVER done, meeting people from all walks of life, and creating bonds that will last a lifetime.

I grew and learned more than I could have ever imagined in that 1 1/2 years backpacking solo around the world, and thus am creating Safe & Solo to help empower as many women as possible to travel anywhere by themselves or with others and chase their own dreams!

Where in the world is Karina?

Home in California! From Oct ’15 – May ’17, I visited 30 countries & 65 cities in Southeast Asia, South America, Beijing working with Jackie Chan, Europe, the US, Mexico and South Africa. I trained in December 2016 in Muay Thai for a month in Thailand, and in February ’17 completed a 3-day full-force self defense course with IMPACT Bay Area that was a complete game-changer (see more below)! Since then I’ve published my first poetry book, “Loving Yourself Into Being” about self-love and compassion, and will be working on another soon (about my travels)! You can check out more of my poems at & follow my adventures on Instagram @karayhsieh #worldHSIEHcation


Why focus on Safety & Self Defense?

I’ve had some close calls in my past, but I attribute my confidence, self defense training and luck to my fortunately unharmed time abroad. Even though there were times that I felt very vulnerable traveling solo, especially when I was walking with all of my belongings on my back from the airport to my hostel, I projected confidence and a “don’t mess with me” attitude which protected me. Assailants are targeting the weakest victim so if you carry yourself with confidence, even if it’s just a front, they’ll most likely move onto a different person. As you garner experiences traveling solo, that adds to your confidences, and over time, the confidence that you initially might have had to fake will become real. But there is a difference between being self confident and cocky. You should always be smart while traveling, exercising caution and street smarts (check out my “Safety” tab for more advice).

From my life-changing experience traveling solo, I want other women to likewise learn their own strength and ability to manifest anything. Women will only travel when they feel safe. Thus, after training in several forms of martial arts, I discovered that the most empowering self defense technique for me wasn’t Muay Thai as I’d previously believed, but a full-force self defense class called IMPACT Bay Area. IMPACT teaches simple yet effective techniques against a fully-suited instructor in an adrenalized state so your body is conditioned to fight under stress and not freeze. I took their 20-hour, 3 day Basic self defense course with 13 other incredible women, that was empowering, adrenalizing, emotional, cathartic and life-changing. I highly recommend every woman and man take this course or a similar self defense course because it not only teaches you impactful techniques against verbal, physical and sexual assault but also how to de-escalate situations, be an effective bystander, and boost your own confidence navigating everyday life (check out the bottom of my “Self Defense” page for a short clip of my IMPACT experience).